Culture shock with a side of delight

An East Coast review of One of the West Coast’s Dear Treasures: In-N-Out Burger

June 29, 2014

The West Coast–a foreign land of enigma that often perplexes us Easterners. We hear the myths about it constantly and often don’t think too much of it because, for the most part, we have our own parallel luxuries on the Atlantic. As I found out on my first West Coast excursion, however, there is one myth about the West Coast that is all too real to its natives.

That myth? The sheer decadence of a burger and fries from California’s beloved In-N-Out Burger. The bliss is real.

After a long tiring day in San Francisco, I decided it was time at last to swing by the little joint on Fisherman’s Wharf that has had the Western Seaboard in a frenzy since 1948. As a fast food connoisseur, I naturally had to gain some background knowledge on my prey before I pursue it. It turns out that In-N-Out has its own somewhat secret menu (“somewhat” in that it is posted on the website, for the true fans) that I just had to order from for the full experience.

I ordered both my burger and fries in “Animal Style,” which called for a mix of cheese and grilled onions into a special sauce that gave my food a more unique smell and appearance. As I waited eagerly for my order number to be called, I took in the ambiance, noting how astoundingly clean the restaurant was in stark comparison to the dives I go to back home. I also noticed how genuinely happy the employees were to be serving us, which surprised me as a person who is usually served by the stereotypical apathetic fast food worker. I lit up as my number was called at last, knowing that I was about to sink my teeth into some history.

Unfortunately (and quite hilariously) I had to eat my burger and fries on the run–literally–so that I was not late to the Giants game at AT&T Park that night. Needless to say, it was well worth the rush. The cheeseburger was succulent and filling, each element stacked up perfectly to create that classic American burger taste. The real twist came in the Animal Sauce. The tanginess was a great surprise on the first bite, giving my tastebuds a rollercoaster of unfamiliar ecstasy. The subtleness was also a pleasant surprise–it was neither too salty like ketchup, nor too pungent like classic mustard. The aftertaste was even somewhat refreshing, though the stellar homemade pink lemonade may have washed it away.

While the burger seemed hard-pressed to beat, the fries managed to surpass it. The thin cut fries looked enticing at first glance under the blanket of Animal Sauce. They were not too salty or greasy to the touch, so I was able to eat them on the run without having to wipe excess on my clothes (or my fellow travelers). The special sauce had even more of an effect here, as the sharp taste of the onions gave the fries a kick that was a sensation on my tongue. My only regret was that I was barely able to savor the taste of them–they were so delicious that I practically engulfed them! As I boarded the trolley with an empty bag, my stomach was more than satisfied, yet I did not have the usual fast-food-induced pit. Rather, I was delightedly full.

My first In-N-Out experience was a meal worthy of fast food divinity. I can honestly say the simple-looking burger joint shattered my already high expectations with ease. I strongly encourage every Easterner who visits the west to concede their hubris like I did and enjoy a true Western treat. My only caveat: you may never think of your nearest Five Guys or Checkers highly ever again. I truly had a foodgasm.

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