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