Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In-N-Out Burger: The first rule of the secret menu is, you do not talk about the secret menu.

[The most recent of Fosco's weekly restaurant reviews.]

It turns out there is this whole California fast-food phenomenon known as In-N-Out Burger. In my East Coast life, I had heard of the place, of course. I knew a couple of Stanford grads who had relocated east and who swore that it was what they missed the most about the West Coast. And, as my friend Todd has pointed out for years, the name does have a somewhat dirty sound to it. So naturally, when I passed one on the interstate two weeks ago, I thought it might be worth a try.

The first time I ate there, I was (truth-be-told) disappointed. The menu is extremely limited--only burgers, fries, and shakes/soft drinks. I definitely enjoy a burger, but I also enjoy a variety of potential toppings. The burger I had was fine. Good, even. But nothing that I would go out of my way to eat. The fries were, well, pretty dull. Definitely not McDonald's caliber. I began to write a post in my head: a skeptical Easterner debunks the In-N-Out myth. But then I decided to give them another chance.

On my second visit, the food was exactly the same: adequate yet uninspired. But (and I remember this vividly, with the clarity which life-changing moments sometimes demand), the guy who got his food in front of me had something different, something that was clearly not on the posted menu! It looked like fries, but they were cheesy! And there was some sort of sauce involved! I ate my boring meal and rushed home to do more research.

[This is the point in the narrative where you wonder why I didn't just ask the guy what he ordered. Or, perhaps, why I didn't ask one of the counter associates. These are valid questions. The answer is that I'm not like that.]

Apparently, the reason that the guy had something delicious-looking is that there is a SECRET MENU at In-N-Out Burger. (This isn't quite the same as Fight Club, so maybe I can talk about the secret menu.) The company tries to pretend that the menu isn't all-that-secret by posting it on their website (although you do have to be sharp-eyed to catch it). However, it turns out that the Secret Menu is actually quite a bit more extensive than they would have you believe.

Ever since discovering this secret menu, I have been enjoying my double cheeseburger "Animal Style," that is with

  • mustard-cooked beef patties (What is mustard-cooked? I have no idea.)
  • extra spread (very similar to Thousand Island)
  • pickles
  • grilled onions

Even better, I now order my fries "Animal Style" as well, which means they are smothered with

  • melted cheese
  • grilled onions
  • spread
Gaze upon a miracle:

I am pretty sure this is what the Greeks meant by ambrosia.

The only thing that prevents me from eating every meal at In-N-Out Burger (well, besides a strong desire never to visit a cardiologist) is that the nearest one is over 30 miles from my apartment. (Although it is on the way to IKEA...)

My infatuation with In-N-Out is even more remarkable considering that the company is owned by religious nuts. However, do be assured that, as I gobble down my "Animal Style" fries, I am constantly thinking "Hail, Satan." That should even things out.

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