22 April 2009
In-N-Out Burger: California Road Trip Part 2
We all have our reasons for wanting to get out of town. This spring I was eager to enjoy a climate rich in sunshine and warmth. My husband wanted a break from his routine and a chance to get reacquainted with the coast. My son, a true adventurer, wanted to do what he had never done before, something he would be proud to share tales of with his friends, he wanted to eat a 4 x 4 at In-N-Out Burger.
With these goals in mind we set out for California. Though the weather looked grim as we began driving the forecast at our destination was good. We were looking forward to the scenic drive down US Highway 101 as we headed west toward the ocean. We were also curious about In-N-Out Burger. We had never even heard of it until last year when my son's youth group planned a bus trip to eat at this regional legend. As there are no locations in the Pacific Northwest it was quite a long bus ride but it was described to us as a right of passage from Jr. to Sr. High youth group. Unfortunately my son had conflicting summer obligations and couldn't go. So this would be his chance. And why not? It seemed a simple enough request.
We had a great time on the road with my son and his friend. We wound down the coastal highway and explored the redwood forest. We saw some family and hung out on the beach, but we never saw an In-N-Out Burger until we asked about it when we got to San Jose. There, on the last day before driving home, we zeroed in on one and stopped by for lunch.
Personally I am no great fan of fast food burgers. Actually I hardly eat hamburgers at all and am very picky about the way they are dressed. Growing up in White Castle country I understand the regional appeal of some chains but I had heard nothing about In-N-Out Burger that sounded special to me.
Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised!
I'm sure it didn't hurt that it was a perfectly beautiful spring day. The California sun shone brightly on the cheery red, white and yellow exterior of the little fast food restaurant. A soft breeze was blowing as we walked inside where business was brisk and the lines were long but moving at a fair pace. There were lots of spirited teens from a local high school coming and going.
As we approached the counter my son pointed out that he had been counseled by his youth group leader to order a 4 x 4, but he didn't see it on the menu board. When he ordered it anyway, he found that he was unwittingly in on one of the secrets of In-N-Out Burger's unofficial culture, the Not-So-Secret Menu. In-N- Out Burger officially posts a very simple menu of Burgers, Hand-Cut French Fries and Shakes. Still they have a couple of popular custom combinations that can be ordered in In-N-Out Burger shorthand. You can order these custom burgers Animal Style (loaded with extras), Protein Style (without a bun), or as my son did, 4 x 4. Hopefully you will know better than we did what you are getting.
The 4 x 4
The 4 x 4 came, four hamburger patties high separated by 4 slices of American cheese on a single bun, with a side of hand cut fries. Massive would be a fair description! My son looked pleased and went with his friend to sit at an outdoor table where he could enjoy his food while he checked out the local high school traffic.
I ordered a simple cheeseburger, no sauce, but with lettuce, tomato and grilled onions, an order of hand cut fries and unsweetened tea. My brother in law pointed out that you can watch them hand cut the fries behind the counter as your order is prepared. When my number was called the order showed up freshly cooked and precisely as ordered. It was a good burger, just as fresh and tasty as promised. The fries were also hot and fresh and surprisingly delicious.
As we were starting to clean up and get ready to go my son came in to tell us he planned to order another round. Well what can I say? It was his vacation too, so we sat in the grass outside while he ordered another 4 x 4 with fries...and consumed it! Quite pleased with his accomplishment we started back to pack for the drive home.
I'm still no huge fan of fast food burgers but I really did enjoy my meal at In-N-Out Burger and would be glad to go again. It was fun and proved interesting. Now not only have we heard of In-N-Out burger and been there, but last week I also heard that a book about In-N-Out Burger has just been released. If you would like to learn more about this private chain of hamburger restaurants this book promises lots of juicy details.
Or maybe you would rather see In-N-Out Burger for yourself? At the In-N-Out Burger website you can get point-to-point directions to their nearest location to get your own "freshness fix." And why not? There must be worse reasons to go on a road trip.