In-N-Out Burger, extra everything. Photo: Marshall Astor - Food Pornographer, Flickr
Foodies or not, Americans are as defensively proud of their beloved burger joints as they are of their hometowns -- and In-N-Out Burger has attracted a notoriously cult following. The staunchly West Coast chain announced on Wednesday that it will be expanding from California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona to the Lone Star State, some 1,500 miles east, an announcement greeted by varying degrees of anticipation and outrage alike.
"The blog post I put up breaking the news that In-N-Out Burger was coming to Dallas basically shut down our entire server because of the traffic," marveled Dallas restaurant reporter Nancy Nichols. "Dallas is a burger-crazy town full of transplanted Californians."
Founded in Baldwin Park, Calif., in 1948, In-N-Out attracted attention as the first drive-thru hamburger stand in the state, garnering a devoted following. Along with convenience, fans applauded their emphasis on fresh, high-quality food and attentive customer service -- and perhaps the "secret" menu that locals embraced as an underground treasure (ironically posted in a not-so-secret manner on the company's website).
After months of unaddressed rumors circulating about the franchise's expansion, Carl Van Fleet, Vice President of Planning and Development, finally acknowledged the branch opening up in Garland, Texas. But he remains secretive and vague about the company's plans for the rest of the state: "We continue to work on a number of site opportunities in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. We're enthusiastic about the Garland location, but there is still work to be done, as there is on all of our projects in the area."
Until the eastern expansion, In-N-Out's 240 West Coast locations relied upon a single processing plant in Baldwin, Calif., for their "secret" blend of beef. But now that they're creating a new branch too distant for daily deliveries, they'll be building a new processing plant, which of course spurs further speculation of a string of restaurants expected to pop up in the area surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth.
After "Fast Food Maven" reporter Nancy Luna announced the expansion for the Orange County Register, bloggers furiously commented on the topic. After one proud Californian proclaimed, "Now these Texans can really find out what a REAL hamburger is all about!," the message board flooded with debate. A territorial Texan by the username "InNOutShminNPout" flew back with, "That's great if you like paper-thin patties. Texas is a meat state and we want quality burgers."
He's not the only detractor. Another unwelcoming blogger wrote, "The burgers may not be big enough for Texas." Categorized as a "fast-food style" burger by A Hamburger Today -- as opposed to a girthy pub burger -- only time will tell how In-N-Out fares in a state known for its cattle ranching and large portions.
Another commenter on the Fast Food Maven blog theorized, "Sound the death knell of this once-storied 'regional' cult favorite." But, as Burger Business declared in April, "Patriotism always sells." Regional fast food has been known to trump massive chains in overall sales, and plenty of eager ex-Californians and foodies are hankering for In-N-Out's first foray into Texas.