Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You won't Get In-N-Out Quickly for a While, But It's Worth Checking Out

Until today, I had never been to opening day of a restaurant, never mind the debut of an entire chain in the area. As much as I've always joked about camping out for free Chick-Fil-A when one of their stores opens, it has yet to happen. In fact, I'm usually one of those "I'll wait for the crowd to die down" type of people. So the fact that I ended up at the new In-N-Out Burger in Allen within an hour and a half of its opening may have meant that I was in totally new territory, but I'm totally glad that it happened.

So the obvious first question would be, "How bad were the lines?" Well, the walk-up line for the dining room really wasn't too bad, considering the crowds; it was "only" an hour and ten minutes from the time we entered the line until we hit the registers. The drive-thru line, however, was a much different story; one of the police officers directing traffic told me on the way out that the line had peaked about two miles back. And I heard somebody in line behind us asking a driver who was about six cars in back of the menu board how long he had been in line up to that point, and he said, "two hours." Yikes--I can't imagine using that much gas!

As for the food itself? I really liked it! Here in the DFW area, there are really two types of burger joints: The typical cheap, greasy McDonald's/Burger King/Wendy's-type places, and the much better (but usually pricey) options such as Scotty P's, Five Guys and Mooyah. In-N-Out slides quite neatly into its own niche in between those two types of places.

If you've never been to an In-N-Out, the menu is quite minimal: Hamburger, cheeseburger, and Double Double (two meat patties, two slices of cheese), and you can get a combo of same with fries and a drink. Sure, there are some things on the "not-so-secret menu" that can add variation (the most notable being "animal style," which involves grilled onions, double the secret sauce, mustard-fried patties and pickles, though I dispensed with the latter as I always do), but it's still pretty easy to memorize everything.

Texans will have to get used to the fact that the burger is built up, not out (much like urban architecture vs. suburban); it's skinnier than the burgers sold by the high-end places, but the famous Double-Double does go up a little higher, so while it takes a smaller grasp to pick it up (and includes less bread, which might please the carb-conscious folks), it was still quite filling and satisfying.

The fries were quite good; they could have maybe been a little warmer (although I'm somewhat forgiving in that regard because of the insane opening-day crowds), and--this surprised me--I almost felt the need to lightly salt them. (Understand that I'm a minimal-to-no salt guy who's been known to take salt off my fries at other places, so the fact that I thought something might need a pinch of it is telling; still, I prefer that to the other end of the spectrum.)

The thing that was most impressive was the prices: A #1 combo (Double double, medium fries, medium drink) comes in at only $6.15, whereas a Mooyah or Five Guys will usually set you back nine or ten bucks. (But as I noted on the Facebook picture I took of the receipt, they should probably tweak their price on the #1 by a penny or two, so that it doesn't come out to the purely evil amount of $6.66 with sales tax!)

I'm sure a lot of native Texans will want to know how it compares to our beloved Whataburger. And you know what? I'm going to punt that one--elude the question like the best of politicians. Each of them is unique, and in dine-out-crazy Dallas, there's room for both of those places.

And in case you're curious, I got a #1 combo: Double double, animal style (save for no tomatoes or pickles), fries and a Dr Pepper.

So when the initial hoopla settles down, what will be left is a pretty unique take on the all-American burger and fries, reasonably priced for what you get, and open till 1:00 in the morning (1:30 on weekends). If you're not a fan of big crowds, wait a week or so, but if you're a serious burger fan, check the place out so that you'll know what everyone has been talking about all this time.

(And let's open that proposed Garland location pretty soon, OK? We were originally supposed to be first!)

I'll have pictures added to this post once I can sync my new iPhone to the computer.

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