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Texas Burger Tour: In-N-Out Burger

Saturday, 2 July, 2011
Anticipation of the epic quest.

angrystan anticipates fulfillment of the epic quest.

Having just typed out the title of this entry, I am reminded that those are words I could not imagine placing before you as recently as three months ago. As the Hamburger Diaries commenced I only dreamed of perhaps finding some context to make my way into the Pacific Time Zone and adding this legendary and long-standing element of the distinctive culture of Southern California to the roster. This deed is done.

The staff and management of the Hamburger Diaries have visited only the third In-N-Out Burger to open within the Central Time Zone, and the first in Dallas proper. My only hesitation was that the address, when indexed on Google Maps, reveals a Steak’N’Shake. This is the closest In-N-Out to my home, two-hundred miles away. 

There is no hype as effective as the legend of In-N-Out Burgers. Some say it is the best Burger in Los Angeles. No mean feat. Some say In-N-Out inspired Fatburger, another premium Burger outlet which doesn’t get the same attention. Is it the ubiquitous car sticker popping up down in Austin? Is it that sticker’s ancestor readily edited to read “In-N-Out urge”? How about the In-N-Out on the Las Vegas strip which hosts folks from all over the world? The stories of the grace and earnestness of the founding Snyder family and their tragedies? The controversial, but only just, addition of Bible references to the cold cups and wrappers in the ’80s?

In-N-Out is the beloved, once local, Burger chain in a city dripping with internationally renowned media. How could it remain a secret? Until 1992 the company was merely a local legend with international name recognition. They expanded during the go-go nineties into adjoining states, including opening the famous store on the Las Vegas strip.

Like many chain restaurants of limited geography, each In-N-Out is company owned and supplied by company-owned-and-operated regional-distribution centers. You can imagine the chortles when rumors spread of In-N-Out opening stores in the Texas Metroplex back in December. That idea had so many problems it was easily dismissed. The announcement was made poetically on April 1st of the first North Texas stores, and when the signs did not go down by April 8th …

Despite many years in Austin, I still don’t know even the nicknames of the many, many freeways in North Texas. I cannot find my way around up there. I must allow my GPS unit, nicknamed Piers Morgan, to show the way. Helpfully, this element of my tour of North Texas occurs during rush hour and illustrates just how poorly Austin functions as a metropolis, but that is another rant.

When I get to the I-must-be-close stage of the operation, I see a humble red and white sign standing on the white line: “In-N-Out drive-thru only”. Then another sign just yards up the road, “In-N-Out Dining Room” with an arrow pointing straight ahead, manned by a representative of the Dallas Police Department. I dutifully follow the signs, passing the restaurant without actually seeing it. I drive around a corner, and another, signs leading the way, into the parking lot of In-N-Out Burger. The police, additional staff and the drive-thru line around the building are due to opening-week crowds. I swear, I did not know. Had I known I would have avoided this location and gone way the hell out to the ‘burbs. This potential disaster is handled masterfully. Entering, exiting, parking is all done with uncommon ease. I did not so much miss the proper sign from the road; it has yet to be installed.

Here’s how they do the crossed palms. Fully grown trees are planted so they kind of point toward one another, then crossed and bound with particularly sturdy rope. I cannot imagine how long it takes for the trees to stay in that condition unaided, but this must take months or years. This process certainly takes longer than Baja Fresh was operating in Austin. The rope is in place on this opening week.

The restaurant is crawling with humanity. I dreaded approaching the counter, but that was both inappropriate and unnecessary. We ordered within a minute despite the throng. No. 2 combos, cheeseburger all the way. We are handed a ticket with our number. The dining room had been quite busy for the seven hours the restaurant operated that day. It was absolutely spotless. It was as clean as a movie set.

The menu is simplicity itself. Hamburger, Cheeseburger and the Double [meat with] Double [cheese]. To my surprise each is available in a combo. They have fries and shakes. Lemonade in its own bubbler, Minute Maid Lite Lemonade, Tea, Sweet Tea, Dr. Pepper, Seven Up, Barq’s, Coca-Cola, and Diet Coke. I am surprised this fountain requires service from two vendors. The not-at-all conspicuous condiment stand offers merely napkins, salt packets and ketchup. I am shocked at the listed prices. These must be introductory offers. We are supposed to have cautiously selected ingredients, made up as one orders, for the price of a Big Mac Combo. Please prove me wrong In-N-Out, but it was noticing the price point at which I had my first doubts.

Unmissable from the dining room is a yellow “neon” sign reading, “Quality you can taste.” Perhaps the boldest statement a mere Burger joint has ever made.

