Monday, July 1, 2013

Restaurant Review: In-N-Out Burger

Stars: 1 out of 5
Pros: Menu hasn't changed (officially) since they opened
Cons: Who cares when the food has no flavor at all
The Bottom Line
This food has no taste
I do not see appeal
Avoid at all costs

At the Risk of Being Kicked Out of My Home State....

A horrid brainwashing has occurred in my home state.  It seems most California natives love In-N-Out Burgers.  This restaurant chain is the number one choice for fast food hamburgers.  People have been so brainwashed that if they move out of state and return, they often head immediately to the nearest location.  This even happens to visitors who have only visited.

How do I know it is brainwashing?  Because the food is horrible.  And I know that fast food burgers are never as good as homemade.  These don't even rise to that level, however.

Now, I will grant you that the restaurants themselves look nice.  They have a retro 50’s dinner feel with lots of red and white.  Since it’s a Southern California based chain, their logo is a red palm tree.  The restaurants I’ve been in are always clean.

The menu is relatively simple – well almost.  They offer a double cheeseburger, a cheeseburger, and a burger.  There is one size of fries.  You can get a soda or a vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry shake.  It is nice to see something this simple and unchanging in the day of the fast food menu that changes every few months, taking away my favorite items.  Prices are pretty much in line with any other fast food place.

Of course, there are the “hidden” menu items.  You’ll never see them on the board, but if you search the internet, you can find them.  You can order more patties and cheese layers to your burger or get it “animal style,” which means with grilled onions and special sauce.  Frankly, this secret menu is one of my frustrations.  If you can and will make stuff that way, put it on your menu.  Otherwise, don’t do it.  But it is part of their marketing gimmick because you are “cool” and in the know if you can order from the secret menu and the rest of the people can’t.  Okay, in the day of the internet, anyone can look it up.  It’s even on their website.  But then why not put it up on their menu?  Oh yeah, the pride that they haven’t changed their menu in years.

One big draw is that they make the food fresh, after you order it.  All that really means is that at peak times, this is not fast food but as slow as a regular restaurant.  I’ve waited over 25 minutes to get my food before.  On the other hand, when the restaurant is relatively empty, it’s the more reasonable 3 to 5 minutes I’d normally expect.

They also pride themselves on frying their fries in vegetable oil.  Okay, if you are going to eat fries, that might be better for you.  But it’s only important if it tastes good.

And here’s where In-N-Out fails the only test that truly matters.  Their food tastes horrible.  The fries are limp and tasteless.  The fresh grilled burgers are a little better, but more times than not also have no real flavor.  It’s not as bad as eating cardboard, but it’s close.

Now I will confess that I also fell for the brainwashing myself.  We did not have In-N-Out growing up in Northern California, so when I moved to Southern California to go to college, I couldn’t wait to try them out.  And I didn’t think they were bad.  But as I have had them more and more over the last seventeen years, the scales have been removed from my eyes.  First, it was the fries I stopped eating.  Now I won’t even touch their burgers.  That leads to some interesting discussions when I’m out with friends and we are looking for a quick, cheap place to eat.

In the last few years, this disease has spread to other parts of the country.  It’s now in the part of California where I grew up.  And I was recently with some friends who live in Texas and decided to try it for the first time since the virus has spread there.  I tried to warn them, but since I wasn’t driving and was outnumbered, I had no choice.  You know what?  They actually apologized for not listening to me after we were done eating.

Okay, so much of this review has been written slightly over the top, but I honestly hope I have eaten at In-N-Out Burger for the last time.  It’s at the bottom of my list of restaurant choices and will remain there now that I’ve seen the light.  I just hope I don't have to give up my native Californian status as a result of telling the truth.

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