Monthly Archives: January 2018

Steppin’ Out – In-N-Out Burger

Just about every day I see or hear and new advertisement from a fast food restaurant promoting a new sandwich, drink or something else. Lately it has been combinations for a set amount, such as two burgers for a price, a burger and another item for a price or recently, from McDonald’s, a $1, $2 and $3 menu.

I don’t recall when this all started, but I just can’t keep up with it. In fact, I occasionally go to one of these places to try something, just to find it was discontinued a few days before and replaced with something even newer.

It wasn’t that long ago (although now even 20 years seems like just a couple of years ago) that most fast food restaurants had just a few things on their menu and did them well. Not any more. I guess the market and competition has become so fierce that nobody wants to be left behind. I noted that within days of McDonald’s advertising their new, cheap menu, Jack in the Box had an advertisement comparing it to their new menu.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Doogie’s, an independent restaurant in Connecticut. Rock, the owner, had a simple motto: “The secret to success is to do just a few things, but do them very well indeed.”

Following that, I added that a lot of the fast food chains with giant menus should take notice.

Then it occurred to me. One chain, that will turn 70 this year, has kept their basic menu of burger, cheeseburger, “Double-Double” (two beef patties and two slices of cheese), fries, soda and shakes. That place is In-N-Out Burger.

Sure, they do have a “Secret Menu” that contains modifications of these (depending upon how busy they are at the time), but it hasn’t really changed since its opening: burgers, fries, soda and shakes.

Their first restaurant opened in 1948 in Baldwin Park and it broke new ground with the first drive-thru.

I had a friend who worked there in the mid-1950s. I had never heard of In-N-Out Burgers, so he told me I had to come by. Four of us jumped in my 1948 Ford convertible and went there one day. Four people, less than five bucks, total (I miss that car).

They didn’t have a restaurant outside of the greater Los Angeles area until 1990 when they opened one in San Diego County. Two years later they opened one in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The first northern California restaurant opened in Modesto in 1993 and now they are in several western states with around 329 locations.
I don’t recall exactly the year that they opened in Placerville, but prior to that there was a location in Auburn that we would visit and bring back burgers for our friends.

So, what makes them successful? They are still family owned, their meat is not frozen, everything is fresh, they grill their buns next to the meat and one thing that seems to stick out in most of the comments left by customers: their burgers are consistently delicious and look like burgers when you get them. They aren’t as fast as some places, because they only cook to order.

They will tell you that have no heat lamps, freezers or microwaves and deliver on their promise of Quality You Can Taste®. That is true.

Their French fries are made from fresh hand-cut potatoes and prepared in 100% vegetable oil. The last time I checked, they used Kennebec potatoes, which taste really good, but don’t maintain their crispness as long as Russets. They also don’t blanch them before cooking. You can order them “Well Done” to get them crisper (Secret Menu).

At my insistence, my friend Russ Salazar and I stopped by last Saturday around 2 p.m. for a late lunch. It was busy as it always is. I had a Double-Double combo, Russ had a Cheeseburger combo. His first comment: “Look at that, a burger with fresh lettuce, a nice slice of tomato, and it looks delicious, like it should.” I agreed and it was delicious, as were the fries.

The Placerville In-N-Out Burger is located at 3055 Forni Road, near Office Max, and is open from 10:30 a.m. until 1:00 a.m., daily, staying open until 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Yes, they have a drive-thru.

They can be reached at the corporate phone number, (800) 786-1000. The menu and more information is available on their webpage, www.in-n-out.com.

By the way, I believe they were the first fast food restaurant to offer a burger wrapped in lettuce and without the bun.

Oh, don’t look for their welcoming crossed palm trees in front. The City of Placerville and In-N-Out had a disagreement about them.

I have been told that the 1963 movie “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was a favorite of In-N-Out founder Harry Snyder and in tribute to the film and its crossed palms, he planted the first In-N-Out palms in 1972. They soon became a trade mark for the chain.

Steppin’ Out – Sandwiches, Burgers, Hot Dogs and T-Shirts.

While in Folsom, Russ Salazar noticed a new sandwich shop at 1300 East Bidwell, in the same small shopping center as Wayback Burgers. It is called Which Wich Superior Sandwiches and is part of a 404 store chain headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

We stopped there one day and found they had simplified the ordering business. Instead of verbally placing your order, you grab a paper bag that has the sandwiches listed on it, check the box next to your choice, hand it to the cashier and pay for it. In a few minutes, you get your sandwich, wrapped in foil and placed into the bag.

We each picked a bag listing their Favorites, which included a Philly Cheesesteak, Italian Club, Meatball Grinder, The Reuben, Gyro, Ultimate BLT, Cobb Salad Wrap and Superfood Wich (vegetarian).

