A freelance writer on a lifelong mission to discover the world's greatest milkshake. Enjoying writing along the way.
Published October 24th 2015
An Aussie puts the famed burger joint to the test
Okay, so my Los Angeles Burger Safari continued recently when I finally visited the fast food phenomenon that is In-N-Out Burger. This is the place that tourists rave about, locals are fiercely protective of, and that travel shows visit when they want to show you a piece of "authentic LA life". Well, dear reader, I finally made it to this hallowed ground (at least, the hallowed ground that's just near Universal City), ready to taste heaven in the form of a burger. So, what was the In-N-Out experience really like? As expected, it involved a lot of waiting. After trying and failing to secure a parking space anywhere near the restaurant, my companion and I decided to join the hordes in line for the drive-thru lane. While I panicked a little at not being able to properly peruse the menu, I soon realised that the In-N-Out menu is nowhere near extensive enough to be confusing.
There's your standard cheeseburger, featuring a toasted bun, tomato, lettuce, fresh of grilled onion, American cheese, and a 100 per-cent beef patty. Topping the whole thing off is a thin spread of the In-N-Out secret sauce. The Double-Double is exactly the same as the cheeseburger, just with double helpings of cheese and beef. The hamburger comes without cheese. And that's it – no, really – that's all of the "official menu" items. You can get a side of fries, and soda or a milkshake to drink, if you're in the mood.
For those in the know (or, y'know, anyone who has been to the In-N-Out website), there are some "Not-So-Secret-Menu" items available, including a Grilled Cheese (a cheeseburger without the meat), Protein-Style burgers (a lettuce leaf replaces the carb-y bun, and the famous Animal Style option, which means you'll be given extra sauce and grilled onions on your burger.
After placing our order, we waited another 20 minutes in the car, edging our way closer to the delivery window. I have to admit; the wait made the whole process a little exciting, and definitely added to the experience. I went for the standard cheeseburger – minus the tomato and onion – with a side of fries. What's clever about In-N-Out's drive-thru service is they deliver it to you in a cardboard tray to make eating in your car infinitely easier than the typical bag you'd be handed in a drive-thru lane. Full marks for enterprise there.
Unfortunately, that's where my praise ends. Fearing only a little for my own wellbeing if any Los Angeles natives read this review, I'm going to be completely honest about my food. It was pretty underwhelmingly average. As you can see from the picture, my burger contained more watery lettuce than anything else, which is never a good start. The bun, though perfectly toasted, was so sugary sweet that it would've been better served on the dessert menu, and the presence of American cheese did nothing to improve on the overall artificial taste of the burger. If you don't like pickles, you'd do well to ask for your In-N-Out burger without the secret sauce – it's chock full of tiny pieces of them. The fries were just fine – made even better with ketchup – but not tasty enough to compensate for a burger I'd forgotten about before I finished eating it.
Look, as far as fast food options go, you can probably do worse than In-N-Out – their website claims that they use 100% fresh, never frozen ingredients. The prices are very reasonable (about $6 for my cheeseburger meal with enough fries for two), and it's certainly an authentic Los Angeles experience. But if you're looking for the best burgers in town, I'm afraid it's my opinion that you should be looking elsewhere.