Never in the history of the universe was there so much hype for a coming attraction, as for the new In-N-Out burger stand in Ukiah, on the same site that used to be the old Fjord’s Restaurant. What could possibly establish the legitimacy of our county seat more solidly than this iconic name in the fast food industry?
I mean, considering JT, our friend Ken, and I once came within an inch of traveling from San Jose down to Los Angeles for one of these famous double-doubles, while under attack from a vicious case of the munchies, a round-trip drive of better than twelve hours, there must be something to them, right? We settled for a cruise up to The City, for Zim-Burgers instead.
In-N-Out and I go way back to the sixties, if you can believe that. They were sprinkled all over SoCal, within the parameters of my travels. With their much-ballyhooed secret sauce, there simply was no comparison. Probably the one that got my most consistent patronage, was the one out in Claremont, where a couple of my friends attended Claremont Men’s College.
Then there was the one on Francisquito Avenue, right near the post office where oldest bro Eric worked; the one on Arrow Highway, out near the Sunrize Market # 1, a couple in Covina and one on Amar Rd, in the City of Industry. We were never disappointed; we took them for granted.
Mickey D’s? Not in this lifetime or the next. Burger King? Carl’s Jr? Jack-In-The-Crack? All took their place at the back of the bus, when it came to our affections. Somehow, back in those days, I used to be able to knock back two of those double cheeseburgers in Paradise, along with a pair of French fry orders, and not blink an eye.
I’m a lightweight by comparison now, but what I lack in ability, I more than make up for in enthusiasm. Imagine my chagrin, when relocating to Mendocino County, and finding out that back in 1982, you could not yet even buy an In-N-Out burger in Sonoma County, let alone Mendo. We had to wait. At least we had A&W in Willits.
However, as much as I am a fanatic about the In-N-Out experience, my zeal for this meal did not extend to dealing with crowds, so Gluten-Free Mama, who is partial to the lettuce-wrapped version of the double-double, and I, opted to wait until the frenzy at the newly-opened palace in Ukiah died down.
Besides, as we sat at Star’s Restaurant the last time we were in Ukiah, happily munching on their Classic Angus Cheeseburger (still lettuce-wrapped for GF Mama), we both noted that even the best of the best of In-N-Out, would have a hard time surpassing that which we were chomping down.
With no wait and a sunny Trinidad already knowing what we want to order, including the extra napkins and Thousand Island Dressing for GF Mama (secret sauce?), who could ask for more?
Apparently us, because Thursday when I went down for my annual physical at that nice VA facility, I emerged at close enough to 10:30, when the gates opened at In-&-Out, to kill a few minutes and then take the plunge. The turgid waters of the lunchtime feeding frenzy were sure to be far calmer an hour-and-a-half prior to High Noon.
Sure enough, we were the third car in the line in the drive-through, though the white van that was first had about thirty-five adults in it so there was a bit of a delay as they needed a wheelbarrow to deliver the order. The way that one dude kept bouncing up and down in his seat was truly inspiring.
The gal in the little red car in front of us was telephone-challenged; each of the four times she had to edge her way forward from a dead stop, we had to wait for her to finish some task on her phone before she could move along. GF Mama hd a few choice phrases included in her mutterings for her, but luckily the windows were rolled up and her shouting could not be heard.
Besides, when you are that close to culinary nirvana, frothing [Editor’s note: Do you mean salivating?] at the mouth and famished after fasting for the previous week, or at least since dinner Wednesday night, you suck it up and grin like an idiot.
It was all worth it, right?
Heavens to Murgatroid! Whether it was too much a-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n, or just a cosmic quirk, I am unclear, but if I may speak bluntly here, the earth did not shake, rattle, roll or so much as move, when I bit into my onion-burger.
I do love onions on my cheeseburger, but I felt this was the other way around-a little cheeseburger with my onion. Being the resourceful guy I am, I managed to make a quick-if somewhat messy-adjustment, and removed most of the slab of offending onion. On to the secret sauce!
I’m still searching. I could see that there was evidence of it on the bun, but that evidence did not translate to my pallet. As the meme the other day on f/b said, “Hey, it’s not like the cost of the catsup comes out of your paycheck; throw five of those futhermuckers into the bag…”
Okay, so too much onion and too little of the good sauce notwithstanding, was it a total disaster? Not at all; It was a good meal. It was just not the meal I was expecting.
In-N-Out done gone and went.