At In-N-Out Burger, less than $10 buys you two burgers, fries and a shake. SCORE! Big Dave McRockford reports from the west side of the US
Guest reviewer and ol' Burgerac pal, Big Dave McRockford, was in LA last week and made a point of visiting In-N-Out for a Double Double Cheeseburger Animal Style. Well, when in Rome! I'm hugely jealous, naturally, but happy enough to live vicariously via the following photos and write up which he kindly submitted...
For the uninitiated, In-N-Out is a chain of burger restaurants dotted across some of the western United States. Although they've seeped into neighbouring Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Texas, the classic Americana stylings of the sign are still a positively Californian sight (there are 208 branches in the state of California alone) when driving along the freeways. To put in its own words, the company strives to "Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment."
The dining space of our chosen location of In-N-Out in Thousand Palms, California is fairly modest and identikit to the other outlets dotted across the west. It's fast food, so the surroundings, service and general vibe are what you'd expect for a low price point American food outlet. Not a complaint, however the popularity of the food on offer here sometimes means that it can sometimes be tricky getting yourself a table.
My good lady and I ordered a Double Double Cheeseburger (animal style), a standard Cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. It's worth noting that our oder came to just shy of ten US dollars – which is tremendous value for money.
The first port of call was the Double Double Cheeseburger, Animal Style. Animal Style is part of the secret menu that everyone knows about, which offers variations on the regular menu items. The presentation was perfect - a voluptuous sandwich housing a tandem of mustard-fried beef patties interspersed with cheese, arriving in a simple paper bag to catch spillage / aid handling. The beef was well cooked and lightly drenched in the special 'animal style' ingredients – a combination of fried onions and mustard, with extra pickles and salad.
The sandwich contained just the right amount of elements, and so handled perfectly. The opening bite released the wonderful smoky flavour of the animal style dressing, and minimal grease-juice dribble. Thin patties are a welcome contrast to the now familiar thick slabs of ground beef found in gourmet burgers, and in this instance I love the return to simplicity - allowing for more rich, charred flavour across the ensemble. The bun that played vessel to the Double Double is also worth noting, with a lightly toasted flavour and the lightness of the just-baked.
The regular cheeseburger was naturally less exciting by contrast but still a strong contender with a firm meaty flavour that required no additional ketchup. In terms of size, these are not heavyweights in the burger arena. I see this as a positive, as there's either room to try a couple of burgers or simply call it a day after one without feeling stuffed.
The fries, sadly, were fairly forgettable. Although they are lightly fried in sunflower oil (as we are reminded on the base of the trays) it pains me to say that McDonalds fries taste better. The chocolate shake, however, was a perfect way to cap the meal and close the palate. A thick consistency carrying a creamy yet light chocolate flavour, without the ice-cream bottlenecks of cheaper milkshakes that you find elsewhere.
Overall, the In-N-Out experience is very positive - the most pleasing fast food outlet of the bunch in my humble opinion. It will always fall short in the context of the great gourmet burger, but I think there's a certain democratic beauty to well prepared, locally sourced fast food. If you ever find yourself 'out west', definitely make a stop at a branch of In-N-Out!
Further reading: Check out the awesome blog post about In-N-Out's secret menu over at A Hamburger Today.
72265 Varner Road
Tel: +1 800 786 1000