The only thing more boring than another article about $4 toast is another East Coast writer complaining that In-N-Out isn't worth the hype. This tired trope has been revisited again and again, and the latest is this diatribe from Business Insider politics writer Josh Barro: "I Went To In-N-Out Burger And Found It To Be Overrated." While we're sure that Mr. Barro is fine at covering the political arena, his food criticism leaves something to be desired. Let's break down his argument, sentence by sentence.
"You may have noticed that people who used to live in California won't shut up about how much they miss In-N-Out Burger."
Sure, I was one of those people for a few years. But I also noticed that people who had not lived in California loved to take the opportunity to enumerate the ways in which In-N-Out is overrated, which was at least as tiresome. (Also, people from the East Coast love Dunkin' Donuts something fierce. I didn't grow up with it and don't understand it, but far be it from me to criticize something that brings them pleasure. What is it about the cult love for In-N-Out that drives East Coasters crazy?)
"Here's what I found: Burgers from In-N-Out are good. They're much better than McDonald's. They're not as good as what you can get at Shake Shack or even Five Guys Burgers & Fries."
I will concede that a Shake Shack burger is better than an animal-style Double-Double. But until Shake Shack has nearly 300 locations in five states, and you can get a Shake Shack burger via drive-thru on a road trip, I will not accept the comparison. A Five Guys burger costs twice as much as an In-N-Out Double-Double, and has made zero impression on me the few times I've tried it.
"[T]he burger was... fine. It tasted like its ingredients: beef, American cheese, tomato, pickles and Thousand Island dressing. It actually had too much cheese on it."
First, the writer neglected to try animal-style, which is his own damn fault. Second, a burger should taste like its ingredients, and I'm not really sure why that's a mark against it. Finally, there is no such thing as too much cheese on a burger (and Barro's later statement that he only ate half of the burger because of caloric concerns calls into question his trustworthiness as a burger reviewer). Moving on.
"The burger came in a wrapper that brags about what's inside. This is a sure sign of insecurity about product quality."
This weird, grasping argument concerns the burger wrapper's boasts about how it's different, and much more fresh, than its fast food brethren, which isn't really insecurity as much as a simple marketing technique a la Chipotle.
"The fries did taste very potatoey, but they didn't have the texture french fries should have: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were just fried sticks of hand-cut russet potato. They weren't craveable. And they didn't come with enough salt."
In-N-Out's fries are a divisive issue. All I can say is that they grow on you, until you come to worship their pure potato flavor over all the additive-laden fries at competing chains. And there are usually plenty of packets of extra salt next to the ketchup if you miss the sodium.
"I won't be eating there again on my next trip to California."
Look, Josh Barro, and all the other East Coast writers clamoring to take down the burger chain: In-N-Out is nothing more, and nothing less, than a damn good fast food burger, and light years ahead of the rest of the options by the side of the road. Until you have driven the 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles, or the 15 between L.A. and Vegas, or any other long stretch of highway in the vast, beautiful-but-sometimes-excruciatingly-boring state of California and seen the yellow arrow of the In-N-Out sign in the distance and known that it's pointing to salvation, you will never understand.
And that's okay! Just stop complaining about it. In-N-Out is not overrated and it is not underrated. It is simply rated, and no better or worse than it needs to be.