Decoding the In-N-Out Burger

Last but not least, no trip to LA would be complete without a trip to In-N-Out Burger. It was all I could do to restrain myself from getting one at the airport the second I deplaned. I waited to try this In-N-Out on Sunset.

Ah, the glamour! At least the red-and-white interior is clean and vaguely cheerful.

Dude ahead of me ordered a couple of the "Double-Double" - two double cheeseburgers. Now that's a meal. I would have photographed the menu for you, but at this point the manager asked me to stop taking pictures. Notably, In-N-Out Burger was the only place in LA other than Fred Segal that banned photography.

Here it is: the Holy Grail of burgers.

Yes, it lives up to its rap, but not in the way you'd think. The burger itself is good, but it's the whole package that wows. The lettuce, tomato, and onion are much fresher, crisper, and more voluminous than their East Coast counterparts. The soft, lightly griddled bun has a great hand-feel and sticks with the burger instead of sliding around or falling apart. I didn't detect anything wildly special about the special sauce.

So what's the secret? The onion. When you order an In-N-Out burger, always get it with onion when the counter person asks. It's not the harsh-tasting yellow onion you might expect, but a thick slice of crunchy, faintly sweet white onion. If you cook, you know that there is a huge difference between different types of onions. White onions are the mildest and the best choice in raw preparations like guacamole. It's the white onion's delicate, sweet taste that sets the In-N-Out burger apart.

Some people are wild about the fries, but I thought they were only OK. For one thing, they weren't hot enough.

But the burger reigns supreme in the fast food category. Will we ever be able to replicate In-N-Out's magic here in New York? Unfortunately, even with the exact combination of ingredients, it's unlikely that we'd ever reach the same caliber of California freshness.

In-N-Out Burger
7009 W. Sunset Boulevard, between Highland and La Brea

and many other locations, found here


A microwave. A cellphone. A Blackberry. Sometimes a device can change your life. TomTom is one of those devices.

This portable GPS system was recommended to me by a friend before I left for LA. For a trip dedicated to finding random eateries in strip malls, it's an invaluable tool - especially for a New Yorker who experiences a sort of disorienting agoraphobia outside Manhattan. GPS systems are nothing new, but this portable device is great for rental cars and has much more sophisticated features than built-in GPS systems. Just stick it on the windshield, and TomTom will detect where you are. Program in an address, and TomTom will direct you there with clear-cut color graphics and the voice of your choosing - a lady with an American accent, say, or a British dude.

Unlike Mapquest, TomTom actually tells you the best, most convenient way to get from A to B, taking into account travel time, the fastest routes - even traffic. It avoids snaking two-lane roads through mountains and farmland. (That was really helpful in Colorado - thanks, Mapquest...) If you're a stranger in a strange land - in the U.S. or even Europe - you can even do a search, Google Maps-style, for "coffee" and find the nearest cafe. Or, if you know there's a Target around somewhere, type in "Target," and TomTom will find it.

As with the iPod, sometimes you don't have to look far to find the next "killer app" in technology. This time, it's right on the dash.

TomTom ONE

just released:
new features: larger screen, real-time traffic services

available at Radio Shack, Staples, and the Sharper Image


LA Shops

How many times must we read about Fred Segal and Kitson in US Weekly before we get one or two of our own in New York? Here are a few shots of the interiors of these stores and more.

the shoe shop at Fred Segal
A wall of Miss Davenporte. At this point I was asked to stop taking photos. As for the rest of the store: the selection ranges from very casual to very luxe, and it's extremely well edited. Fred Segal has all the key brands, but they carry only the best looks of each.

Fred Segal
8118 Melrose Avenue, between La Cienega and Fairfax
West Hollywood
(323) 655-3734

the Alessi store on Robertson
These are toothpick holders.

8801 Beverly Boulevard at Robertson
(310) 276-7096

the center of the universe?

flip flop mania at Kitson
more flip flops
Kitson is the Urban Outfitters to Fred Segal's Anthropologie - a little younger, a little less discriminating, a little more fun.
bin o' flip flops
Kitson loves New York.
enameled fruity baubles

115 S. Robertson Boulevard, between Beverly and Burton

Obsolete in Venice was my favorite of all the L.A. stores visited. As Mon Ami put it, they have a very consistent aesthetic. It's creepy and appealing all at once.

"Nomadic Worlds" exhibit by photographer Karl Doyle
like something out of The Great Gatsby
19th century bird cage with live doves for $19K
drawing and anatomy models
scary dolly
anatomically correct

222 Main Street, between Rose Avenue and Ocean Park Boulevard
(310) 399-0024

jeans on display at the Closet in Santa Monica
gray denim

more creepy animal representations
one of the best interpretations of the nautical/anchor trend, tee by Rojas

The Closet
3002 Main Street, between Rose Avenue and Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica

shop windows open to the street at Planet Blue
The basket weave trim makes this Cynthia Steffe white dress more modern than its eyelet counterparts.

Planet Blue
2940 Main Street, between Rose Avenue and Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica

West Siders love their kicks.

Nikes in Rasta colors

2654 Main Street, between Rose Avenue and Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 399-4195

Taking boardwalk kitsch to a whole new level: the Native American store on Venice Beach.

kids tees with airbrushed animal motifs

1203 Ocean Front Walk, between Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Venice Boulevard
(310) 452-0684

the open, airy design of eQuator Books

eQuator Books
1103 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, between Venice Boulevard and Main Street
(310) 399-5544

tongue-in-cheek beachy chic at Venice Vintage Paradise
Rosaries are the next big thing in the religious-item-as-jewelry trend. Mix and match with Kabbalah bracelet?
vintage handbags

Venice Vintage Paradise
144 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, between Venice Boulevard and Main Street
(310) 452-0733

pristine desserts at Jin Patisserie
a lazy Sunday afternoon in the garden

Jin Patisserie
1202 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, between Venice Boulevard and Main Street
(310) 399-8801