Sunday, November 25, 2007
Whenever I arrive on the west coast, one of my first stops is usually at the local In-N-Out Burger. For years I've held out that In-N-Out is the best burger in America. That it trumps all comers like Sonic, Five Guys, Tommy's Original and Fatburger (even though Fatburger had always given In-N-Out a tough run for the money). Anywhere in California and Nevada, I would make the trek to In-N-Out, no matter how inconvenient or how odd it seemed - like it must have when I visited my old friend Aaron at the Vacaville In-N-Out years ago.
I arrived at the Redondo Beach In-N-Out expected the usual great miracle of freshly ground beef and fantasized about ordering a "Four By Four" - that's four beef patties and four slices cheese: just pure, unadulterated gluttony.
But in reality, I knew that the Double Double was more than enough for me. However my brother Al, with his seemingly unsatiable ability to consume mass quantities of food without my penchant for adding to the waistline, talked non-stop about how the Double Double and Single Single would pair beautifully together. And while I may be a strong man when it comes to pursuing quality, I'm weak when confronted with an In-N-Out pairing. A Double Double and Single Single it would be for me too.
There's something beautifully gracious about an In-N-Out Burger location. Everyone is dressed in sharp whites with red aprons kept neat with large safety pins. Everyone seems happy and friendly. And, most importantly, everyone is busting their butts because the pace is relentless. I'm continually impressed with the workspace and the workflow. Dozens of young people just pounding out burger after burger, fries after fries in a never-ending stream of orders from both the triple registers on the front counter and the incessantly long line in drive-thru. It's amazing and bewildering, all at the same time.
Of course, for most people, it just looks like a bunch of people working. But to me, it's a symphony of workflow. I can't get enough. I want to watch them all day long.
But we're here to eat and our order finally comes up. Three Double Doubles (two "Animal Style" off the secret menu), two Single cheeseburges (one "Animal Style"), three orders of french fries, three sodas and a chocolate milkshake (okay, I couldn't help myself). It was our paean to In-N-Out and cost just over twenty-three dollars.
I don't know if it's just me or my changing tastebuds, but I was a bit disappointed. Making no excuses, the burger patties were on the cold side. The lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and onions were cold but so too were the patties. Bummer.
Then there were the fries, cooked as they always were. Idaho potatoes cut fresh on the fry line then fried until done. Problem with this is that they don't crisp. They're just slightly golden, but limp. There's no contrast in textures. No carmelization of the sugars. No real flavor to jump out at you. Compared to the quick fries we did up on Thanksgiving, these were just that: limp.
The milkshake was okay. The standard Taylor milkshake machine fare you get at most fast food joints. I wasn't expecting more so I wasn't disappointed. I just wish there was a fast food way to make really good milkshakes.
It pains me to write this. It really does because I've been in love with In-N-Out for such a long time. But I can't help but to be disappointed. I wonder how much more the experience would be enhanced if they took the extra time to blanche the fries at low temp before finishing the fries. I long for the patties to be hot. I yearn for the In-N-Out experience of my youth that left me dazed, in wonder and with a burning in my belly to fly out west and gorge at the first In-N-Out on the horizon.
I feel as if that's all changed now, but I hope not. I want to go back and be dazzled and amazed.
Well, at least they had Dr. Pepper...
3801 Inglewood Avenue
Redondo Beach, CA 90278