In-n-Out

Which, as everybody knows (especially everybody who lives in SoCal or has seen The Big Lebowski), makes the finest fast-food burger around (if this blog had more readers, that claim would almost certainly stir debate. But as it is…), ALSO makes a practice of putting Bible verse references on the underside of their drink cups, and, we discovered tonight, on their french fry packages. Usually, it’s something out of the Gospels or Paul. But tonight, I was surprised and intrigued upon finding Revelations 3:20. Revelations? Oooh, In-n-Out stepping into the culture wars, laying the smack down on the unrighteous and daring the world to do something about it (“Go ahead – try to live without our superior product. Just try it.”).

But alas. When I pulled out my olde-tyme family Bible, I found a perfectly innocuous and appropriate verse: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man listens to my voice and opens the door to me, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Well and good. God bless ’em. But just four verses previous, there was this gem: “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth.” Now THAT would have been fantastic.

Comments

  1. But not very appetizing, you have to admit.

    Maggie

  2. Matthew:

    I know this is heresy, but I never thought In-n-Out was all that great. I liked their burgers better once I learned to order it without the half-gallon of sauce that comes standard. I dig their vibe, with the fresh vegetables and clean cut kids and all that. But it never blew me away. And to be honest, their fries stink. Seriously, the little box they come in has more flavor.

    Out here in the Old Dominion, we have a local chain called Five Guys. The meat is never frozen, the buns are made at a local bakery, and they have a marker board proclaiming where today’s potatoes are from (which are piled in 25lb bags all over the restaurant). The mere size of the burger is something to behold. The bacon is perfect. AND! BOARDWALK STYLE FRIES!

    After the resulting bout of cardiac arrest, it makes you realize that In-n-Out is just a place to buy a cool t-shirt….

    Rory

    (I must be really bored if I’m resorting to trash-talk over fast food…)

  3. oh how i wish we had In-n-Out on the east coast… alas, I’ll have to wait for a visit to the West next summer. sigh

  4. Matthew,

    I acknowledge having been weaned of cheap, flaccid fast food by intitiation into the cult of In’n’Out – and for that I will forever be grateful and be careful to say nothing disrespectful of INO. But I have apostasized – Wisconsin’s Culver restaurants are In’n’Out Plus: I hate to break it to you, but I am a total Culver’s man: the meat is tastier, the fries friier, the shakes shakier….and the counter girls even have cuter smiles.

    I’d be willing to put the Culver’s double cheeseburger (no mustard) up against anything In’n’Out can do. I’m sorry, but that’s all there is to it.

    Gauntlet-throwing,

    JOB

  5. Matthew Lickona says

    JOB,
    I’m comin’ out there in a couple of weeks, and then we’ll see…

  6. Well now…

    With the taste of two Animal Style Double Doubles not too long gone from my mouth (we vacationed in SoCal earlier this month), I have to agree that In-N-Out provides the best fast food.

    However, also living not far from Rory in the Occupied Virginia region, I also am familiar with Five Guys and readily concur with Rory as to the sublimity of their burgers and fries.

    How can I have it both ways? Well, I’ve waited in many a Five Guys line, and I can tell you: “fast” food it ain’t. In-N-Out is set up the same as any McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack-in-the Box, etc. It really is fast food.

    Call me a quibbler.

    P.S. (I also learned that my favorite In-N-Out t-shirt design is now in long sleeve. It raises the hackles of many a purist I’m sure: it’s the one with the map of California, Arizona, and Nevada. Yes, In-N-Out is no longer only in California.)

    Owen

  7. Oh, I forgot! Five Guys doesn’t sell shakes. You can’t be a fast food restaurant and not sell shakes. I’m sure there’s a law on the books somewhere about this.

    Q.E.D.

    Owen

    P.S. So perhaps Culver’s is still in the running, but I’ve never partaken.

  8. Owen –

    Fast is a relative term, but I would argue that it’s meaning is derived from the fact that you stand and order at the counter as opposed to waiting to be seated, giving your order to a waiter, and then waiting for your food. I would agree that Five Guys is not as fast as In-n-Out, but it is faster than Fuddrucker’s* or some other sit-down type restaurant.

    Besides, while you wait, you get to eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.

