In-N-Out Burger: Etymology of a Burger Chain

When I first heard about In-n-Out Burger, I assumed it was a gay burger chain.

I think it was the word "out" that threw me. And the California thing. Whatever the reason, for the longest time I just thought of In-n-Out burger as "that popular California gay burger chain." Like Lambda, the gay and lesbian bookstore on Connecticut Ave in DC, or the now-defunct Food Bar in Chelsea. (Actually, like just about every bar in Chelsea.)

It wasn't until last month, when on our visit to San Francisco, BFF Matt and Reamonn (both Bay Area natives) took a few of us to In-N-Out Burger for the very first time. While walking into the place, I mentioned that my brother and his Marine buddies had all been huge fans of the burgers when he was stationed in Camp Pendleton near San Diego. This was followed with a statement about the irony of it and a reference to "Don't Ask. Don't Tell," when finally, one of my friends turned around and asked me what the hell I was babbling about.

"You know," I said. "Because of the gay thing? In and out...of the closet?"

And while I was still saying it, just before everyone around me burst out laughing, I realized how incredibly wrong I was. In-N-Out was not, as I'd always thought, a clever and slightly risque name for a gay burger chain, but rather a much more literal (and logical) reference to fast food.

Etymology failed me twice that day; as the wait for our burgers was actually quite lengthy. At least it gave the locals the chance to educate us on the "secret menu" so that when my turn finally came up I knew enough to order my burger and fries "animal style." (Or slathered in a pink mayo-ketchup pickle onion sauce situation.)

Unfortunately--and if I haven't already offended a third of my reading public, I'm probably about to with this next statement--I didn't like it. The burger was fine, but didn't taste that much different than a Big Mac. My real issue was with the fries, which I found bland and lacking the bold flavor I usually crave from crisped potatoes and hot salt.

The locals tried to defend their hometown favorite. "It's supposed to be healthier," explained BFF Matt. "They use healthy oils." We (read: the East coasters) just weren't buying it.

"I think that's the problem" I replied, but it was really Eugene's face that said it best:

BAD fries!

*For the past two weeks, whenever I remind Eugene that I have to get a post up before I can go to sleep, he replies "Oh just post a picture of me and come to bed." And so I did.


  1. Healthy oils?

    I'd love to know what they think is Healthy Oils when it comes to frying...

    Have you ever tried making fries by frying them in Lard, or Tallow - the way they used to back in the day?

    Totally delicious - And healthier than any other method out there, as by heating oils you change its molecular structure and makes it REALLY bad for your body - but not with lard or tallow - it stays healthy :D

    You should try it :P

    Love the blog as always!

  2. Ha! Hilarious! Oh and FYI I had my only In-and-Out experience two years ago in San Francisco and I was underwhelmed, too. It might be because I was expecting so much (or maybe just because I'm not from the West Coast either), but I didn't really care for it!

  3. haha, your story about thinking it was a gay burger chain made me think of this episode of This American Life
    We don't have In and Out Burger here in the Deep South- but honestly, I have yet to find fast food that I can stand to eat so I can't imagine it would be much different!

  4. Oh, this was so funny!! & I'd be with you - what exactly is 'in & out' supposed to mean??
    I agree with Kari, food takes up less fat when sauted in coconut oil or animal fat, & isn't as hard to digest! Bergerville has range fed beef, & my (grown) kids both prefer that if it's available - hormone free cheese, etc.

    I was at Applebees with friends the other day, & while one basked with his pile of onion rings, I found a 'weightwatchers' choice that featured grilled fish & a pile of broccoli - went gluten free this summer, so was mostly looking for something sans flour or bread - was a fair choice.
    Yep, Eugene's face says it!

  5. I agree with you! Who cares if it's "healthier?" It doesn't taste good! I actually had to LIE to a friend this afternoon who insisted on bringing me In-N-Out after class. I couldn't find a nice way to say, "Don't you bring me that junk!"

  6. I was born on the west coast and ate In-N-Out for years. It wasn't until I moved to the Midwest that I first discovered they had a secret menu. I was floored! In-N-Out is still my favorite burger joint and will always be. Nothing compares!

    Reasons why I love In N Out Burger

  7. I had my first In-N-Out when I was in SF earlier this year and I also HATED the fries...but I thought the burger was pretty decent.

    And I think the following link is appropriate for this post:


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