In-N-Out Burger – Chandler, Arizona

The In-N-Out Burger
The In-N-Out Burger

During a 2011 episode of Break the Chain, the enlightening and entertaining food-centric radio program hosted by the brilliant Ryan Scott, Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the pulchritudinous palate, made some rather unkind comments about Blake’s Lotaburger, an exclusively New Mexico institution.  I cautioned him that local listeners might show up at the radio station armed with pitchforks and torches. That’s how much New Mexicans love the burger franchise whose motto reminds them that “If you are what you eat, you are awesome.”

It’s not always easy to express your opinion about something as sacrosanct and beloved as Lotaburger, but inspired by Larry’s honesty, let me share my thoughts about In-N-Out Burger, a California institution that’s beloved beyond the Golden State, a burger restaurant National Geographic named the second best burger in the fruited plain in its “Top 10 Best of Everything” for 2012.  When it comes to In-N-Out, I’m most definitely in the minority.  I don’t get it at all…

Throngs of In-N-Out Burger fanatics line up for their favorite fix
Photo courtesy of Sandy Driscoll.

I first found out about In-N-Out Burger in 1987 while developing psychometrics for the United States Air Force in San Antonio, Texas.  Two of my test-writing colleagues were native, In-N-Out Burger obsessed Californians who never seemed to take off their tee-shirts emblazoned with slogans for the popular California-based burger religion. They regaled me with tales that made the burgers almost too good to be true.

Our first close exposure of the third kind came in the millennium year during a visit to Las Vegas, Nevada. At first glance, the window sticker on the back of a low-rider was more advertising for In-N-Out Burger, but closer inspection revealed the logo had been modified. By removing the “B” and the “R” off the ends of “Burger,” clever innuendo resulted. It also prompted our first visit.  “Nice,” we thought, but “not nearly as good as Fatburger,” which had captured our taste buds with a fresh, made-to-order burger that seemed just too good to be made by a chain.  It was certainly not the transformative burger experience we expected, not even close.

The menu is limited but versatile
The menu is limited but versatile

We thought then and believe today that In-N-Out Burger’s product was inferior to Fatburger (and Tommy‘s, another Los Angeles favorite).  We questioned “is that all there is,” wondering what the hullabaloo was all about.  In-N-Out aficionados continue in their efforts to make a convert out of me, none more effusively than my sage  comadre Suzanne Devlin who’s got deep roots in New Mexico but now lives in Oregon.  Suzanne makes a great case:  “When an In-N-Out is served to you, the lettuce is crisp; the tomato covers the patty; the bun is grilled and toasted until it’s crisp in the fat of the cooked patty so the flavor is imbedded in the bun and the burgers in the photos and what little advertising they do is exactly what you get when you are served one at their restaurants not some smashed up burger that looks like Smokey the Bear sat on it.”

For me, it’s about flavor and that’s where In-N-Out Burger falls short of chains (Rally and Checkers, to name two) I have liked in the past…and even short of Lotaburger (green chile has a lot to do with that).  I don’t dislike In-N-Out and in fact, appreciate the freshness of its ingredients, its business model and ethical practices and much more.  There is much to like about In-N-Out, a family-owned enterprise since  1948 which is credited as the progenitor of the drive-through restaurant concept.

Double-Double (Monster Style) with Fries
Courtesy of Sandy Driscoll

Although carhop-based drive-ins were fairly commonplace in California, In-N-Out Burger featured a two-way speaker box where you would place your order then drive up to pick it up. You’re in, you’re out…a function, not just a name. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal commended In-N-Out Burger for using natural and fresh ingredients and for looking after the interests of employees regarding pay and benefits.  It’s the favorite chain for such hard-to-please chefs as Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsey and Mario Batali.  Nationally syndicated sports talk show icon Jim Rome says when he’s away from California for more than two days, the first restaurant he visits upon his return is In-N-Out.  Obviously, I’m the sane one; everyone else is nuts.

