Did you know there was a secret, unpublished menu that fans and insiders of In-N-Out know about? Well, there is. And I for one, am going to be trying it out here in northern California. The guidelines for trying it out yourself are found in this article by my favorite, J.Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats.

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I’m no stranger to In-N-Out, the massively popular California-based fast food burger chain (that is apparently poised to expand East, if only a couple states closer to me—hooray!). And of course, I’ve been aware of their secret menu for years. I’ve eaten plenty of their signature veggie-heavy, never-frozen, well-balanced, tangy-sauced creations. I’ve even had them frozen and FedExed across the country in order to recreate them at home (that particular experiment was a great success, by the way). That said, last Sunday I found myself about to attempt something that I’ve never done before.

The Location: the In-N-Out near Sausalito, just out of San Francisco. The Time: Sunday afternoon, 3 p.m. The Mission: Order and document every single item and option on the menu, public, secret, super-duper-secret.

Anybody who’s been halfway around the block is aware of In-N-Out’s secret menu, which allows you a few custom options other than the regular hamburger, cheeseburger, fries, shakes, and Double-Double that appear on their printed menus. But the options don’t stop there.

Before I ever set foot in the store, I culled the Internet, eventually stumbling upon the Davis County Wiki, which has a full user-generated page devoted entirely to In-N-Out menu options. I drew up a list that included about two dozen distinct menu items designed to demonstrate the entire width and breadth of the custom options available at your typical In-N-Out location before hopping into the car.

The Options

Along with the listed single and double, you can add up to four patties to any sandwich. Ask for a three by three or a four by four, and what you get is a triple cheeseburger or quadruple cheeseburger, respectively. They used to accommodate sandwiches larger than 4 x 4 (check out a 100 x 100!), but no longer do. I was fairly certain that they could also accommodate a 2 x 4 or a 4 x 2 (that’d be two patties, four slices of cheese, or four patties, two slices of cheese), but hadn’t actually tried it in action on an unsuspecting cashier.

You can up the flavor by asking for any burger mustard grilled. After cooking the first side, the cook will squirt some mustard onto the top of the patty before flipping it so that it sizzles into the meat on the grill. It’s so good that I’ve started doing it myself at home.

That said, there are those rare moments in life when all you want to savor is the cheese. Order a grilled cheese, and what you get is a soft toasted In-N-Out bun with two slices of American cheese beautifully melted in between. I like to eat these with pickles. If you ask for it, you can even get the standard lettuce, tomato, and raw onion slices stacked inside.


Of course, those aren’t your only veggie options. Grilled onions cooked down in the collected meat juices on the hot griddle can be added to any sandwich, and come standard if you ask for your burger or fries Animal Style. An Animal Style burger also includes extra Thousand Island spread, mustard grilled patties, and extra pickles. Animal Style fries, on the other hand, are topped with cheese, spread, and grilled onions. You’ll want to mix ’em up with your fork before the cheese starts to coagulate (of course, you can also ask for just plain old cheese fries). And these options are just the start.



Personnel Issues

With such a large and complex order, I figured the best strategy to achieve my goals without getting kicked out of the restaurant would be to order in waves, always including one simple, anchor sandwich (say, a regular Double Double) along with a few of my “special” requests. My first interaction with the bright-eyed, young cashier named Thomas went easily enough.

“Welcome to In-N-Out.”

“Hi—I want to make a kinda weird order, ok?”

“Of course!” he said, almost a little too brightly. I must remember to shed my mistrusting New Yorker attitude.

“Ok. I’d like one regular cheeseburger, with everything on it. Then I’d like one regular cheeseburger with chopped chilis.* Oh, and could I also have a bag of chilis on the side?** After that, I’ll need a cheeseburger with everything, split in half,*** along with an order of fries, well done,**** if you can do that.”

“Sure we can! Anything else?” He’s totally unfazed.

“Uh yeah, I’ll take a root beer float***** as well, and… that’s it for now.”

“No problem. You’ll be order number 4 today.”

* That’s super-hot pickled sport peppers chopped and pressed into the bottom of the burger. ** A small bag with two whole sport peppers. *** Any burger will be cut neatly in half upon request. **** Fries cooked extra long. ***** Root beer with vanilla ice cream

Our order arrived a few minutes later, produced exactly as requested. Shocking! At my local McDonald’s, the cashier has trouble even getting a single cheeseburger right, never mind special requests!

After documenting the goods, I went back for me second order.

“Hey—you’re back. Still hungry?”

“Yep. I’m going to order a few more weird things.”

“So, are you just trying to order everything on the menu?”

Sh*t, I thought to myself. The gig is up.

“Yeah…,” I said sheepishly.

“Awesome! I’ve been waiting for this day ever since I started working here!”

Things just got a whole lot more fun. We proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes poring over our options, colluding like ’80s kids in a clubhouse trading Garbage Pail Kids, expanding my original list with Thomas’ insider information.


Here’s some more: If you don’t like your onions chopped, you might want to instead opt for a whole grilled onion. Thomas was hyper-enthusiastic about this one, saying it was his favorite, and describing the flavor as “almost diner-like.” I’ve got to concur. It’s fantastic.


Buns come toasted, and burgers come medium-well by default. But you can, of course, request that your bun come either no toast or extra toast, the latter helping to help protect it from excess burger juice. Say the magic words medium rare, and any burger can be cooked so that it retains a nice pink center. Don’t worry, the patty still manages to form some of that signature In-N-Out brown crust.

As for those chopped chilis, I’m no amateur when it comes to heat, but biting one of these diminutive fire-bombs in half nearly brought me to tears. They’re not for the faint-hearted!


By J. Kenji López-Alt courtesy of seriouseats.com


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