Monday, January 21, 2008

LA Dining: In N Out Burger

In N Out burger is miraculous. It is not that the burgers are so superior to my local favorites here in NYC. In ultimate terms a handful of establishments within walking distance from my house - Goodburger, Shake Shack and even the wildly schizophrenic Blue 9 (itself a virtual carbon copy of In N Out) generally offer a superior burger experience. However considering the sheer number of In N Out stores and the volume of business they do and then considering that only fresh ingredients are used and that your burger is almost cooked to order, and that the finished product is wonderful, well that must at least qualify as a minor miracle.

In fact just mentioning In N Out burger in the same breath as far pricier boutique burger establishments such as the aforementioned Goodburger and Shake Shack is a testament to the superiority of In N Out. It should really be compared to MacDonald's and Burger King as it is ultimately fast food. And while I have not eaten at any of the national fast food chains in years I can tell you, there is no comparison.

Standard In N Out Burgers come dressed with lettuce, tomato, "spread" (otherwise known as Thousand Island dressing) with onion slice optional on a delicious white bun. I should note that the beef is really very good. A quick perusal of the companies website reveals why:

"Our hamburgers are made from fresh, 100% pure beef. They are free of additives, fillers and preservatives of any kind, and we buy only chucks, the front ribs and shoulder. No other parts are ever used. Our butchers carefully hand-cut and grind the beef in our own facility at which point the patties are shipped directly to our stores in refrigerated trucks by our own drivers. This way we have total control over the production of every burger."

This is music to the beef aficionado's ears. If only all burgers received such devotion. I think the beef is so good that I prefer my In N Out burgers with just cheese, pickle and a dab of ketchup, forgoing the lettuce, tomato and creamy dressing but fully realizing the flavor of the patty. However, almost any combination of ingredients on an In N Out burger is delicious. Indeed, in addition to the posted menu there is an almost dizzying number of "secret" menu items:
  • M by C -M meat patties and C slices of cheese (for example, a 3 by 3 or a 2 by 4)
  • Triple Meat - Three meat patties without cheese.
  • Animal Style - In addition to the usual condiments, mustard fried on the meat, pickles, extra spread and grilled onions are added.
  • Burger & animal-style fries.
  • Animal Style Fries
  • Animal Style Fries - Fries with cheese, spread, and grilled onions.
  • Double Meat -Two meat patties without cheese.
  • Extra Everything - Adds extra spread, tomato, lettuce, and onions (regular or grilled).
  • Flying Dutchman -Two meat patties and two slices of melted cheese.
  • Extra Toast -Bun is cooked longer so it is extra toasted.
  • Fries "Light" -Almost raw fries that are cooked for less time.
  • Fries "Well" -Fries that are cooked longer to be extra crisp.
  • Fries with cheese -Fries with two slices of melted cheese placed on top.
  • Grilled Cheese -Two slices of melted cheese, tomato, lettuce and spread on a bun, with no meat. There is also a Grilled Cheese Animal Style (grilled onions are added).
  • Choco-Vanilla Swirl Shake -Chocolate and vanilla flavors combined in one shake.
  • Neapolitan Shake -All three shake flavors (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate) combined in one shake.
  • Root Beer Float -Vanilla shake with root beer combined.
  • Protein Style -Instead of a bun, the burger is wrapped in lettuce.
  • Veggie Sandwich -A sandwich without meat or cheese.
  • Spread -Extra packets of refrigerated Thousand Island dressing in packages marked "Spread".
  • Lemon up -1/2 lemonade 1/2 7-up.
  • Animal style cheeseburger

    Animal autopsy

    I cannot recommend In N Out Burger enthusiastically enough. If you have yet to try one it should definitely be on your radar, do not think that this is typical fast food, if you have then you already know what I am talking about.

    In N Out Burger
    Numerous locations


    DocChuck said...


    Finally, we beat you on this one (you probably didn’t know we were WAITING for your evaluation, did you?)

    We experienced our own “In N Out adventure” on November 18, 2006, in Tempe, Arizona.

    While checking into our hotel, I spotted the burger restaurant down the street and told my wife, E . . . “Hey, we gotta try that place.”