In-N-Out Burger’s menu is as simple as they come with three burgers, French fries, shakes, sodas, coffee and milk. There are no salads, sandwiches, breakfasts or chicken. Over the years, aficionados have also developed a unique lexicon for unpublished burger configurations. That lexicon is based on a numbering system that defines the number of beef patties and slices of cheese you want on your burger. A 3X3 is a three-patty burger with three slices of cheese. According to urban legend, a skyscraper-sized 20X20 has been created.

A double-double “animal” style. Photo courtesy of Sandy Driscoll.

Aside from cheese, all In-N-Out burgers officially on the menu come with a special sauce (similar to the sauce on the Big Mac but not quite as messy and profuse), onions, lettuce, and bun.  The burger patties are unfailingly hot and juicy which means the cheese becomes a gooey mess. Adkins dieters order their burgers “Protein-style” which means no bun and patties wrapped in a lettuce leaf.

What really stands out at In-N-Out are the French fries which are crispy on the outside and light on the inside. They’re well salted and delicious, a definite improvement to the flaccid, boring fries of other chain burger restaurants. Milk shakes are creamy and smooth, but taste-wise, nothing special.

In-N-Out Burger is special to Californians and has achieved significant popularity in Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas.  There’s no doubt this mega-popular chain would fare very well in chain-loving New Mexico even without green chile.

In-N-Out Burger
2790 W. Chandler
Chandler, Arizona
(800) 786-1000
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 21 July 2012
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 17
COST: $$
BEST BET: French Fries, Double Double

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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7 Comments on “In-N-Out Burger – Chandler, Arizona”

  1. Incidentally, the In-N-Out in Chandler, Arizona is the ugliest In-N-Out I’ve ever seen! Harry and Esther Snyder, the founders would have nixed that design. What were they thinking?

  2. I understand the loyalty to Lotaburger, the New Mexico based burger restaurant, but there’s one reason In-N-Out has such a loyal following. They deliver with a quality and fresher then fresh product every single time. I’d bet the house that if In-N-Out were to open directly next to Lotaburger or any other burger chain, it would be clear which one would win the contest of not only taste but value. For $5.00, at In-N-Out you get a delicious cheeseburger with all the extras, including grilled onions, if that is your pleasure, along with an order of fries and a drink .Have a special request? No problema.

    When I lived in California I saw this many times over of other burger joints going under after In-N-Out opened up down the street.

    The only thing that could possibly improve an In-N-Out burger is to offer some fabulous New Mexico green chile.

    Gil and I have agreed to disagree on this matter. We always agree on the classic New Mexico dishes and the authentic way they should be prepared. No cumin or oregano in red chile! Not ever!!!!

    Our mothers and grandmothers cooked “old school” and thats how we do it. No short cuts and no cumin or oregano in red chile!!!

    Welcome home, Gill. I’ll be there in late September for my annual pilgrimage to Santa Fe, a city my ancestors helped found. How cool is that?

    Ole!

  3. I still rate the In N Out the 2nd best burger I have ever had after the Bangkok Aquatina. Assuming Barbara is right and she probably is and the double double I ordered came with yellow chili not Green chile, I didn’t order it to admire its beautiful shade of green but its taste. It was like a jazzed up improved Owl green chile cheeseburger. I would rate the Lotabuger since about 1978 so far down the list that it would be impossible to assign a number. Before they downsized it the Lotaburger was great.

  4. Gil, I am a native Califorian and I don’t get it either!! I much prefer Fatburger (I can’t agree on Tommys though…I spent too many early morning there while in college 30+ years ago) Like you, I appreciate the freshness and the company ethics…I have a number of nieces and nephews who have had their first job at In N Out and all were thrilled with their experience! Saying this, the next time you go, try the burger animal style with chopped hot chiles…it improves the flavor!

    Just sitting here in SoCal dreaming about a Bobcat Bite Green Chile Cheeseburger!

  5. best fast food chain ever great prices erverything is ggod from here wished they wld build in albuquerque have been to in and out at least 20 times love it best burger and frys

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