Recently, while visiting a friend in LA, I tried In-N-Out Burger for the first time. I had heard a lot about this sixty-two-year-old fast food joint, and was more than willing to try it out. “If you’ve had one you’ve have ’em all” doesn’t apply to food. Restaurants, Chefs, certain days of the week, there are a number of factors that go in to the food experience. And, although I am more of a Taco Bell girl when indulging in such fast-food frenzies, In-N-Out was more than pretty good.
The first thing I noticed was In-N-Out’s simplicity. The sign is simple (see below), the decor is simple, the menu is simple, and the ingredients are simple. For an indecisive orderer, this was refreshing. And despite it’s simplicity, the flavors were bold and delicious.
In-N-Out was started in 1948 by the Snyder family in California, and despite it’s growth to about 140 locations, it still remains primarily on the west coast. The Snyder’s, and their successors, pride themselves on three simple philosophies: fresh, high-quality ingredients, friendly service, and a clean environment. I say they get a 10 out of 10 for all three – and, according to my students, I’m a strict grader.
A little hungover and a lot hungry, we parked the car and decided to by pass the drive-thru, place our orders inside, and sit in the outdoor picnic area while we feasted. I let my LA friends order first, hanging back to take it all in and see how it’s done. I wound up choosing the #2: cheeseburger (with onions), fries, and a soda. I also ordered a side of (complimentary!) pickles.
After guzzling half of my diet coke mixed with rootbeer I went straight for the burger. Before all of the fresh flavors even hit my tongue it was impossible not to notice the bun. THE BUN. The bun is fresh and, get ready, toasted. A fresh bun that is also toasted makes the burger. And it’s what takes it up a notch from frozen to fresh ingredients. It was soft on the inside and lightly toasted on the outside. Once your teeth meet in the middle all of the other flavors come rushing at once: the delicious beef, the secret sauce, fresh, raw onions, juicy tomato, and crisp lettuce. None of the veggies are wilted or slimy, the beef patti is not a perfect circle (or square), and the sauce puts it over the top. And this is no McDonald’s “secret sauce” – this sauce is similar to (if not the same) as a Russian dressing and tastes just as fresh as the other ingredients.
Now for the fries. As you can see in the picture, they look just like McDonald’s. But, just like with the sauce, the similarities stop there. These fries are not overly greasy and taste like… potatoes. Imagine that! French fries, made from potatoes, that TASTE like potatoes! They literally taste like fried, cripsy, slightly greasy potatoes. If you don’t understand why I’m making such a fuss, next time you taste another fast-food restaurant’s fries, take a second to really taste them. Leave one in your mouth for a few seconds and see what it tastes like. The answer is nothing. Or grease. McDonald’s, and other fast-food chain’s fries tend to taste like grease, or like nothing at all, because they’re frozen. In-N-Out’s fries taste like the fresh potatoes they come from, and again you are reminded of the fresh, quality ingredient philosophy.
Lastly, the pickles were a little disappointing. They were crispy and fresh, not slimy or wilted, but the taste was off. I’m not sure if it’s a west coast thing, an In-N-Out thing, or what, but they tasted like dill mixed with a little bit of juice from a batch of butter chips. Not terrible, but still disappointing. I ate them anyway, so how bad could they have really been?
Personally In-N-Out is no Taco Bell, but if next time I find myself needing a quick meal and in the mood for a burger, I will surely be wishing I was still on the west coast.
Coming Attraction: The process of leaving food in your mouth for a few extra seconds and really seeing what it tastes like is part of something called mindful eating, which I will be blogging about in the future, so keep an eye, and mouth, out 😉