Art by Peau Porotesano
Open Instagram? In-N-Out. Check Snapchat Stories? In-N-Out. In-N-Out is everywhere you look. Everyone loves it, and some are literally obsessed.
However, as a native valley girl I often wonder why everyone thinks In-N-Out is so good. There are equally good, if not better, burger joints all over California. In-N-Out’s food does have a place in my heart, but only at specific times.
It is the meal I think of when I’m leaving a concert, craving that greasy burger to go along with the rad music I just heard at two in the morning. It’s where I went after my junior and senior proms to get milkshakes with my friends. It’s where I go from my midnight flight arrival. Perhaps most importantly, it’s where I go when I don’t know where to go or when there is no other place open. It’s a place and a meal of desperation.
In-N-Out is essentially one choice in the huge field of burger joints, and it shouldn’t be an obsession.
Don’t get me wrong — In-N-Out is good. It’s something completely unique and special to the West Coast. There are other California-unique places, though. In-N-Out is a destination, an “in” thing to do, especially for people visiting the Golden State. In my opinion, California and the Los Angeles area specifically have so much more to offer on the burger front.
I often wonder if In-N-Out-goers actually want the burger, or if they just “ did it for the Insta.” Another thought I ponder is does everyone really like In-N-Out so much, or do they just say so to go along with the “in crowd?”
The real reason In-N-Out shouldn’t be an obsession is due to the wide variety of burger places that are also indigenous to California. And not only are these food gold mines unique to Los Angeles, but they’re equally, if not more, delicious than In-N-Out. Here are some alternatives for the when you get over In-N-Out:
The first place that is a California original and outdoes In-N-Out in many ways is the Habit. With the first location in Santa Barbara, the Habit has that beachy vibe that is unique to this classic beach town. Not only do the Habit’s burgers taste better, but they also have significantly more options than just burgers, fries and drinks, unlike In-N-Out.
The Habit also has a variety of sandwiches and salads to fit just about any mood of hunger you’re in. There are also tons of options for vegetarian eaters, while at In-N-Out, the only options are a grilled cheese and fries. Talk about unsatisfying. And the options are significantly healthier than those at In-N-Out.
The best part about the Habit, however, is that there isn’t a ridiculous hype surrounding it: There are local Californians eating there, enjoying themselves, without making it a ridiculous ordeal. All deliciousness, no hype, just the way I like it.
Another Los Angeles staple that surpasses In-N-Out is AstroBurger. Its main locations are on Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. AstroBurger draws the hip LA crowd with its multi-faceted menu that rivals any New York diner. A popular late-night hangout, it also serves breakfast and lunch. AstroBurger’s ambiance and its food and motion-picture studio clientele help make it a Los Angeles icon. AstroBuger has a much more individualized menu as well as a more well-varied dining experience than In-N-Out.
In-N-Out is to Starbucks coffee as AstroBurger is to Intelligentsia coffee. Both Starbucks and In-N-Out are decent and convenient; both the coffee and the burgers are easy and get boring rather quickly.
However, Intelligentsia and AstroBurger are uniquely crafted, with new items and innovations created regularly at each location. The burgers are exponentially better than In-N-Out’s, and the onion rings will make you weak at the knees. Plus, you get a lovely dining view of Los Angeles, and maybe even your favorite celebrity if you choose to eat inside.
Essentially, you’re not a true Los Angeleno if you haven’t been to AstroBurger. The people who spend tons of time in the In-N-Out drive-thru line have probably never heard of AstroBurger — and they’re really missing out.
Look, I’m not saying that In-N-Out is bad. It’s actually quite good in the right setting and with the right reasons. It’s cheap, it’s convenient and it’s easy. But if you’re looking for a real California meal without all the hype, try the Habit or AstroBuger, because who knows, they may just trump your In-N-Out obsession.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @bb__em