Here's the rub: I will always go to an In-N-Out when I'm near one, braving the lines full of svelte Californians and fat Midwesterners on pilgrimages just to see if maybe I've come around. I took my toddler there a while back. She seemed to like the grilled cheese thingy. Like me at that age, she was also into boogers. Babies have shitty taste, so I don't trust her. But everybody else in at the restaurant seemed happy eating their burgers.
Then, something happened: I moved from Oregon to Los Angeles. On the ride to SoCal, I got weirdly excited that In-N-Out had opened a couple locations in the southern part of Oregon. I even contemplated stopping. I had that same urge every single time I passed one with increasing frequency on the 1,000-mile drive. Finally, I caved. Starving, I grabbed a mustard-grilled, Animal Style burger with grilled onions (yes, the drive-in dude told me that the mustard-grilled/grilled onions part of the order was redundant, because of course he did). It was... OK. As always. Not bad. Not great.
And as I watched a string of tourists take photos in front of the place and a string of locals happily waiting for their fix, their cars snaking onto a busy Pasadena street, I had that same thought I'd had since I first tried In-N-Out: Maybe there's something wrong with me. I was like a cult member questioning the Messiah, and I felt weirdly guilty about it.
But you know what?! Maybe there's something wrong with all of you. Maybe you're easily duped by stupid hats. Maybe Steve Buscemi hypnotized you one night. Maybe you like talking in dumbass codes. Or maybe you're so in love with the allure and the cult of this place that you're blind to its shortcomings. I'm not one to judge. But I'm also not buying it.
If you need me, I'll be across the street from the nearest In-N-Out to my new home, eating at Shake Shack. It's only a couple bucks more, after all, and is miles above in quality. And as I walk past that In-N-Out, I'll... oh, who am I kidding. I'll get a Double-Double and a shake and some undercooked fries. Maybe this time I'll love it.
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