In-N-Out, a major West Coast fast-food institution with a cultlike following, is well worth a stop during a visit to San Francisco. The burger chain has gotten a lot of good press lately: chef Thomas Keller has called In-N-Out one of his favorite restaurants and just celebrated his upscale restaurant's anniversary with a tasty burger and fries. And Eric Schlosser, celebrated author of Fast Food Nation says it's the only fast food he eats.
That's probably because In-N-Out is a very "PC" fast-food joint: burgers are made with 100 percent pure beef, free of additives and preservatives; potatoes are freshly peeled each day; there's real ice cream in the shakes; the company is family owned; and employees have high pay with full benefits.
For new visitors to In-N-Out, the menu is seemingly simple: double or single cheeseburgers and hamburgers, fries, and shakes. But if you want to sound like a local, order off the "secret menu," which offers add-ons like grilled onions and extra patties. A few of my favorite items:
Animal style: A mustard-cooked patty (In-N-Out's secret!) with grilled onion, a pickle, and extra "special sauce" (i.e. ketchup and mayo). Perhaps the most popular option of all.
Animal-style fries: Cheese fries with grilled onions and special sauce.
Protein style: A burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. Ideal for those watching their carb intake.
Grilled Cheese (a.k.a Wish Burger): For vegetarians, a cheese hamburger, minus the burger—but it comes with all the other toppings.
The Flying Dutchman: Two patties and two slices of cheese with no bun. This one comes condiment free, unless you make a request.
3-by-3 or 4-by-4: When a double-double burger just isn't enough, add more patties and cheese.
2-by-4: Extra cheese, i.e., a double cheeseburger with four slices of American.
Around-the-World shake: A combination of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream swirled together.
Neapolitan shake: The three flavors, but side by side and unmixed.
In-N-Out will accommodate other special requests as well: Ask for chopped jalapenos, no salt, just mustard or just ketchup, or even specify how well-toasted you want your bun. Fries can also be ordered "well-done" for extra crisp or "lite," for slightly undercooked.
There are 199 locations in California, but just one in San Francisco; luckily, the Fisherman's Wharf spot is convenient to get to. 333 Jefferson Street