Russ liked the looks of the Ultimate BLT, which included 8 slices of thick cut bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado, with chipotle mayo on a toasted baguette, and ordered one. I thought about The Reuben, but chose the Meatball Grinder, which included Italian meatballs, Genoa salami, pepperoni, spicy capicola, marinara, mushrooms and mozzarella on a toasted baguette.

We found a table and in a few minutes received our sandwiches, which both looked very good, but nothing like the advertising pictures of them. Am I surprised? No.

My grinder was very good, except the meatballs were not very warm. They immediately offered to replace it, but it wasn’t that bad and why throw away food.

Russ’ BLT was also very good, but I felt the words “thick cut bacon” were more than somewhat misleading and the avocado was a bit over the hill (You know that taste).

I am sure things will get better after they have been open a bit longer.

In addition to those sandwiches there are many more and you can also build your own from quite a selection of ingredients including several breads, a spinach wrap or “Lettuce Wich.” You can also have any sandwich as a salad. You can see their menu at www.whichwich.com.

They also have soft drinks, chips, cookies, sweets and real ice cream shakes. Yes, they have a kids menu with a different bag for ordering.

This Which Wich is open daily from 10 until 9 and can be reached at (916) 294-7439.

Jack In the Box has been pushing its new Ribeye Burgers for a few months and finally sent out a short lived, buy one, get one free offer, which is why we went.

There are three different ones available: The All American, Blue Cheese and Bacon, and Havarti and Grilled Onion. They are all 100% ribeye meat and come on an artisan potato bun.

We ordered the All American (Spring mix, tomato, red onion, Provolone cheese and mayo), and the Blue Cheese and Bacon (crispy bacon, blue cheese, and peppercorn sauce). Russ insisted we should also try their highly advertised Country Scrambler Plate (Jimmy Dean sausage, crispy homestyle potatoes, and fluffy scrambled eggs mixed with bacon, ham, and melted cheese) so we included that with the burgers.

The buns were great, the meat was especially tasty. Everything else was just so-so.

The blue cheese overpowered the burger and the All American was badly in need of moisture. I added some Ranch dressing, which helped, but I probably should have taken it back for more mayo. Again, looking only slightly like the advertising picture.

The sausage on the Country Scrambler Plate was very good. The rest was okay, but only about half as much as shown in the pictures and on TV.

I collect t-shirts and have for many years. I don’t know why, I just like them. And, I especially like ones from restaurants.

When my son, Steve, was traveling a lot, he would pick up shirts for me from Hard Rock Cafes all over the world. I have them from Cairo, Dubai, Rio, Dublin and a dozen more interesting places. One I especially like, one he went out of his way to get, is not from a Hard Rock Café, but Rick’s Café in Casablanca – “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

I also collect t-shirts from restaurants in the United States, many where I have eaten and some that are just from odd places, places with an interesting name or location.

When I was in Maine, a dozen years ago, I drove to Eastport to visit a hot dog stand named Rosie’s. Along with getting a t-shirt I had a chili dog, fries and a drink.

Why Eastport? It is the most north easternly city in the United States and Rosie’s is, therefore, the most north easternly hot dog stand.

I had read about Rosie’s in a newspaper and going there was part of a quest for food and t-shirts on which I visited not only Rosie’s, but also Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery, The Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth, Duckfat in Portland and several other places.

Duckfat was specifically on my bucket list because they have hand-cut Belgian fries cooked in duck fat, one of the most delicious fats around. It is also not especially good for you, but, as they say, in moderation…. Unfortunately, they were out of shirts at the time.

Among places I have not visited, but purchased t-shirts from, is The Varsity, a hot dog place in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia. They have been on several cooking shows and their signature is their greeting: “What’ll you have, what’ll you have?”

I also have a number of shirts from “Hot Doug’s” in Chicago and some time ago came across a note on a place in Newington, Connecticut named Doogie’s. They serve a two-foot hot dog, grilled, of course, and rated by some to be the “Best Grilled Hot Dog in the Country.”

I called to see if they had t-shirts, but was told by Kim, the manager, that they were out. She offered to take a picture of one and send it to me when they came in, but the note to do so disappeared when someone graciously cleaned off her desk for her.

A couple of months ago I emailed them and received a note from the owner, Rock, to call Kim. She apologized for not calling me and not only sold me one over the phone, but then took it to the post office to be mailed.

Doogie’s is kind of a side business to their main business, The Clam Digger, which specializes in seafood. After all, it is on the East Coast where seafood is king.

By the way, their motto is: “The secret to success is to do just a few things, but do them very well indeed.” A lot of the fast food chains with giant menus should take notice of that.

(See: “In-N-Out”)