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Family Value Meal

Christopher Gardner

In-N-Out Splurge: These buns won't bust even a modest budget.

Burgers and spiritual guidance converge at In-N-Out

By Todd S. Inoue

AS A DYED-in-the-wool Tommy's burgers fan (the Los Angeles chili cheeseburger chain and inspiration for the SNL "cheezburger" sketch), In-N-Out always played second fiddle. If Tommy's wasn't readily available, In-N-Out served the purpose.

Recently, the Los Angeles burger chain opened its first Santa Clara Valley outlet at McCarthy Ranch in Milpitas. Now if San Jose could only get a Tommy's and a Disneyland up here, there would be no reason to go to L.A. at all.

The line of In-N-Out devotees snaking out of the shop, especially during lunchtime, is intimidating. The Eisensteinian shuffle moves quickly due to the machine-like efficiency of the spiffy, clean-cut staff. Seriously, not a glum face can be found under a paper hat. In-N-Out is up-with-people.

The In-N-Out menu is sparse: cheeseburger, hamburger, french fries, shakes, soda, coffee. The purpose is to keep costs down by focusing on one thing and doing it right. The cheeseburger ($1.50) is a delectable masterpiece. This thing is stacked: a medium-cooked cow puck, crisp iceberg lettuce, a thick tomato slice, a big ring of fresh onions (no diced onions here), and a thousand island-ish sandwich spread, plus mustard and pickles. It satisfies on many levels, not least of which is financial.

The fries are thin like kindling wood, made crispy fresh on the spot. The potato splitter is as much fun to watch as Hot Dog on a Stick's lemonade pumper. The thick shakes (made from ice cream, not algae) cause migraines from siphoning.

For all you newbies, here's some inside lingo:

  • Onions can be grilled, just say "grill 'em."

  • 3 x 3 = three meat patties, three slices of cheese ($3.10).

  • 4 x 4 = four meat patties, four slices of cheese ($3.90).

  • Grilled cheese = meatless, though vegetarians may scoff because it's cooked on the same grill as the offending meat.

  • Animal Style: the beef is fried in mustard and served with grilled onions and all condiments. I tried this and wasn't impressed. The burger was sour and sloppy.

    Another interesting fact about In-N-Out: Biblical inscriptions are printed on the underside of all drink cups. The shake cup reads "Proverbs 3:5." On the coffee cup, "John 3:16." On the water cup, "John 14:6." "It's left to the customer's interpretation," said Laura, an In-N-Out spokesperson. "All the In-N-Outs are owned by one family, and they're Christian. It makes them feel good having the inscriptions on there." A good cheeseburger and spiritual guidance; Supreme Master Ching Hai would be proud. Does burping count as a joyful noise?

    In-N-Out Burger is located at McCarthy Ranch, 50 Ranch Drive, Milpitas (800/786-1000). Open Sunday­Thursday, 10:30am­1am; Friday­Saturday, 10:30am­1:30am.

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  • From the October 17-23, 1996 issue of Metro

    This page was designed and created by the Boulevards team.
    Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing, Inc.