Fast Food Files: In-N-Out Burger
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
Chances are that if you've ever been to In-N-Out Burger, you were sold after your first bite, that toasted sponge bread, the fresh-never-frozen patty, the grilled onions, the secret sauce, it's the antithesis of most drive-thru burgers. So it's no surprise that the chain has long been praised the "it" fast food restaurant by its fans, and since opening in the 1950’s has managed to gain a cult following that other burger joints could only wish to achieve. Somehow they do this without all the fancy marketing or television commercials, and without any locations further east than Texas. In fact, they operate in just six states (California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, and Texas), but that hasn't stopped them from being revered by foodies around the globe.
Though there is plenty of talk of the chain's not-so-secret menu (Animal Style fries, anyone?), there might be a few secrets that even the biggest food connoisseurs don’t know about their beloved burger spot. Read on to discover some surprising In-N-Out Burger facts, as well as tidbits from our dining experience at this beloved burger spot, but be warned, you'll definitely want a Double Double when you're done.
Few, if any, fast food chains enjoy the fandom given to California-based In-N-Out Burger, which has built an almost obsession-like following since its first store opened in the Los Angeles area in 1948. The chain's iconic arrow logo was developed six years later, and relatively little has changed since, except that there are now nearly 300 locations across California as well as Arizona, Nevada, Utah and, until recently, as far east as The Lone Star state.
Praised for sticking to traditional values and a simple menu, In-N-Out has become somewhat of an icon in the food industry, frequented by everyone from celebrities to first-time visitors from the East Coast – and even in the midst of hard times such as the Great Recession or economic downturn of 2008, this hot spot still thrived, with profit margins higher than its competitors.
Size and external appearance vary from store to store, except for the instantly recognizable arrow logo sign, but inside they are almost identical with a white-tile, corner-shaped ordering counter beneath menu boards and a general '50s car-hop feel (right down to the paper hats many members of the staff wear). Otherwise the interior resembles most other fast-food eateries, with synthetic chairs, tables and booths, but the counter itself has much more of a timeless diner feel. In most cases, you can also see a huge bank of deep fryers, since a signature of the chain is very fresh and continuously make fries in small batches.
The In-N-Out chain is widely known for its simple menu: it offers three different kinds of burgers (the hamburger, the cheeseburger, and the ‘Double-Double’), french fries, fountain drinks, and milkshakes in three flavors (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla). But over time, for those who chose to embark on a culinary adventure, there evolved an unadvertised Secret Menu.
It has been common practice for fast food chains to introduce food innovations listed on massive vertigo-inducing menus. By contrast, In-N-Out has kept its Secret Menu items shrouded in a veil of mystique, limiting itself to a word-of-mouth promotion, only for those ‘in the know’.
Among the items on the elusive menu are ‘Animal Style’ burgers and fries, which are cooked with mustard and topped with cheese and grilled onions. There are Neapolitan milkshakes, and Protein Style burgers, wrapped in lettuce with no bun named “the Flying Dutchman”. The behemoth 4×4 burger is constructed with four meat patties and four cheese slices, and is the ultimate in burger indulgence.
If you've ever peeked beneath your cup while noshing at In-N-Out, you might have spied what looks like a Bible reference. Spoiler alert: It is a Bible reference. Much of the restaurant's food packaging is marked with such a notation. The soda cups cite John 3:16, the milkshake cups bear mention to Proverbs 3:5, and the water cups are stamped with John 14:6. Even the burger wrappers and the French fry trays reference a verse in an inconspicuous spot. For standard-fare burgers, In-N-Out is no great shakes, but they are considerably better in versions with multiple toppings and off-menu preparations. The prices are very reasonable and the service is noticeably better and friendlier than other fast-food chains. Every time you order, you are told that "you are guest number ___" for picking up your order, and you do feel more like a guest than a customer.