Unexpectedly, a place to sit was as easy to find as service. I happened to notice a surplus of staff back in the mostly hidden kitchen. As many as seventy people were present, most of whom appeared to be observing the experts. I wonder how long, in this manic condition, it might take to actually process an order.

Eight minutes. On this basis, I suspect they might have your order waiting as you arrive under normal conditions. I did not anticipate the trays at in and out. They are about three-inches deep. Fries are served covered with a napkin and a packet of salt. Like Short Stop and Hill-bert’s, In-N-Out does not salt their fries. This was mind altering.

Upon popping the first fry in my mouth, I thought I was eating a big, hot potato stick. These did not taste so much of frites, as they tasted of rich potato. This flavor overwhelmed the mild oil finish. I have never had, or so much as heard of, fries like these. This is no doubt due to the Kennebec potatoes cut upon ordering into conventional shoestrings. The fries are heaping portions served in large fry boats. Mel loved them. She compared the flavor to gourmet potato chips. I honestly cannot tell you if I prefer something so flavorful and unlike that to which I am accustomed. These fries are dry. The exterior is al dente. These may be unquestionably amazing if salted fresh from the fat. The flavor becomes less overwhelming as they cool, but returns as they assume room temperature. As fresh, unsoft shoestrings they lose heat very quickly. They are utterly not dripping with oil. This aesthetic of fries is so unanticipated and novel, I must become better acquainted before passing judgement.

It is not the In-N-Outer or the Big Harry. It is not the MondoBurger or Super Satisfier. I was served a sandwich its creators refer to as “cheeseburger”. Onions, pickles, ketchup or mustard do not appear, although are available on request. You get typically frowned upon iceberg lettuce in ample portion and tomato with Spread, which is their take on Big Boy’s signature sauce with a respectable name, a four-inch, 20% toasted bun and a quite flavorful, humbly seasoned 8-to-1 patty. When I tasted the patty on its own, I immediately knew.

I give P.Terry’s Burger Stand a hard time here. This is largely because they embody everything despicable about Austin Texas; an abundant list to be certain. P.Terry’s, even down to their “Sauce”, is simply attempting to do In-N-Out at a somewhat higher price point, toned-down fries, with shittier and therefore desirable service. P.Terry’s sole salvation was that it was very nearly original. I was considering reviewing the veggie burger during the Texas Burger Tour, but fuck ’em. God forbid, I might actually like it.

In-N-Out serves an amazing sandwich at the same price point as the Big Four. There simply is no comparison. Even considering my blatant prejudice against businesses that take a strong political or, in In-N-Out’s case, religious stands even if I agree with them. The overall quality of the food on the tray, the experience, the lightning service, all add up to one of the best Hamburger experiences available. I wonder whether they can keep this level of quality and service beyond the opening months. I very nearly returned to order a Double Double animal-style even though I don’t actually know what that is. I regret my decision.

Imagine if you could get eighty percent of everything you get at Five Guys, not counting the smaller patties, but for half-price with a drive-thru. It is an undeniable combination. Adding some Ace-K to the fountain would be very nice.

Upon our exit, as easy as the entrance, I noticed a Whataburger on the same block. I asked my Mel, if given these two selections which she would choose. I remind you, my Melanee is very nearly as fond of Whataburger as your correspondent. In-N-Out. Period. The fries were the tipping point for her.

I haven’t decided, and won’t have to for at least a while. The first Austin In-N-Out is almost certainly years away. I’ll have this time to study the “secret” menu.

I shall leave you with this image. Perhaps the highest compliment yet given in the Hamburger Diaries.

Stan's desktop.

I didn't like the manufacturer's conspicuous logo anyway.

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3 Comments
  1. Graeme permalink
    Saturday, 2 July, 2011 12:56

    Hah! I knew it! I knew you’d be wowed!

    You perfectly described my reaction to the fries. I think they’re amazing.

    Like

  2. Graeme permalink
    Saturday, 2 July, 2011 13:05

    I want to add that the cleanliness & speed are fairly typical. They run a tight ship.

    I know it is hard to believe this place exists at this point in time in America. The simple focus on core competencies is, at this stage of the game, un-American.

    Like

  3. Tuesday, 5 July, 2011 5:16

    Good post and it specifies so clearly the importance of cleanings services. Its really essential for every home to opt for cleaning services at regular interval of time. There are lots of people who are not aware of such services and sometimes there houses looks very ugly. Hence the cleaning services is the best way to keep your house clean and healthy. Indeed a very good post and I am now a regular subscriber hoping to have more good postings from you. Thanks

    Like

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