You may have noticed that people who used to live in California won't shut up about how much they miss In-N-Out Burger.
Since I'm in Los Angeles for a few days, I thought I'd take the opportunity to refresh my recollection that In-N-Out is severely overrated.
Here's what I found: Burgers from In-N-Out are good. They're much better than McDonald's. They're not as good as what you can get at Shake Shack or even Five Guys Burgers & Fries. And In-N-Out's fries are simply subpar.
Today I got a #1 meal, which is a double cheeseburger with fries and a drink. I'll give In-N-Out one thing: It's cheap. My meal cost $6.98, which is about half what I'd spend for similar items at Five Guys in New York.
And the burger was... fine. It tasted like its ingredients: beef, American cheese, tomato, pickles and Thousand Island dressing. It actually had too much cheese on it. It lacked the depth of flavor that a Five Guys burger has. And it didn't come with bacon.
The burger came in a wrapper that brags about what's inside. This is a sure sign of insecurity about product quality. "We hand-leaf our lettuce every day," the wrapper announced. Good for you? I don't know why I should care that the lettuce is leafed by hand.
While the burger was decent, the fries were just kind of sad. In-N-Out makes a big deal about its fries: the potatoes are hand cut and never frozen. The fries did taste very potatoey, but they didn't have the texture french fries should have: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were just fried sticks of hand-cut russet potato. They weren't craveable. And they didn't come with enough salt.
I got this far and then I stopped eating. This meal is almost 1100 calories if you eat the whole thing, and being in Los Angeles already makes me feel fat; about half was enough for me.
This analysis leaves only one real argument for In-N-Out: That it's a value proposition because it's so much cheaper than Five Guys. But a double cheeseburger is already a splurge from a calorie standpoint, regardless of price. To paraphrase an old Johnnie Walker ad campaign, if the difference in price between In-N-Out and Five Guys matters to you, you're eating too much.
Oh, I actually have to give In-N-Out props for one thing, besides price: They expressly prohibit e-cigarette smoking inside their restaurants, which helps to cut down on the douche factor.
Still, I won't be eating there again on my next trip to California.
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