California eatin’

San Francisco!

New York and I didn’t split up—we’re just on a break. I needed space and time apart, that’s all. And while some people think it might turn into something serious and I keep saying it’s just casual, I’ve been seeing someone new: San Francisco.

I actually miss New York and many of its eccentricities but San Francisco knew exactly how to take my mind off things: food.

Anywhere else and I might be worried about missing out on all the great food options that a city like New York has to offer, but lucky for me, I landed in an equally great foodie haven: San Francisco.

When I bought my Lonely Planet San Francisco City Guide the first thing I did was flip to the section on eating. Tacos, pho, burgers, dim sum, ice cream, burritos! With so much to chose from I wasn’t sure where to start.

Then on my second day here, I saw it: In-N-Out Burger.  That was it. Over the past year, almost every time I’ve gotten into a burger conversation with people, someone mentions In-N-Out Burger, and every time I’ve felt like I was being left out of some big secret just because I’d never been to California.

Well now I’m here and in the name of being well versed in burger matters, I had to check it out.

The first thing that caught my attention was the simplicity of the menu.** Burgers, fries, shakes and sodas. No crazy burger toppings and variations, only one size of fries and shakes in three classic flavors (strawberry, chocolate and vanilla). Easy, no nonsense.

I ordered a cheeseburger and fries at the fast-food style counter and wondered if I was just getting some hyped up version of McDonald’s. $2.40 for a cheeseburger and $1.45 for fries—how good could this really be?

Cheeseburger and fries

For under five bucks, pretty damn good I have to admit. While the beef patty was a little thin, it made up in flavor and juiciness was it lacked in thickness. And unlike other fast food joints, the bun on my In-N-Out burger was full and round, not some sad-looking squished bread. Inside, the tomato was thick and juicy red with bright, shredded lettuce and crisp raw onions adding color and fresh taste. And because it was a cheeseburger, hot, gooey melted cheese oozed out in every direction. Finally, In-N-Out spread (probably some mayo-mustard mix) added a nice saucy touch.

The fries, I have to say, I wasn’t as impressed with. They weren’t much different than unsalted McDonald’s fries and were just a little bit dry. But for a $1.45 I got a pretty big heap of them. Some ketchup and a sprinkle of pepper and they were good to go.

New York and I will get back together in the fall but until then I think I’m really going to enjoy my little fling with San Francisco.

** UPDATE: Since I first wrote this, I found out there’s actually a whole secret menu at In-N-Out! How sneaky! I’m kinda pissed I didn’t know about this beforehand. In my own defense, the place I’m staying at doesn’t have internet, thus greatly crippling my research abilities. Oh well, guess this means I need to make another trip there, doesn’t it?


6 thoughts on “California eatin’

  1. My personal favorite is the double double animal style. You can get animal style or the other styles on your fries too, to spice those up-I love the burgers, but I agree..the fries aren’t the best things in the world.

    Another SF staple(which you can now find everywhere) would be the Boudin Bakery’s Clam Chowder in a Sourdough bread bowl..I could eat that every day and be fat and happy.

    • Ooh is that what it is? I saw this woman walking down the street with one and I totally wanted to chase her down and ask her what she was eating and where she got it.

    • I second both of Andrew’s recommendations…the Boudin Bakery’s clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl is awesome; my standard order at In-n-Out is a double double combo with fries, both animal-style, and a strawberry milkshake.

      Mmm, now I’m getting hungry. Here I go torturing myself again…le sigh.

  2. I’ve always felt that In-N-Out was overrated. I’m originally from the Bay Area, and I still think that Five Guys is better. It’s a mixed blessing that they have spread so fast… I’m always worried that massive franchising will degrade quality, but so far, I’ve never had a bad Five Guy’s burger.

    Whenever you make it to DC, I’ll take you to Ray’s Hell Burger. I don’t like to over-hype places, but I know many a food snob who have declared it the best burger they have ever had (I count myself among them).

    • I agree. It was alright, but it wasn’t life changing or anything. I mean I guess it wasn’t bad for being “fast food.”

      You know I’ve never been to Five Guys? It’s weird but something always gets in my way of going there. It’s definitely on the to-do list.

      And Ray’s Hell Burger? I’ll definitely take you up on that offer.

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