Back in 2010 I tried In-N-Out, and did not like it. There was nothing setting the burger and fries apart from those served at other fast food restaurants, except that it somehow felt greasier.
I ordered the fries “animal style” because I was told to. As it happens, that’s an awesome suggestion for people who want a fried potato casserole, but it’s less awesome for people who like to eat french fries. Today I figured out that it’s almost certainly not what the In-N-Out apologists in my various feeds wanted me to try.
Today I asked for “animal style” on a burger. Specifically, I said “double double animal style,” and attempted to adopt a tone that suggested I was an old hand at this, rather than someone who had not ordered food here in six years.
What arrived was kind of amazing, with a flavor I hadn’t had before, and I can totally see myself getting that burger again. I don’t know what “mustard fried patty” actually means, but I can taste the scorched mustard under the other sauces, and their combination with the extra pickles and the grilled onions was quite nice. It stuck to the paper it was wrapped in, but rather than hold that against them I chalked it up to ordering cheese-infused food from a place that wraps its food in paper.
But I’m now led to ask this question: why isn’t In-N-Out leading with that sandwich? Despite being made of essentially the same stuff you’d find in any burger joint, the animal style sandwich sets itself apart from other fast food offerings by tasting different. It’s the sort of thing that foodies at fancy restaurants might call a signature dish. It’s a menu item that will bring people back to your specific restaurant, assuming they like the dish, and want to put it into themselves a second time.
It’s not quite good enough to send me code-diving on a voyage of exploration deep into the In-N-Out menu, but I can now see why folks might do that, and how this pursuit would lead them to acquire the taste necessary to zealously insist that In-N-Out is the best. I don’t agree, but the double-double animal style is a tasty sandwich I’ll be having again.