Until last night, In-N-Out Burger was some kind of fast food royalty. When I brought it up in conversation, ears would perk up and interjections would begin with “oh, In-N-Out Burger? Yeah, that place is the best!” Living in Colorado, we had no access to its royalty, but it became a last-mile goal when we left Los Angeles while filming our E3 documentary. I had some double doubles and I thought it was fine, but I was also coming down with a pretty ferocious illness at the time and my nasal cavity was still full of smoke from the night before’s first-ever cigar, so maybe my results were warped. Things changed, though.
So anyway, last night. When I told Kelly that we needed to get some In-N-Out, he stopped cold, as if we were going to meet with royalty and had no suits on hand. “I don’t even know their menu,” he said, something to that effect. The menu is world-famously simple, but we didn’t want to fly into this hurricane of passion without some guidance. See, now that we’re in Phoenix, we have access to many culinary fruits that weren’t available to us back in simple ol’ Colorado Springs. Not that we’ve been particularly earnest in our attempts to sample them, my good friend and former Phoenician growls at my every Foursquare check-in to Taco Bell or Arby’s, but we’re slowly expanding our gaze.
Anyway, we pull up to the In-N-Out and it was like seeing a Krispy Kreme for the first time. The chefs are in the kitchen packing together our meals and we can see it all through their wide window. I was pretty excited. We drove away with two light bags and when the workers didn’t respond to Kelly’s hails about whether we had everything, we pulled away, only to discover we’d merely collected our fries and the In-N-Out cashier rushed out to us with our, y’know, actual food.
Here was my haul:
- Two double-doubles with cheese. (Two patties, two slices of cheese, geddit?)
- Animal fries (their standard fries, but with grilled onions, cheese, and their special sauce dumped on top)
- An extra-large vanilla shake
I was first impressed by the shake. I only knew about the shake size because in our immediate pre-departure research, we’d read up on In-N-Out’s “secret menu”, which is infinitely less exciting when you find it, but we didn’t want to look like amateurs in the drive-thru. Not only was it thick and delicious, but it lasted the entire drive home and then a little more. (My kidneys may also fail soon, so if you see a mournful post here soon…) Further: all of my vanilla shakes should be that size, everywhere.
I dove into the Animal Fries next and was immediately assaulted by the special sauce. Kelly compared it to the Big Mac’s secret sauce, which I would never consume by itself, but am hardly offended by, and I just couldn’t see the comparison. Beneath this mass of frenched potatoes and cheese was this terrible taste of warm french onion dip. The other ingredients overwrote the sensation, but I knew I couldn’t have anything more with that sauce. Too bad for me, the two double doubles in the next bag were lined with the stuff and in the end, weren’t anything I’d write home about, either. I mean, maybe on a web site, but… What caught me off-guard next were the fries which, now no longer warm and cooked in the restaurant’s specific peanut oil, tasted terrible. I’ve had some bland fries over the years, but these tasted bad on impact. No go.
At that point, I’d completed everything and the bags were empty. The food was gone, so were my hopes. The best part of the experience may have been the fact that I opened a review on the new documentary Milius and followed up with a Wikitrip through John Milius’s career. Did you know he did an uncredited draft of The Hunt for Red October? I didn’t!
So, now, I’m afraid In-N-Out Burger has failed my ‘one strike fail’ policy when it comes to fast food. Their time came and when under fire, they crumbled. They failed the test.
Although if we’re in the neighborhood, that shake cannot be denied. Oh, and why does my stomach feel all tense…