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