The scene: Few - if any - fast food chains enjoy the fandom given to California-based In-N-Out Burger, which has built an almost cult-like following since its first store opened in the Los Angeles area in 1948. The chain's iconic arrow logo was developed six years later, and relatively little has changed since - except that there are now nearly 300 locations across every part of California as well as Arizona, Nevada, Utah and, most recently, Texas.
Size and external appearance vary from store to store, except for the instantly recognizable arrow logo sign, but inside they are almost identical - with a white-tile, corner-shaped ordering counter beneath menu boards and a general '50s car-hop feel (right down to the paper hats many employees wear). Otherwise the interior resembles most other fast-food eateries, with synthetic chairs, tables and booths, but the counter itself has much more of a timeless diner feel. In most cases you can also see a huge bank of deep fryers, since a signature of the chain is very fresh and continuously made fries in small batches.
The most obvious thing that sets In-N-Out apart from its competitors is the scant menu, which ostensibly features nothing but burgers and cheeseburgers, plus fries, shakes and soft drinks. No chicken nuggets, fried fish, salads, breakfast sandwiches, onion rings and no wraps of any kind. Burgers and fries are the mainstays, though In-N-Out is also famed for its "secret menu" with many more variations on these staples (see below).
Reason to visit: Burgers with lots of toppings, especially the "secret" grilled onions
The food: Despite its very passionate loyal following, the actual burgers at In-N-Out are not especially good.
By Larry Olmstead