For me, December 2, 2011 was an important day: It was the day I confirmed that In-N-Out Burger is not worth the hype, but the company still makes pretty good burgers.
Here now — without malice about the company building its Fort Worth location next to a struggling Wendy’s or guilt about eating too much red meat — are my thoughts about my first In-N-Out burger as experienced at their West 7th location in Fort Worth, Texas.
I was a bit disappointed that the crowds have died down to the point that there was no waiting in line or worrying about where to sit at 5:15 p.m. on a Friday. We were able to order right away and found a seat with no problem.
The Wendy’s next door was almost empty, and the In-N-Out Burger was only moderately busy.
Still, waiting in line must be part of the appeal, because the stark white over-lit interior offered nothing to hold my attention or make for an interesting dining experience.
I did my research and decided in advance what to order. I don’t like big meals anymore, but I do like weird burgers. For me, then, it was to be a “single animal style”. For $2 — a good value — you get a regular-sized burger with all the veggies and thousand island sauce. The words “animal style” mean they cook mustard into the meat and add extra sauce, chopped grilled onions and chopped pickle to the other veggies.
The extra sauce was too much, but everything else was fine. It was a good, solid fast-food burger that tasted like a burger should. I have no complaints nor raves. The grilled onions and extra pickle were nice, but the burger was nothing to get excited about.
To be complete, I must mention the fries, available in one size for $1.50. In-N-Out fries get a below average rating from me. They’re made from real potatoes — a plus — but they’re limp, tasteless and uninteresting. Serving them with a salt packet and a napkin on top must be some kind of hint, but I didn’t understand it. Should I salt the fries or just wrap them up and take them to someone who likes them?
It’s interesting that some reviewers make a big deal of In-N-Out’s fresh, never-frozen beef, but Wendy’s (still standing nearly empty next door) uses never-frozen beef too. In fact, since Wendy’s upgraded their burgers, they’re very similar to In-N-Out’s. The new Wendy’s burgers are even served standing on their sides, just like the ones inside the glowing white restaurant only steps away.
Reviewers also seem to like the fact that In-N-Out is family owned, not publicly traded or franchised. That doesn’t matter to me, but it’s something unique among big burger chains.
My biggest complaint about In-N-Out Burger’s location in the developing West 7th entertainment district in Fort Worth is the design of the building itself. It looks like something that belongs on a suburban highway, not a vibrant city street. The lot also shows just as much parking as building, and that doesn’t look right in the heart of the city.
For me, In-N-Out Burger seems like an necessary addition to the Texas burger landscape. Whataburger and Sonic are well established here, and they both offer adequate burgers. Wendy’s probably offers the best chain burger today, however. No others even deserve mentioning.
In-N-Out Burger offers nice burgers in a bland atmosphere with a simple menu and very little fuss. My experience with this much-touted chain is that it’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. But Wendy’s has better fries, and they seem to need the business.