31 July 2010

In-N-Out Burger

So apparently back in the day, McDonald's used to be really awesome. But along the way it's gotten so big and money hungry that it's lost a lot of its appeal. Everything's frozen, mass produced, and cooked by under-paid and over-worked staff. I can't eat the stuff because I feel physically ill during and after. It's just not right, it's not real food anymore. But I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir so enough of that terrible food imagery.

So yeah, all the good stuff that McDonald's apparently had going for it back in the good old days, In-N-Out Burger never changed. They don't freeze anything, all locations are within fresh trucking distance from suppliers, staff are paid a decent wage (well, more than minimum wage at least) and they don't do franchises. All 249 locations (as of 31 July 2010) are privately owned by the original family and are currently spread across California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. (I've written to them about coming to Australia but obviously, this isn't within trucking distance so I guess the chances aren't very good.) In the meantime, this is our ceremonial eating place upon arrival and prior to departure from the USA. This works quite well since we usually fly in and out of the country via California.

 Very rarely does In-N-Out disappoint. There's usually a pretty long line, but I've never waited more than 15 minutes. They often have someone walking the drive-thru line taking orders before the cars can get to the ordering speaker/microphone thingy which seems to put the orders through a lot more efficiently.

The menu is very simple and apparently has hardly changed from the 50s. The burger choices are: hamburger, cheeseburger or double double (double meat, double cheese). Not a very long list, huh? There is only one size of french fries. 

I think staff and customers would both agree: simple is good. However, a "secret menu" (which is actually on their website now, at least partially) has developed over the years and most people who've eaten at In-N-Out before have probably ordered something off of it. When I was gluten-free, I used to order my burgers "protein style" which means the burger is wrapped in lettuce with no bun. For the vegetarians, there's a grilled cheese sandwich. There's also the 3x3 (3 meat patties & 3 cheese slices). Apparently someone once ordered a 100x100, but now the biggest staff are allowed to sell is a 4x4. Probably for the best! But I'd say the most commonly ordered item off the secret menu is animal style burgers, which is different to a normal burger in that it has a mustard-cooked patty, and added pickles, grilled onions and extra spread (spread is a mixture of ketchup, mayo and relish). More recently, animal style fries have gained momentum as well. They've got cheese, spread and grilled onions on top.
More about the Secret Menu here

Some interesting things to look out for next time you're at In-N-Out are the subliminal Bible Verses printed on the cups and wrappers (eg. "John 3:16" is printed on the bottom inside rim of the drink cups). Apparently the founding Snyder family started printing the verses in the 80s as a "reflection of their beliefs." A bit weird but interesting nonetheless. I was once told the palm trees which are planted in the front of locations in the shape of an X were in reference to the cross of Jesus but apparently it's actually a movie reference to Harry Snyder's favorite movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Another tidbit is you can buy In-N-Out Burger collector t-shirts (they only have one design at a time usually) for about $8.50 and they'll give you stickers at most locations if you ask. The headquarters for the full range of In-N-Out merchandise and apparel is in Las Vegas, Nevada and you can also order stuff online. And with that, I leave you with this food porn...

Hamburger (left) and Double Double (right):
Hamburger and Double Double

Update: Apparently In-N-Out has plans to open locations in Texas! Read the story

18 July 2010

Camy Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant in Melbourne

OK readers of The Lonely Plate, I've done a bit of traveling and a lot of eating so I've got a lot of posts saved up to share with you. To start off this little travel series, I'd like to tell you about one of our favorite places to chow down for cheap in Melbourne: Camy Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant. It's located on the edge of Chinatown on Tattersalls Lane (a bit of an alleyway) between Little Bourke and Lonsdale. This place pretty much rules because they're fast, really cheap, healthy and they have free self-serve tea! They're always busy and staff can be quite rude at times, but you'll never wait long and you can always count on leaving full and satisfied for a good price.

I'm a huge fan of their Chinese Broccoli. They put this awesome brown sauce over the greens that's a little bit sweet and makes them extra delicious.

Chinese Broccoli

Free tea also pictured above - don't forget it's self serve along with the plates, cups, cutlery, etc located in a little cubby area around to the right of the main entrance as you come in.

Free self-serve Tea

Being a dumpling restaurant, they have quite a few dumpling choices. I'm definitely a fan of the steamed dumplings over the fried, but this is just personal preference. If you like prawns and don't mind fairly strong spinach flavour, I recommend the spinach and prawn:

Prawn & Spinach Dumplings

Or of course you can't go wrong (unless you're a vegetarian of course) with the classic pork:

Steamed Dumplings

If you can eat a lot of dumplings, you can get like 15 or 20 for $6 so don't be shy.

Their noodle dishes are pretty tasty also. This trip we stopped here for a quick, cheap feed with some free hot tea on a cold winter's day before catching our flight to the USA. Next time you're hungry in Melbourne and on a budget, check this place out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Camy Shanghai Dumpling on Urbanspoon