I love a good burger, but I am really confused about the hoopla surrounding the opening of In-n-Out Burger in the DFW area. Every time one of these places opens, it is inundated with frantic California transplants looking to relive some earlier glory of late night highs jonesing for cheap food—I guess. Now, I don’t like waiting in lines, particularly for a burger or some such thing. Even in my hale and hearty youth, I would not be caught in a line to go into a club. There is nothing inside a club that will be worth standing around for an hour to see. So when friends asked me if I was going to try an In-n-Out burger, I always said no. At least, I would not be trying one until the craze died down and one could actually experience the in and out aspect of the restaurant. Well, as it turns out, a couple of months ago, a friend and I were looking for something to eat. My husband Don was playing at a nearby club, and I just wanted something cheap and fast to eat. Wouldn’t you know, there was one of the infamous shops with its now trademark line stretching out of the parking lot. My friend said, “Hey, do you want to try it?” I was skeptical. There were two cops standing outside directing traffic around the restaurant. I pulled up to them and stuck my head out of the window.
“How long is the wait?” I asked.
“Oh, about thirty minutes,” one said.
“Hmm,” I said, “Have you tried it?”
“Oh yeah.” Both cops nodded.
“How was it?” I couldn’t wait to hear. I thought they would rave about it.
“Well…” one of them said, “Are you from California?”
“No,” I said.
He paused. Considered. Stared into the air. His colleague, grinning, waved me off when I glanced at her. She was not about to weigh in. Finally he responded, “Go ahead and try it! Take a risk!”
This was NOT the response I was thinking it would be. Really? We can’t just say, “They’re great” or even “pretty good?”
“Take a risk?” I said.
“Yeah, you never know. People from California really like it.” The cops were laughing now. Not a good sign. But, I thought, how bad could a burger really be? We pulled in and took our place in line.
The wait was really not that bad. Even though the line was long, it moved at a steady pace. I ordered a burger with cheese, fries, and a drink. As I made my way around to the window, I could see inside. Stacks of fresh vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and the like were the major décor in a clean white prep area. I began to think it might just be good! The service was fast and friendly; the attendants were ready to hand me my meal and take my money as soon as I got to the window with only a pause to verify the order. Now was the moment of truth. We parked, and I dug in. The burger was freshly made. The vegetables were cold and crisp. The bread, though, was tasteless and, really, kind of cheap, like the bread a low income daycare would serve with peanut butter to four year olds. The meat was similarly tasteless, dry, and tough—not quite a hockey puck, not quite shoe leather. And, oh yeah, the cheese—well, it was cheese, and it was on the sandwich. The fries were merely adequate, simple fried potatoes, a little greasy, with also not much flavor. Don’t get me wrong; the meal was edible. However, in a comparison between an In-n-Out Burger and ANY other fast food restaurant burger, any other burger would be tastier. If the best things on your burger are the lettuce and tomato, you have a problem.
That’s why I could not believe it when reports of polls came out ranking In-n-Out Burger the best fast food burger in the nation. Who are these people? Are they high? Are they being paid? If so, how do I get that gig? I can lie about a burger.
As it turns out, I hear that the regular burger is not In-n-Out’s claim to fame: it’s the Double Double. OK, fine. I’ll bite. I won’t wait in line again, but next time I’m hungry and near an In-n-Out and have the money and have the time and there is no line…THEN I’ll try it again. They have one more chance to impress me. After all, I really do love a good burger.