    And you have to sell shakes in order to be a fast food restaurant? Last time I checked, Taco Bell does not sell shakes. And I’m sure that if I thought about it, I could come up with a few other examples of disgusting fast food outlets that also do not sell shakes. (Popeyes?) So, I do not see how shake production is the determinative criteria as to whether a particular establishment is “fast food.”

    So, I disagree that Five Guys is not fast-food. Sure, they’re not throwing your food at you in 45 seconds or less, and no, they don’t sell shakes, but if it ain’t fast food, what is it?

    Really, I think you’ve just succumbed to the In-n-Out brainwashing. “Thou shalt not speak ill of the chain” commandeth Lipitor, the Burger Lord. “Or I shalt smite thee down and make your fries soggy.” Seriously, I heard this one time that the CEO is a satanist and is just trying to trick people.

    So, QED this: In-n-Out is satanic. Five Guys is goooood.

    Rory

    *I included Fuddrucker’s because, in my opinion, it’s more like a sit-down type burger joint than a fast-food restaurant, despite the fact that you order at the counter. For one, they have an extensive menu that includes things like Grilled Santa Barbara Corn and Chicken Salad or whatever. Two, they have decor, albeit its a bunch of random crap hung on the walls. Finally, they have video games. I challenge you to show me another fast food joint with video games. By distinguishing Five Guys from a “hybrid” restaurant like Fuddruckers, I think the case for Five Guys being fast food is clear.

  9. Another reason to love In-N-Out:

    A friend of my in-laws was a salesman for a meat processing equipment company. He traveled most of the country visiting fast food chain meat packing plants. After this experience he swore he would never eat anywhere but In-N-Out. He said they kept the place immaculate. He also said they had a huge American flag on the wall with a picture of Ronald Reagan. (This was the 80’s)

    I’ve traveled most of the country but I grew up here in Orange County. We always have transplants talking about they do everything better in New York, Boston, Chicago, etc.

    Sorry, In-N-Out has been doing it better and longer than anybody.

    I agree with Rory though. I can’t believe I’m getting so worked up over fast-food.

    I need a double-double animal style.

  10. Rory,

    “If any one preach to you a gospel besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.”

    “If any man love not the double double(Including fries), let him be anathema.”

    Tread carefully my friend. 😉

  11. Matthew Lickona says

    Rory,
    If you can’t taste the fried at In-N-Out, then I’m afraid you are not one of the elect. Very sorry. I never ordered mine with sauce – I’m a lettuce-and-grilled-onions-only man myself – and so I’ve never had that problem.
    Look, I’m with Owen on the shakes/fast food connection, even if I grant that you have some case. But the simple, unarguable fact is that fast food must be available from drive-through window. If there’s no drive-through, it ain’t fast food. Fatburger probably makes a better burger AND shake than In-N-Out, but there’s no drive through. Godsbody has spoken.

  12. Matthew Lickona says

    My bad – “fried” should read “fries.” Godsbody should watch his spelling.

  13. But does that mean that nothing was really fast food before the drive-through window was invented? I’m with anonymous, though — I never could see what the fuss was about In-N-Out. I find their food very plain. This thread is blowing away my theory that only native Californians love In-N-Out, though.

  14. Rory,

    Taco Bell* does not sell food.

    Matthew puts forth an even more fundamental determinative criterium of fast-foodedness: the drive-through window. I still stand by my must-sell-shakes argument, though I agree with our host that you have some case. (Of course, if we’re limiting ourselves only to burger joints — and I’d argue that we ought to — then my must-sell-shakes argument becomes stronger. How’s that for self-serving?)

    I agree that Fuddruckers is not fast food. Nevertheless, I’d put Five Guys somewhere between fast food and sit-down.

    Boy, I’m hungry.

    (I feel like we’re in the 300 dorm common area after curfew, putting off studying for that first period math class.)

    Owen

    *I never understood how, with all of the authentic Mexican restaurants around — El Preferido’s, La Terraza, Rueben’s in Ojai — people would still go to Taco Bell. Why one would pass up an inexpensive authentic burrito for Taco Bell is beyond me. Insane. Wait, weren’t we talking about burgers?

  15. Darren,

    I lived in Southern California for four years (at TAC) and in Sacramento (working in the Senate)for one. When in Sacramento I used to drive south a half hour to Stockton to get to the nearest In-N-Out.

    This from a guy who was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised on the Jersey Shore.

