Maybe I’m influenced a bit by the mythical stature of In-N-Out, compounded by inaccessibility. And those hyphens? Chick-fil-A's sandwiches, too, loom large in things between bread lore. Clearly, the omission of full words creates devotion.
I can be easily influenced, but I still wouldn't describe an In-N-Out burger as "about as moist as an emery board and half as thick." Certainly, the meat matters but a Double-Double is about the overall harmony. No mainstream fast food burgers compare (even though James' coworker he'd dragged on the BART from Berkeley to Fisherman's Wharf to indoctrinate him complained, "Burger King is better."). Besides, I'm going to focus on the fries, which everyone says are crappy despite being handmade.
It could've been the Friday night clientele, mostly made up of teenagers (while revved up and tomcatting around, the kids didn't have that potential sociopath aura like their Brooklyn counterparts—must be the calming effect of the suburbs) but the fries took me back to "Grotto fries," a treat that was served at the diner across from my high school, officially named the Hi Fi Grotto, that was the domain of outdoor smokers safely away from school property. Grotto fries were crinkle cut and probably frozen, but the secret sauce made them awesome.
Animal-style fries are like Grotto fries times ten. Of course, there's the secret sauce/spread/Thousand Island dressing for creaminess and tang—there's definitely pickle relish in the condiment, fried onions for sweetness and the crowning glory, a gooey blanket of semi-melted American cheese. Not cheese sauce, which would be logical, but a pliable slice of salty goodness like when a nacho made with shredded cheese starts to cool and you can pick off solid blobs. This is how junk food was meant to be.
Did I mention that I'd been throwing up all afternoon on the plane? (I'm convinced it wasn't motion sickness but a guava pastry from the Juan Valdez café in Newark) This is how powerful animal-style fries are. I couldn't finish my burger (I saved it for breakfast) but there was no way I was going to let a little nausea stand in the way of this fried potato pileup.
In-N-Out Burger * 1417 Fitzgerald Dr., Pinole, CA