Friday, November 30, 2007

First Trip to In-N-Out in 15 years

In-N-Out is a hamburger institution on the West Coast. People who leave the area crave it. The establishment inspires fierce loyalty among patrons who even have their own secret menu.

I however, don't really enjoy it all that much. This little known fact has caused much ridicule and shame from those to whom I dared reveal my dark secret.

The first time I went to In-N-Out was in college, probably 5 minutes after I moved here. My first impression was that the meat patties and fries were too thin. At 18 I didn't see anything spectacular about it. I was fine with McDonalds or Burger King for fast-food options. So I haven't been back in 15 years.

I recently got another lecture about the freshness and superiority of the food. The hamburgers are never frozen and only the finest cuts of beef are used. The lettuce is hand-leafed. The buns are made of old-fashioned sponge bread (whatever that means). The french-fries are hand-cut from real potatoes for heaven sakes. Ok. Ok. I'll go. So last night was the night.

The drive-thru line at In-N-Out is always long. I've driven by at all hours and there are at least 5 cars in line. So I queued up. Finally it was my turn to order. Even though I haven't been for 15 years the menu is easy to remember, how do I want my burger, fries or no fries and what kind of drink. I ordered a cheeseburger, no tomato, order of fries and a chocolate shake. Then she asked me if I would be eating the food in the car. Weird question. I said yes confused by why she cared.

When I pulled up to the window to pay the cashier handed me a lap mat. Then when I received my food it was in an open container not a bag. The sandwich was half-wrapped to make sure I had easy access to my burger. How clever.

From the age of 18 to now (32) I have made a few lifestyle changes and not eating at fast-food is one of them. I rarely go to McDonalds and Burger King is never an option. However, I can honestly say that the In-N-Out burger really does taste fresh. It is not a juicy burger. It isn't overwhelming in flavor, but it didn't taste processed. It was satisfying. The highlight of my trip was the thick, creamy milkshake. It was AWESOME. The fries, still not my favorite. But overall a great experience.

I don't feel like my life has been missing anything but perhaps my grown-up tastes can at least appreciate it more now.

In-N-Outs are located in CA, NV and AZ.