    She wasn’t overly enthusiastic for a burger, but I convinced her that we just HAD to do this, because it may be a while before we would be touring the southwest again, and that I had heard good things about “In N Out.”

    Enough said. The burgers, just as you described them, were exceptional. My wife was impressed (which made me happy considering the alternative), and the bill was $11.31 (versus the $150.00 if she had chosen her choice of restaurants).

    Alessandre said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    sickchangeup said...

    I think you gave a fair assesment, although I'd add that I still prefer a double double to all but the best prepared of Shake Shack burgers (a rarity during the busy season).

    Worth side noting for the review is the "Lure Style" burger from Lure Fish Bar, which the staff won't make any bones about saying "it's basically an In-n-out sytle burger", and one which I rank amongst the best in downtown Manhattan.

    Personally, unless I am really hungry, my standard order (being an East Coast Citizen) is two double doubles and a diet coke. I hold the fries, cause while they're good - I'd rather have two double doubles than 1 double double with fries.

    I also noticed you gave a good amount of bandwidth to the single patty burgers - not sure why. I can't see anyone passing up on a double double for a single patty burger. The double double is the gleaming jewel of In-N-Out.

    Nick said...

    Personally I prefer the beef to bun ratio of the single patty, but to each his own. Certainly I don't find that an In N Out double throws off my preferred proportions as much as say a double at the Shack but I still prefer the simplicity of the single.

    Thanks for the tip about Lure fish Bar! I will be checking it out soon. Who would have thunk that a fish place would serve such a burger. Also have you tried Blue 9? It is wildly inconsistent but on occasion I find it outstanding.

    Betty said...

    I was in Los Angeles to appear on a game show and was put up right near an In and Out burger location.

    I ended up eating there at least 5 times.

    I fell in love with the Animal Style burger and have tried to recreate it at home with litle success.

    docchuck -- I hope you took your wife out somewhere nice the NEXT night!

    sickchangeup -- I'm with Nick on the bun/meat ratio. But I did notice that the doubles were very popular.

    sickchangeup said...

    I'm blown away - I used to believe they sold like 2 single patty burgers a year! I simply hadn't even considered the option TBH.

    I haven't tried Blue 9, I live on the West side, which is pretty much a separate country from the East Side :-) I'll make an effort to check it out though.

    Yeah, the Lure thing was a surprise. I'd eaten there 4 or 5 times before I was tipped off to the burger from another blog, and it really was pretty damn good!

    Jen X. said...

    I didn't know there were variations to the fries too! now I am craving In-N-Out... thanks a lot ;)

    blackbookali said...

    i have found that the patty is dry. The spread is very necessary. Have you tried Steak and Shake? I grew up eating those in St Louis and when I moved to LA, and tried In N Out I was just not blown over. It is better than McDonalds but that aint saying much to somebody who grew up on Steak N Shake.

    sickchangeup said...

    I've just come back from my second trip to 5 guys on Bleeker, and... well.. their cheeseburger with mayo, ketchup, lettuce and tomato might just be the most classic tasting and satisfying burger I've had - Double Double included. Have you guys been there yet?

    Nick said...

    I have never had the pleasure of Steak and Shake but it sounds great. Added on my to do list

    I only tried Five Guys once, on the week they opened and I was not impressed, the burger was completely dried out despite their claims that the burgers are cooked through but remain juicy. However as I said it was their first week and I definitely got the sense that the staff had no experience. Certainly the ingredients seemed fresh, so a follow up visit is in order. Look for a review in the near future.

    sickchangeup said...

    Both times I went (for dinner), I recognized the same guy at the register and at the grill, the staff seems on point.

    Watching the guy on the grill, they seem to leave the burger cooking one one side for a bit, then flip. As soon as they flip, they mash it down hard a single time with a big burger press, presumably to give the edges that "handmade" look. Then they leave it to cook on the other side.

    It definitely tastes like your basic chuck burger, and I like that it's designed to be a double. My wife had the single the second time, and said it was a bit bready.

    It's just got a very classic burger taste that I found satisfying in a "eat it once a month at most" sort of way.