Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In-N-Out Burger

If you've never been to In-N-Out, then one of these must be true:
  1. You don't live in California or Nevada.
  2. You are a vegetarian.
  3. You hate life.
And if you've never even heard of In-N-Out burgers, then... well, then I don't know how you get internet inside your cave.

In-N-Out Burger is an iconic establishment of West Coast fast food. Now, there has started to be some (slightly raging) debate over the best burgers in America. Fuddruckers caused a stir with its larger, more homestyle burgers, but some would argue that ventures away from the realm of fast food because they are more expensive and take longer to cook and to sit down and eat. On the other hand, many people are claiming the newer Five Guys burger chain (currently sweeping the nation; full disclosure: my uncle owns several of them) boasts the best burgers.

Right now, the biggest battle is between the In-N-Out diehards and the Five Guys fanatics. Both have achieved cult-like followings and loyalty, and both have fantastically fresh and sloppy burgers. It's almost like a West Coast versus East Coast rap rivalry here, folks.

Don't get me wrong, Five Guys burgers are pretty good, but the problem I have with them personally is the pricetag: they weigh in at close to $6 per cheeseburger. For about half that (a little over $3), I can get an Animal Style Double Double* at In-N-Out. To me, that says it all: bang for the buck. And in this department, you can't beat In-N-Out. Also, I don't know how they do it, but the workers at In-N-Out always seem a lot more wholesome and professional than you would normally expect from your typical teens working at a fast food joint. I sometimes wonder if they're back there singing Kumbaya while they mustard-grill my patties*

Now, let's be clear: In-N-Out is not a "strictly Napa" thing, unique to this area. No, they are everywhere, scattered throughout California and some parts of Nevada. But they are a California thing, and there is one right off of Soscol/Imola in Napa, so if you're craving a fast but fresh-made sloppy cheeseburger after a day of wine, this isn't a bad option.

Except their fries suck.

[We also don't have a Five Guys here, but you can find a great local burger at "Gott's Roadside" -- used to be known as Taylor's refresher -- with original location in St. Helena but also one at Oxbow Market in Napa]

* Yes, there is a special lingo at In-N-Out for their "secret menu"... some might find it annoying, some think it's fun, but it's all just part of the tradition and culture. You don't need to know the terms if you want a standard burger with normal toppings, but if you want some different toppings -- admittedly not as many offered as Five Guys -- you need to know the codenames. For me, Animal Style is the way to go: a mustard-grilled patty with sauce and sauteed onions. You can also get Animal Style fries, which is definitely an improvement.

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