February 9, 2011
LOCAL HAMBURGER REVIEWS: IN-N-OUT BURGER
If you are anything like me you went through the Utah public schooling system having gone through the In-N-Out experience more times than you care to remember. It usually went something along the lines of this: Within minutes of returning to your locker from winter break two things happened 1. You quickly came to the realization that you had no freaking clue what your locker combination was. And 2. You were excitedly approached by one of the countless kids that had just returned to school from winter break proudly wearing one of those In-N-Out Burger t-shirts that featured a drawing of old classic cars parked under some palm trees at an In-N-Out, bragging nonstop about their family trip to California and Disneyland. You knew the bragging was never officially complete until they rattled off on these lines “Oh, yeah we also went to In-N-Out Burger 3 or 4 times! It’s sooooo amazing! You can’t go to California without eating at In-N-Out. My dad even brought some on the plane in his carry-on so we could have In-N-Out in Utah!”
It was nice because I could always share in the joy and excitement with them since my family vacations were pretty much the exact same. Only instead of wearing an In-N-Out t-shirt, I had on my brother Josh’s two sizes too big hand-me-down long sleeve shirt that may or may not have been made out of an american flag with a collar and two buttons sewn on for good measure; and rather than going through all the trouble of flying to sunny California, all seven of us instead hit the road to such exotic locations as Coalville & St. George, Utah. We happily crammed into the bench seats of “The Blue Hornet” aka a rust covered 1987 Plymouth Voyager minivan with absolutely no rear shocks seen here. I could usually be found comfortably wedged between my younger (but, not smaller) brother Chris sitting spread eagle in shorts & my brother Josh who to put it extremely gently was well known to be very generous in the passing of his air. Oh yeah, and instead of In-N-Out we ate Easy Cheese from a can and lunch meat from a travel cooler. So yeah, other than those small differences, we pretty much had identical family trips.
So as you can see, from all the dorks at school to the theatre scene in The Big Lebowski, for as far back as I can remember, I’ve been hearing nonstop In-N-Out hype. Thanks again to Chadder’s we didn’t have to travel far for our review. At eight o'clock on a random Tuesday night we went to one of eight locations that have opened up all over Utah the last year and a half, and waited in line behind close to twenty seemingly trendy people, on what I can only assume had to be their regular nightly routine. The drive-thru was backed up around the corner, only further adding to the In-N-Out hype machine.
When we finally got the chance to order I was pleasantly surprised with how simple, straightforward and basic their menu was, and with that said, In-N-Out may very well win the title for best menu and menu design of all 50+ menus we've reviewed. Though I can also see how the menu could just as easily be underwhelming and frustrating for those looking for more options and variety. I guess I am apart of the class that would much rather have a fast food chain offer a select few specialized items that they make really well rather than have a menu loaded with mediocre options. Keep in mind besides the the trendiness factor there are also quite a few quirky, border line idiotic things to recognize. For instance besides their regular menu In-N-Out offers a "Secret Menu" in which customers that are in the know can ask for their order to be "Animal Style" or "Protein Style". Also customers that wish to further cement the fact that they have more appetite than friends can covertly ask for additional items only offered on the "Secret Menu" like the "3x3" or "4x4". So if you just asked yourself "So isn't In-N-Out's "Secret Menu" basically just a pathetically sad, antisocial speakeasy for the self-important?" The answer is yes.
So did In-N-Out live up to the unbelievable hype? No, but that doesn't mean that it was terrible either. The burgers are exceptional, and rank among the highest we reviewed. The toppings, cheese, and toasted bun are as impressive as any we've reviewed. The toppings are uniquely placed near the bottom of the hamburger just above the bottom bun as apposed to the common, traditional method of placing the toppings on top of the burger just below the top bun. Despite the comatose feeling after effects I refer to as aftermath (made famous by Mcdonalds), and the lackluster fries. In-N-Out deserves a ton of credit for maintaining an old fashioned look and feel from the products themselves, to the dinning area and employee uniforms. As with anything that over hyped it would be nearly impossible for In-N-Out to live up to and deliver on all the enormous expectations it had built up.
I was recently talking to my dad about some of his experiences traveling all over the United States playing fast pitch softball and the different places he'd eaten at. I told him I was reviewing In-N-Out Burger and before I could say anything else he said "In-N-Out is really big in California, I'd heard a lot about in playing tournaments out there. Julie (my stepmom) and I went there and didn't really think all that much of it, it didn't really live up to all the build up I'd heard so much about." He went on to say, "I could see if you grew up like I did and went straight from eating boiled liver and food without spices straight to eating at In-N-Out than yeah, I could see why everyone spoke so highly of it. I was disappointed, I didn't get the miraculous, spiritual experience I was promised."
It all stems from Utahns love and obsession for anything, and all things California. Which if you asked me all can be traced back to July 24, 1847 were Brigham Young sick and tired of being sick and tired while riding cross country in a filthy, diseased filled, covered wagon; exits his covered wagon In a sick, delirious state and prematurely declares "It is enough. This is the right place." Not realizing he is actually in The Salt Lake Valley not Malibu, California. I digress...
It's important to remember and make perfectly clear even though In-N-Out Burger unfortunately falls victim to its greatest asset (the hype machine and word of mouth), it still remains one of the best fast food chains we have access to here in Utah and it's well worth your time, money, and effort to skip your usual unconscionable stop at Mcdonalds and get in line with everyone else at your local In-N-Out.
CATEGORY: FAST FOOD
SPECIALITY BURGER/ DOUBLE-DOUBLE: 13 OUT OF 20
CHEESEBURGER: 17.5 OUT OF 20
TOPPINGS: 4 OUT OF 5
BURGER SMELL: 2 OUT OF 2
GREASE FACTOR: 2.5 OUT OF 5
Z’S BUN RATING: 4 OUT OF 5
PORTION SIZE: 3 OUT OF 5
FRIES: OUT 1.5 OUT OF 5
PRICE: OUT 4 OUT OF 5
PORTION SIZE VS. PRICE OVERALL SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10
AFTERMATH: 4.5 OUT OF 10
OVERALL ATMOSPHERE: 8 OUT OF 10
FINAL OVERALL SCORE: 72 OUT OF 100
THE MRS. RATING: B+
KNUCKLE POP RATING: A-