the in-n-out variations

in-n-out burger

Second only to my fondness for Mexican food is my west coast craving of the In-n-Out Burger. It’s without question one of the best quality burgers out there. The fact that it’s a fast food chain makes their uncompromising standards even more remarkable. Meat, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle and bun combine to create an idealized work of art as artistically pure as the french fries which are cut and cooked to order. Conceptually this led to me to have a little fun stripping away the nostalgia and experimenting with a bit of digital data-mashing. Corrupting the code of the image above brought about a number of interesting surprises – kind of like discovering there’s a “secret” In-n-Out menu where the fries come Animal Style.

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get your kicks

The Mother Road, Route 66, is one of the most famous highways in American culture. It originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, covering a total of 2,448 miles. It’s brief but storied rise and fall reads like a parable of modern America. Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. During World War II, even more migration west occurred because of war-related industries in California. Route 66, by then fully paved, became one of the main routes and also served for moving military equipment. In the 1950s, it became the main highway for vacationers heading to Los Angeles. The road passed through the Painted Desert and near the Grand Canyon. Meteor Crater in Arizona was another popular stop. The sudden uptick in tourism in turn gave rise to a burgeoning trade in all manner of roadside attractions, like teepee-shaped motels, frozen custard stands, Indian curio shops, and reptile farms. It also marked the birth of the fast-food industry: Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri, site of the first drive-through restaurant, and the first McDonald’s in San Bernardino, California. Changes like these to the landscape cemented the road’s reputation as a near-perfect microcosm of the culture of America, now linked by the automobile. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought (unsuccessfully) to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System. Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, but progress eventually won out and it was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985 after it had been decided the route was no longer relevant. Portions of the road now recognized as Historic Route 66 have since been designated as National Scenic Byways, including this stretch through Bernalillo, New Mexico. The state has almost 500 miles of Route 66 bisecting it, making me hip to Nat King Cole’s timely tip:  this isn’t the last chance for me to get my kicks on Route 66.


live blog: hey, pie face

Yet another new transplant on David Letterman’s Late Show stretch of Broadway, Pie Face is an Australian fast-casual cafe specializing in savory pies with a flaky pastry crust and authentic fillings like chunky steak, minced beef & tomato, bacon, egg & cheese, and Thai chicken.  For all you Downton Abbey fans, think of them as the chain gang version of a Cornish Pasty, the half-moon shaped pie popular among the working classes for its unique pocket-friendly shape – and that it could be eaten without cutlery. (for my Latin readers: empanadas) Available as a Stack Box, which means topped with gravy and a “smash” of spuds & peas, this is the kind of comfort food destined to wreck resolutions. What really frightens me in this carb-free world, however, is the appearance on the menu of sausage rolls, an infinitely more satisfying cousin to the pig-in-blanket. A guilty pleasure of mine heretofore restricted to accompanying the occasional plate of chips and beans while in Ireland, I fear that – situated a scant street away from my office – sausage rolls might prove to be my undoing.


the not-so-secret secrets of in-n-out

Despite the fan-boy level of devotion I tend to accord In-n-Out Burger when I’m out west (in a world where food is often over-processed, prepackaged and frozen, In-n-Out continues to make everything the old-fashioned way: by hand) it was only recently that I discovered the chain has a secret menu coveted by those in the know. Suddenly there’s a whole new grail: mustard-grilled 4×4’s, grilled cheese, lettuce-wrapped patties, and – sweet, holy jesus – french fries, “animal-style.” Enveloped in cheese, smothered in fried onions, the piece de resistance is a healthy dousing of thousand island dressing. Greasy, creamy, crunchy, salty, it won’t do the waistline any favors – but oh, hosanna, it tastes so good on the way down.


fishy fast food

Long before there were McNuggets, there were bolinhos de bacalhau, or fish balls; bite-sized quenelles of salt cod mixed with mashed potato that are Lisbon’s answer to fast food.  Eaten hot or cold, as a mid-day snack or evening appetizer, they’re ubiquitous. And delicious. They also go great with a beer. The logic behind it is unimpeachable, too. A high-protein, low-fat snack or a trough of deep-fried McParts? No wonder the people here are all so trim. The secret to the bod must be in the cod.


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