Unpopular opinion: In-N-Out Burger ain't all that

Sep 21, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. ET

I realize that what I'm about to say carries the very real possibility of angering people who live in certain regions of the States, but it still has to be said: In-N-Out Burger ain't all that.

Now, it isn't that I have some kind of regional affinity for one type of restaurant over another; this opinion isn't born of obnoxious snobbery. After all, I lived in central Pennsylvania for my formative years, where the closest thing we had to a regional burger was the eternally sucky Hot 'n Now, which was neither, and labored under the delusion that olives belong on burgers until they mercifully sounded their final death knell some years ago.

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Nor am I trying to say that In-N-Out is a pile of disgusting, which has become a popular contrarian opinion 'round these parts (Texas) since the chain first started creeping in here five years ago. In-N-Out isn't gross.

It just ain't all that.

Which came as a shock, because the way people talked about the chain's approaching expansion made it seem like the second coming of burger Christ. I'm not picky about my burgers, really. When I make them at home, it's a simple enough process that looks a little like this:

Image: Imgur

So it's not as though I'm some kind of irritating burger tool who ruins a perfectly good cookout by talking about beef marbling and getting snitty about the maximum number of toppings one can put on a meat patty before it no longer qualifies as a burger. I have simple tastes and simple expectations, and one of those expectations is that when you say, "In-N-Out Burger will change the way you think about burgers fivever," it had better be a heavenly mouthgasm of deliciousness.

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And it's not. It's a fast-food burger. It has meat, kind of onion-y flavored, a piece of cheese and some Thousand Island dressing that someone churched up with the moniker "Animal Sauce." It sits like a rock in your stomach along with those weird, chalky-textured fries they serve with it, and your pores seep onion-meat fumes long after you want to stop thinking about the meal. Not that that's a bad thing. It's just a cheap burger thing.

To be honest, I should have seen this coming after listening to all the Texans adulate the similarly underwhelming Whataburger, which also tastes like a regular fast-food burger, and the East Coast Shake Shack acolytes worship their greasy meat disc.

With all that said, it's a dumb idea to compare In-N-Out (or Whataburger or Shake Shack) to Smashburger or Five Guys, which burger tools love to do. I mean, the minute a Five Guys burger costs the same as a Double Double, I say bring on the comparison, but as long as one is in the drunk-night-out-change-dug-out-of-the-seat-crack price point and the other costs as much as a pack of heavily taxed cigarettes, there's no reason to put them side by side.

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All of this rank disappointment can be avoided really easily. Stop calling your favorite regional burger the "best burger ever," because it's not. You get everyone's hopes up, and then it turns out that "the best burger ever" is just "the lesser of two evils" when you forget to eat lunch and have a fiver and the only other option is an Arby's.