I’ll have my fries well done, please

When I moved to L.A. I noticed that people here seemed to be very serious about their love for In-N-Out burger. And not just in L.A. but it seems true for most people living on the West Coast. I mean, when you hear people talk about this fast food restaurant, you think “Wow, they sure love In-N-Out”.  I’ve even heard people say that when they come out here on vacation or for whatever other reason that brings them out west, they have to eat at In-N-Out and can’t leave without going there. The restaurants are always really busy and the lines at the drive-thru are always really long. It’s like they are…dare I say it…fanatics.

Coming from the East Coast, I didn’t really get why people love it so much.  It’s fast food. How good can it be? I figured it had to be a California thing and you just loved it because you grew up eating it. I asked what made it so great and people said the food tasted good and was fresh, meaning it wasn’t frozen and sitting around all day after cooking. There was also a secret menu (which is not so secret since some of the items are on the In-N-Out website) that let you order things off the menu, adding something special, some cachet, to the restaurant. It’s like you were part of a cool club or something if you knew there was a secret menu and what was on it. And the fries. Boy did I hear about the fries! Cut from potatoes right there in front of you and fried. They were touted as being amazing.

So of course after hearing all this (and not being one to turn down a meal of burgers and fries) I had to try In-N-Out. After having the cheeseburger meal, my conclusion about the burger and fries was…eh. I know some of you are rolling your eyes in disbelief over my non-enthusiasm for In-N-Out, but I just didn’t get what was so great about it. Yeah, the burgers were good and better than other fast food places, but I didn’t think it tasted particularly amazing. Yeah, it was cool that there was a secret menu so you could ask for special items or extras, but that didn’t make the taste of the burger any better.

And the fries…oh those fries. I thought they were pretty bad. I love fries. Potatoes are my favorite vegetable (I know some people don’t think potatoes count as one, but to me they do).  I love them cut up in a variety of configurations (shoe stringed, curlied, tot-ed, hashed) and fried. Any place that is supposed to have the best fries I will make a bee-line for. When I began my In-N-Out taste testing, a couple of the restaurants I ate at in different cities in Southern California gave me fries that were undercooked. Not amazing or even very edible in my book. Even when they were cooked, they would get soggy. Now I’m a slow eater so I need my fries to stay crispy for the duration of my meal, not turn soggy half-way through. So all-in-all I wasn’t such a big fan of In-N-Out (liked the burgers more than the fries) but would eat there a few times a year, especially when I had friends in town who were fans and wanted to go there.

One day I happened to mention to a co-worker that I was meeting a friend for dinner at In-N-Out, and no surprise, she began telling me how much she loved eating there. I shared with her my issues with the fries and she told me I should ask for them “well-done”. I had never heard of well-done fries before, but it apparently means they fry the fries a little longer so they’re crispier. She said when your fries are “well-done” they don’t go soggy. I just looked at her and couldn’t believe that this could be the simple answer for my dislike of the fries there. Could it be that easy? No, the fries would be too crispy.  They would be awful and taste almost burnt. But she reassured me that this was not the case and that I would love the fries cooked this way, so I took her advice.

I walked into In-N-Out that night and asked for my fries “well done”.  I was served fries that looked a little browner than usual. When I tasted them, I couldn’t believe that they tasted like they were actually cooked. Even better, during the length of my meal, which was made longer because I kept chatting with my friend and not eating, my fries did not get soggy. I couldn’t believe it! Why did I not learn about this before? I could have been eating at In-N-Out more often. Think of all the fries I missed out on eating because I did not know you could ask for them to be cooked a little longer.  I guess I was just not cool enough to know about everything that was on the secret menu.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think the fries are amazing, but they’re good and I can now see myself eating at In-N-Out more often. What’s more important is that I can now eat fries at In-N-Out without complaining about how much I don’t like to eat them, which is good for the person who I’m having the meal with.

Lesson to be learned: Never give up on french fries.

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