In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« The Australian Open, Co-Starring Ron Paul | Main | Fact for the Day »

January 18, 2008

Guerilla Burger Wars

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

My wife isn't a fan of one of my peculiar activities, so I have to sneak off without her in order to indulge. Well, I did so today, anyway. And it's hard to do, I might add.

Do what?

Stop in at an In-N-Out Burger fast-food joint. (Here is a lengthy Wikipedia write-up and here is the company web site, if you aren't familiar with In-N-Out.)

And why is it so hard to do? Am I that much under Nancy's thumb?

The second question is debatable, but the first one can be answered clearly: there are no In-N-Outs in Washington state, where I live. None in Oregon, either. In fact, In-N-Outs can be found only in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Nancy and I did stop at an In-N-Out perhaps three years ago on our way from the Bay Area to the Mendocino Coast. That was my first brush with it, and the place was jammed. There's an In-N-Out in Gilroy, California, not far from where we used to live, but I never ate there because the lines were huge at lunchtime.

Today Nancy was skiing while I was snooping around the valley below her timeshare. On my way into a shopping area just south of Carson City, Nevada I spied an In-N-Out. Despite being on a post-holidays food-intake watch, I decided to indulge myself because I'd forgotten what In-N-Out burgers taste like and was curious why they seemed so popular. So I parked the car and walked over to the restaurant. The end of the line-up was just outside the door.

In honor of my weight-watch, I ordered only a simple burger, catsup-only, plus fries. Perhaps a bigger burger would have been a better test, because the basic item has a pretty thin meat patty.

The verdict?

Definitely better than McDonald's and Burger King, a little better than Wendy's, and perhaps on par with Seattle's Dick's chain. (The Dick's comparison is an apples-oranges one because Dick's products are deliciously greasy and In-N-Out's are more dry.)

I'm not yet sure that In-N-Out's products are ambrosia. For a more detailed analysis, we'll just have to persuade Michael to ask The Wife, who apparently is an In-N-Out fan (scroll down).

Both In-N-Out and Dick's stress quality and taste, and they apparently deliver, as their local popularity indicates. Even though they necessarily must compete against their big-chain rivals, their guerilla warfare approach seems to work.

Size isn't always everything. In fast food, anyway.



posted by Donald at January 18, 2008


I love em too. Their food is fresh and they're cheap compared to other fast food joints -- cheeseburgers and shakes are around $1.50 each, the fries are a little over a $1. Fast food combos at other chains typically run $6-7. They have a limited menu and they do it well. They're the first place I think of when I'm in the mood for a fast food burger.

Posted by: Steve on January 19, 2008 1:31 AM

First off, you have to order the double-double, their signature item. It may not be greasy, but it will be juicy. Or better yet, order two double-doubles, fries and a coke. Diet be damned. I am not sure what you would get with a burger, catsup only, since their burgers do not come with catsup.

I am not overly impressed with their fries, but if you eat them immediately they get a thumbs up. They do not travel well. Maybe, it is their freshness that holds them back. Everything at In N Out has always been fresh, and the food is consistent at the various establishments.

In N Out also hires friendly competent counter people. At many food places today, it is like "Dawn of the Dumb," starring Zombie counter help. At Taco B., I once had one guy doing all the work. Finally, he asks his partner who just got done sneezing three times to help him out. At Wendy's the illegals are pleasant but they cannot grasp the concept of extra ice. At MacDonald's the workers seem to resent every step they have to take when I ask for a few more ketchups -- their glum looks have me looking down at their feet for shackles. I wonder what kind of hiring policy gets the much better workers at In N Out? Also for those of the paranoid persuasion, the In N Out food preparation area is in plain view. A true comfort.

One time I was a bit shocked to find that my order was taking long, by In N Out standards. When my number was called, I was greeted by an apologetic girl handing my my food and my money back -- I had not said a word of complaint. I think that qualifies as a religious experience in the fast-food world. Wow.

Posted by: sN on January 19, 2008 3:39 AM

In and Out is very good, but I had my best hamburger at Milt's Stop and Eat in Moab Utah. It's the classic greasy diner, open since the 50s. But they use only local free range beef, and that's cattle country after all. Don't miss it if you're in the area.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on January 19, 2008 12:30 PM

sN -- I special-ordered a catsup-only. In many respects, I seem to be a minimalist. And a world-class fussy eater (todays' rank = 8).

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on January 19, 2008 1:31 PM

Re fussy eaters: When I was growing up I had a friend who would only eat hot dogs, seriously only hot dogs. My mom was shocked to hear his menu requirements when he slept over. His mom made a lot of hot dogs. I don't think they offered too many healthy varieties of dogs back in the '70s. I do wonder what became of him. I suspect he either suffered a horrible death or became some sort of superhero?

Posted by: sN on January 19, 2008 3:22 PM

With all due respect if you order a burger catsup only at In-n-Out then you really haven't eaten an In-n-Out burger.

Posted by: Pat Hobby on January 19, 2008 3:37 PM

In-n-Out is very good, I really wish there were some in the East.

Posted by: Peter on January 19, 2008 5:04 PM

Hey Donald!

Love your posting and In-N-Out is the best! The fries, yum, wish they had one where I am right now and I'd drive there! Driving is a big part of the fast food experience!

I have to weigh in here and say that Southern California has the best burger joints. They just do.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard's Wife on January 19, 2008 5:50 PM

I just got back from my first visit to NYC and, as amazing as that place is, there are (at least) two things they can't do: burger joints and Mexican food.

They try and try but never quite get there:

Posted by: Bryan on January 20, 2008 12:45 PM

My favorite is the double-double animal style (mustard fried on the meat, pickles, extra spread and grilled onions are added). Its extra fun because its "off" the menu, although its completely standard. If you are in Oregon or SW Washington (as far north as Centralia), I would recommend Bugerville, they are touch more expensive (a combo meal is ~7 dollars) but they use local ingredients (antibiotic and hormone free beef, lots of tillamook cheese) and have a lot of great seasonal items (I love their sweet potato fries and shakes, currently they have chocolate hazelnut).

Posted by: bp on January 20, 2008 1:26 PM

As good as Dick's? I guess I'll have to see for myself next time I'm in CA.

Posted by: Bill on January 20, 2008 5:30 PM

Whaaat? Ya'll don't have a Whataburger? (Upon checking the website, I see Whataburgers only reach as far west as Arizona, to the east to Georgia, and only as far as Oklahoma to the north.) I like my Whataburger with cheese, extra onions and jalapenos.

Actually, when in Cowtown ( Fort Worth) you must, absolutely must, eat at the original Kincaid's on Camp Bowie.

Kincaid's is The Last Word on hamburger.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on January 20, 2008 10:03 PM

To answer sN's question about how In n Out gets better counter people, the answer is simple. They have a reputation for paying a couple of dollars more an hour than any other fast food joint.

Animal style is definitely the way to go and I recommend ordering your fries well done. Here's a link to how to order like a pro.

Posted by: Rick on January 21, 2008 9:28 AM

FWIW, even sleepy Morgan Hill has one now. The far-south bay is expanding, in more ways than one.

Posted by: ken on January 23, 2008 2:01 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?