I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in West Valley City, Utah.
Greetings from West Valley City, Utah
N 40° 41.4874’ W 111° 57.4429’ Elev. 4262 feet
In the 1970s and ‘80s the Southern California-based hamburger chain In-N-Out Burger gave away approximately 2.6 gazillion bumper stickers. But the freebie bumper art giveaway came to a screeching halt when, to the shock and horror of In-N-Out Burger’s fundamentalist Christian owners, the burger chain finally figured out why every rapscallion with a razor took such great delight in modifying them, albeit ever so slightly.
The bumper stickers featured the chain’s iconic yellow arrow logo on one side with its “Quality You Can Taste” slogan superimposed over it. Next to it was “IN•N•OUT” stacked above “BURGER”. Rascally SoCal kids wasted no time cutting off the first “B” and last “R” in “BURGER,” altering the message to read: “In•N•Out URGE”.
Presumedly the company — and at least one breathtakingly clueless columnist for a Pasadena-area newspaper — originally interpreted the modest alteration to be quite innocuous, that it meant little more than an “urge to have an In-N-Out Burger.” When the company discovered that the universally accepted meaning was slightly different, however, the hijinks was viewed as nothing short of blasphemy and the bumper sticker giveaway ended in short order. Not a big surprise given the religiosity of In-N-Out’s owners; to this day they discreetly embed references to Bible verses on its packaging.
I seldom eat at In-N-Out Burger. Every time I do I remember why I don’t: They’re not really that special. Don’t get me wrong. They’re good, high-quality burgers but not that good. Indeed, I still think the best burger I’ve ever had on the road came from Mr. Fuel. It was a double cheeseburger, offered as one of its monthly $2.99 (sandwich, chips and 32. oz drink) specials. Then again, maybe I was just extremely hungry. Nevertheless it was memorable burger, which is saying a lot considering I’m not really a burger guy.
In-N-Out Burger has had the same menu since it was founded in Baldwin Park, California in 1948. They offer burgers, French fries, and beverages (sodas, shakes, lemonade, iced tea, milk, and coffee). That’s it. Period. My brother claims that the extremely limited menu is what helps them keep the quality so high. Of course, they also use fresh, quality ingredients and attract quality staff by paying well-over minimum wage.
The chain enjoys an almost cult-like following of rabid, vocal devotees who claim it makes the “Best Burger” and has the “Best Fries”, etc. One recent survey of “Best Burgers in America” listed In-N-Out at #2; Five Guys Burgers and Fries came in at #1. One place where In-N-Out is indisputably #1 is that it was the first drive-thru to use a two-way speaker system. “Welcome to In-N-Out Burger. May I take your order?”
The most popular item at In-N-Out is probably the #1: Double-Double®, Fries and Medium Drink ($6.40 + tax). The cost of this combo always intrigued me. You see, if you ordered all of the items separately it would add up to exactly the same amount. I always order the #1 but substitute a $2.05 shake for the $1.50 soda.
The Double-Double® consists of two meat patties, two slices of American cheese, leaves of iceberg lettuce, and slices of tomato and onion (grilled, if you want), served on a toasted bun dressed with In-N-Out Spread (essentially Thousand Island dressing). It adds up to quite a substantial stack.
The fries are hand-cut, using only fresh Kennebec potatoes. In-N-Out used to make great hay of the fact they used only Kennebec taters. Now they only flog the fact that they use fresh potatoes. I suspect the reason for this subtle change is that it raised too many questions from unnecessarily quizzical customers, you know, Jerks-from-Hell™ like me: “What’s a Kennebec? What makes it different? What kind of potato does McDonalds use? Would these be considered ‘health food’ fries? Can I substitute onion rings?” Such unwanted questions definitely slow down the line. I know this firsthand because I’ve done it, a few times. And In-N-Outs are extremely busy, high-volume places.
But are the fries good? Yeah, they’re okay, especially if you get a couple of packages of In-N-Out Burger Spread to dip them in. But I’m not really a french fry guy.
The shakes on the other hand are, I think, pretty damn special. Although the strawberry ones are delicious, I usually get a chocolate; they also have vanilla. The big boast In-N-Out makes about its shakes is that they use 100% Real Ice Cream. But there’s something different about the chocolate ones. They taste sort of malty. And they’re thick and wicked good. I always blow it when I do the substitution, though. You can get a larger size shake; I suspect they will just charge you the 55¢ difference. But I always forget, resulting in another “D’oh!” moment every time.
I learned something new about In-N-Out Burger while writing this, something that I was aware of but didn’t know all the ins-and-outs of until now. I’ve known for years that In-N-Out has a Not-So-Secret Menu: they’ll chop and/or grill onions; make an Atkins Diet-friendly Protein® Style burger where they wrap the burger in a leaf of lettuce instead of a bun; make a 3×3 or 4×4 (three and four hamburger patties, respectively), etc. My big discovery — made too late, of course — is that In-N-Out makes Animal® Style burgers and fries.
The Animal® Style burger is described on the In-N-Out website as a “burger of your choice with hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty; add pickle, extra spread with grilled onions.” Lest you missed it, it’s a MUSTARD COOKED BEEF PATTY! That sounds great!! But why am I just learning about this now? Where have I been?
Perhaps I just don’t speak to enough In-N-Out Dweebs (I think that’s what In-N-Out Burger zealots are known as) who know all the ins-and-outs of In-N-Out. Maybe I just need to get out more. I guess I’ll now have to put Animal® Style Double-Double® on my list of things to remember to order — along with a larger shake — next time I visit an In-N-Out Burger.
And so we roll.
In-N-Out Burger, 3715 South Constitution Blvd., West Valley City, Utah
and 289 other locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah.
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.