Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recon: IN N OUT

For many of you who live in the southwestern United States In N Out might seem like a given, but for those outside the sprawl of it’s branches In N Out is an elusive oasis with a classic American burger and a delicious secret menu.

        Two of my favorite things to order at In N Out are not on the menu. Like any human being, I love to be in on the joke- a card-carrying member of the club- and I love talking in code. The secret menu at In N Out has become so widely known in the past few years that In N Out redesigned some of their packaging to accommodate their secret menu. Spread now comes in packets double the size of ketchup packets (they literally say ‘SPREAD’ on them!) And they even created a special box with a lid for their secret fries.
        The burgers come wrapped securely in their In N Out papers, buns toasted, not soggy. You can have no onions, regular onions or grilled onions- I like grilled best. The meat is thin compared to a lot of restaurant style burgers, but I like it that way because it’s easy to pick up and bite into- and it doesn’t slip apart. The meat/cheese/grilled onions compliment each other well and contrast nicely next to the cool crispness of the lettuce/tomato, mixing texture and temperature just right. A thin layer of Spread coats the bun; ketchup and mustard by request. Spread is In N Out’s version of Thousand Island dressing. Sort of. Only better. Their three burger options are Hamburger, Cheeseburger and Double Double (double meat, double cheese) and you can add a “style,” to any of the combos, such as ‘Protein Style’ which means your burger will be wrapped in iceberg lettuce. Or ‘Animal Style’ which means add pickles and grilled onions, and cook the meat in mustard. For all you vegetarians out there, there’s no veggie burg, but you can ask for the Flying Dutchman which is basically In N Out’s version of a grilled cheese.
        In N Out’s fries are on the softer side, but this never stops me from requesting extra Spread and dipping each one in it. I like to get my fries ‘Animal Style’ which means they get topped off with a slice of cheese, grilled onions and Spread. Because that combination quickly gets messy they give you a fork so you can pick thru and get a perfect bite every time. In N Out only offers ketchup and Spread, but that’s all I’d ever need there.
        In N Out’s clientele shifts slowly throughout the day. At lunch time it’s anyone and everyone. The restaurants are almost always neat and clean and the red palm trees over the white background make for a cheerful motif. To combat the long drive-thru lines (10 cars plus!) they get at peak hours they started sending out a server with a mini computer to take your order- the faster orders get in, the faster they come out. Later at night you start to get a lot more teenagers around. Servers are polite and friendly and the simplicity of the menu keeps the wait down.
        They offer your standard set of fountain sodas, water and lemonade. But In N Out makes amazing shakes. A chocolate milk shake isn’t something I normally crave, but In N Out does it right. They make strawberry, vanilla and chocolate and they’re all equally good. If it’s your first time there, or you rarely come across one, definitely get a shake!
        In N Out is, by all counts, a cheap burger joint. Even if you start adding ‘styles’ and shakes it’s not likely you’ll get over $10 per person. Quick note, in phrasing leftover from the 50’s, if you drive thru they’ll ask you, “Will you be eating this in your car?” You typically want to answer, “No, to-go please,” because you want everything in to-go containers, not open containers and placemats. Yes, they have placemats; I only go to classy joints.


  1. Correction: they are Lap mats. Not placemats. And I like the open containers. Keeps my fries from getting soggy from the steam trapped in the bag, makes the car smell great and it's easier than reaching in the bag 24 times to sneak a fry on the way home. It also ensures that the fries don't make it all the way home. I love them when they are hot and fresh and crispy. (Just sayin)

    My twins used to work at IN and Out. One worked the collect the cash window and the other worked the give you the food window, People used to MARVEL at how fast "he" must be to man both windows.


  2. In-N-Out will ALWAYS be the #1 California burger joint. Hands down. Now we must figure out a way to shrink-wrap a cheeseburger protein style with a side of animal style fries and send it out to me in DC. I'm not sure if I can wait until Christmas for In-N-Out! L&L, Hendo