Wednesday, June 6, 2012 , Updated 12:00 p.m., June 8, 2012
In-N-Out in Dallas-Fort Worth: Is the honeymoon over?
More than a year after Texas' first In-N-Out opened, the glitz is wearing off.
When In-N-Out first came to North Texas, we got a front-row seat to watch a very emotional Danielle DeInnocentes cry happily in her burger. Then we got in line ourselves, waiting for our first taste of California cool on Texas soil. It sure seemed easier to have In-N-Out in our own backyards rather than fly to California for a Double Double.
In a matter of months, the SoCal burger chain built more than a dozen locations in Dallas-Fort Worth. We compared other burgers to In-N-Out's – even Whataburger. But slowly, like a friend who runs out of new jokes, we didn't find ourselves calling on In-N-Out Burger all that much. It became a novelty, not a standby.
“If there were two fast food joints next door to each other, and one of them was In-N-Out and the other sold tacos, I would go for the tacos even if I was craving a burger,” said Dallas resident Quentin Ford said. “Their burgers wallow in mediocrity, and a fast food junkie like me won't tolerate it.”
There are no more two hour waits, no more police officers guiding you to the holy grail of trendy burgers. No dashcam video of the mile-long line of cars. And all those things are what made In-N-Out seem so special. The honeymoon is officially over.
Although In-N-Out is a California institution, the once elusive burger chain has oversaturated the Dallas-Fort Worth market within a year of its first store opening. Easier to come by, it has become less sought after. “I think people get over the novelty of waiting over 20 minutes in your car to get this burger you have heard about for a long time,” said former Dallas resident Justin Press. “It is like a rainbow unicorn: You have heard of it but you have never seen it. But if you have seen a rainbow unicorn like four or five times, you have seen a rainbow unicorn.” (Editor's note: We are still waiting to see our first rainbow unicorn.)
But serious fans say more In-N-Outs just means more good food to go around. “The vanilla shake is awesome, and I absolutely adore the animal style burger,” Garland resident Whitney Ross Manzo said. “You can really taste the freshness of the produce and the meat, and I also like that it's not a humongous size like other chains.”
Oh, those fries
The fries at In-N-Out are commonly considered to be the worst item on the menu. Manzo stands by them. “The fries are good, if you like fries that actually taste like potatoes,” she said. “I think that's why so many people claim to hate In-N-Out fries – they're used to ‘fast food’ fries like McDonald's, which are admittedly good but also incredibly fake. You can't even truly compare them. The other part about the fries that I like is you can order them regular, crispier, or softer, depending on your preference. You don't get that choice at other chains.”
The fries at each location of In-N-Out seem to differ depending on the day – some are crunchy, some not cooked enough, some teeny, some not. While it seems In-N-Out has fine-tuned their fry-making process (and also allows other options on their secret menu), their fries still don't cut it.
In-N-Out isn't known for its options. Their menu is limited to burgers, fries, shakes, and other drinks, unless you order from the not-so-secret secret menu. Even then, there's not an option for chicken eaters; no onion rings here. That means In-N-Out needs to do the few things they do exceptionally well. Is it good enough to keep coming back for the exact same burger?
Many will argue (and we won't disagree) that their burger with Spread – similar to Thousand Island – is tasty. But should burger eaters want a little variety, In-N-Out isn't the place to go. While one patron could visit a fast food joint like Wendy's and get a different meal every day of the week, the lack of variety at In-N-Out means that most people won't consistently re-visit for the same meal.
In-N-Outs to our west just seem to taste better – or maybe it was the exclusivity that tasted best.