    Owen

  16. You drank the shake, err kool-aid, didn’t you?

    What is it with In-n-Out that causes this near religious devotion? Clearly, there must be some mind-control serum in the food.

    I’m willing to limit our discussion only to burger joints of the fast-food variety. Although it is interesting, considering that the “shake criteria” has nothing to do with the quality of the burger. I’m not sure what it has to do with the prompt delivery of your burger, either. But let’s compare apples and apples, even if we’re using oranges to tell us which apples are better.

    And drive-thrus are now necessary? What about McD’s in the city? They don’t have drive-thrus. You’ll respond and tell me that the chain has drive-thru’s. But before there were drive-thru’s there were car-hops, etc. Seems to me that what you’ve identified as a necessary criteria is simply an unwillingness to ADMIT THAT IN-N-OUT AIN’T ALL THAT GREAT.

    Even Godsbody admitted there are better burgers, even if he’s unwilling to make the comparison.

    And by the way, I think a name like “Fatburger” immediately qualifies you as a fast-food restaurant. Same goes for “Sonicburger” (who may not have a drive-thru, but I cannot confirm that), or any other one-word moniker with “burger” being in the latter half.

    Again, I’m not saying they’re bad, just that they’re not the best fast-food burger I’ve ever had.

    You think this post is long? Wait till I post up my multi-prong test for determining the identity of the fast-food/burger joint that I’m working on. Heh heh..heh..

    Now, I need to do some real work…

    Rory

  17. Good grief, this is absurd.

    Rory

  18. Matthew Lickona says

    It’s beautiful is what it is. McD’s in the city are only a sad echo of true fast food, which was made for the auto age.

  19. Matthew Lickona says

    Darren,
    There may have been fast-food before drive-through windows, I dunno. But it’s clearly a development of doctrine, a thing tending toward its own perfection.

  20. joe mccool says

    Everyone,

    We shouldn’t get caught up in to much legalism in defining a fast food restaurant.

    Look at the tradition of In-N-Out. For fifty years they’ve had the same simple menu. They serve hamburger, cheeseburger, double double and french fries. Do one thing and be the best. They don’t need all the gimmicks to attract people.

    JOB,

    I’ll pick up your gauntlet. With all due respect, I lived in Wisconsin for two years and have been to Culver’s. I have to admit that the butter burger is pretty good. It has some elements of the true burger but it really only points to the one true burger.

  21. Heck, I very rarely eat fast food anyway!

    I do agree, Rory, that Five Guys burgers are — strictly speaking — better than In-N-Out burgers. This is very likely due to the fact that they put more time and effort into preparing them, thus my contention that they’re not really a fast food joint. Close, but not quite.

    This conversation reminds me of something Mr. Grimm reportedly said on occassion; something to the effect of: “Two snails copulating on the front lawn is more important that what you’re doing right now!”

  22. Joe McCool:

    I agree that, ultimately, the definition of fast food is a waste of time. My point in attempting such a definition was originally to point out the extent of Mr. Sweeney’s In-n-Out psychosis.

    Observe: he admits that Five Guys is a superior burger, but still clings to the notion that it isn’t fast food. He makes bald assertions such as “they put more time and effort into preparing them,” when in fact, that’s just how long it takes to cook a burger that isn’t paper-thin. (Ever wonder why the double-double? Why not just make one burger that thickness? Because you can’t cook it in 30 seconds! “Yeah, but this one goes to 11…” and on and on). Then he gets all dismissive, which is merely a defense mechanism used to HIDE HIS SICKNESS.

    It’s the In-n-Out Matrix, Owen. All you have to do is free yourself and accept the truth.

    Rory

  23. joe mccool says

    Rory,

    “Ever wonder why the double-double?”

    I shouldn’t admit this but I’ve thought about this. What makes a truly delicious burger besides quality ingredients is how the meat is cooked. If you use a thinner patty and sear it quickly you get a tasty crisp outer layer with a juicy inner core. If you put two patties in one burger you double the surface area of seared beef. Hence, a delicious, juicy burger. If you use a thick patty it takes longer to cook and can dry out the meat. Yuck!

  24. Wait a sec, is this Matthew’s blog or have I somehow ended up on the Chowhound message boards?

    As a native Bostonian and a Los Angeles transplant, I have to agree In ‘n Out makes the best burgers (but lousy fries). But for everything else foodie, East Coast still rules! 😉

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