I’m not sure how you personally feel about hamburgers (or “hamberders” if you are suffering from cognitive problems), but if you are anything like me or my friends, a visit to In N’ Out Burger is an unwritten requirement to anybody who is traveling on a westbound highway. Every time we are in Salt Lake? In N’ Out. Any time we are surfing out in San Diego? In N’ Out. Any time we are drunk out of our minds in Las Vegas? You can bet your ass that I am already teetering uncomfortably in that line for a delicious Double Double.
In N’ Out is a staple of travel cuisine, and I will openly insult anybody who travels to any of these places without stopping to get the best fast food burger soaked in a delectable patina of grease and some cherry picked scriptures about gratitude. Any vacation planned to the west of the Rocky Mountains is all but guaranteed to be a complete bust if you pass on the magic known as “animal style” which I had always assumed was some weird sex thing/Chili Peppers song.
Here in Denver, we’ve had a couple of In N’ Out clones over the years that did a respectable job of scratching that In N’ Out itch, but both of these knockoff options came with their own caveats as well. There was a burger place in Colorado Springs (right off Academy Blvd.) called Paradise Burgers all the way back in the early 2000’s. I am 100% convinced was some kind of In N’ Out test market store, all the way down to the identical red and white palm tree adorned cups and bags. It was an exact match to California daddy, but here they had phenomenal hand mixed shakes that were so amazing they actually overshadowed the burgers. This particular restaurant was a diamond hidden in the rough, but eventually it went belly up due to some really tough burger competition. The ‘springs was also home to several Conway’s Red Tops scattered throughout the area, and It’s hard to compete (in America) against burgers that are literally the size of dinner plates. With the multitude of options like these, they made the hour and a half drive south a breeze, and Colorado Springs was a sort of meaty mecca for us burger loving types.
In that same time period, we also had another solid option, Old School Burgers. These were angus beef burgers that were delicious facsimiles of In N’ Out, but were located only a few miles away from me. Old School was situated next door to a Chuck E. Cheese’s out in Englewood, built directly upon the grave of Cinderella City. The fries on the menu there were positively divine, thickly cut natural fries, slightly overcooked to dark brown perfection. The only real downside to Old School were the prices: a basic burger and fries combo was $17.00 back in the hallowed days of the five dollar foot longs and $4.00 Big Mac meals at McDonald’s. Taking the entire family there was an expensive endeavor, but getting to enjoy that In N’ Out flavor just down the street always felt worth it. Unfortunately, they eventually went out of business sometime in late 2010 from (surprise!) sagging sales. I still have my Old School Burgers punch card to this day, and it was practically a crime that it went under when I was only seven punches away from getting a free one :(. The restaurant is now an onsite emergency medical clinic which is a bizarre afterlife for a burger joint, but being tactically placed next door to Chuck E. Cheese’s falls squarely within pretty smart “location, location, location” rules.
I wasn’t helping much with everyone’s In N’ Out desires around town because I was kind of a troll in the early days of Google Maps. Before taking over the world, they relied mostly on user information before they had all those intrusive photo cars driving around and Cold War nightmare satellites flying around capturing all those nude shots of sunbathers/voyeurs/housepainters. You could tag any geographical location with whatever random words you wanted to, including adding your own faked photos and reviews. I tagged tons of random vacant lots (and two Hamburger Stands lol) as In N’ Out locations complete with photoshopped stores in front of the locations. These tagged locations stayed up for years and eventually were just full of really angry comments from folks who just wanted a little taste of California but had instead been redirected behind a Grease Monkey. I’m not gonna lie, I still kinda feel bad for doing that.
The owner of In N’ Out swore adamantly for years that the chain would never ever never expand eastward past the Rocky Mountains, since they insist on using freshly ground up cows. No stores have ever built outside a direct three hour shipping window from the slaughterhouse. Rumors went on for decades about getting an In N’ Out in Colorado, and I would always rebuff every one of these Facebook posts with the article titled “WE ARE NEVER EXPANDING WEST, EVER!” penned by the owner and CEO of In N’ Out and yet, the rumors continued to persist.
This was nothing more than a fanciful dream until there was finally some concrete evidence that they had purchased a large feed lot outside of Colorado Springs. This announcement came as a wonderful announcement that made everybody happy, except for the perpetually sad folks that would immediately say “Whataburger is still better, bro“(spoiler alert: your parents never loved you).
With this newfound proof in hand, it was only a matter of time now. I even made a fake article about the anticipation that got picked up by a few local places and passed off as real. Eventually, we finally got our beloved In N’ Out: their westward expansion flagship store opened in Colorado Springs, which was quickly followed by a location built just outside the Aurora Mall (an eastern Denver suburb). The large size of the mall parking lot might have worked against this particular location, as the available queue space created a demand that was almost unbearable. There were drive thru line fights and wait times that could stretch up to 10 hours. It turns out Denver really wanted to get its fuckin’ Double Double on. Just a few months ago, a Park Meadows location opened up to another wave of monster crowds at both locations despite having 200% more In N’ Outs in Colorado. Despite myself being a literal spokesperson for In N’ Out, I never bothered with any of these three locations because I had no desire to sit in my car in line for hours or start punching people like a beef insanity driven River City Ransom in the hot summer sun, especially after an hour long drive to even get there.
But in the fall of 2020, something strange was taking place very close to me.
I sensed a great disturbance in the Force. Almost as if a million drive thru orders were placed, and suddenly silenced.
They had recently bulldozed an empty lot just north of Belmar to make room for the construction of an In N’ Out. In Lakewood. Two blocks away. There were plans to create an In N’ Out directly down my fucking street. I never thought this would ever happen to me without having to move out to Barstow or something.
But it was happening! Over the next few months, I watched in anxious anticipation as a restaurant slowly materialized from a muddy patch that was annexed next door to an ER building (yet another prime example of symbiotic capitalism). Once the big stucco palm tree got molded into the side of that building, I knew in my heart that COMING SOON! banner was indeed no joke. Once all the walls went up, the rest of the process was completed rather quickly. While I couldn’t wait for the store to open up, I also dreaded the possibility of Aurora Mall-esque traffic clogging up my commute and making general life kind of miserable for everyone who lives in close proximity of a trendy and hot location such as this.
In N’ Out Lakewood opened up on Monday, July 12th with multiple news outlets sharing a map of the planned path for the onslaught they were expecting, having learned the importance of this from the previous openings. I personally did not even considering attempting going there on the first day since I didn’t want to deal with all the stupid. The next day, I talked to one of my coworkers who actually did go on opening day and only had a 50 minute wait which was absolutely not a big deal in the overall grand scope of things. I decided, right after that conversation, that I would finally commit to getting a taste of California that very evening, come hell or high water.
I decided to go immediately after work around 2:30 pm instead of “typical” supper time in hopes of keeping my wait time down. When I followed the overflow detour course, I ended up on a road far behind the restaurant in a massive queue that took up the entire road, which eventually became divided into three separate loading lines. The staggering amount of vehicles in line had me worried, but the enthusiasm of the happy employees directing traffic strangely put me at ease. The cars leaving in the other direction with bags of food were all cheering and howling, holding high the spoils of war through the sunroofs of their cars. It was clear this was not merely an errand, but an event. This level of hype started to infect me and I got fucking pumped to finally get a double double. I got really anxious so I took lots of pictures of the entire process.
It was pretty streamlined, the menu is crazy simple when you compare it to any other fast food places. This is done out of necessity, since offering a bunch of different crap can really gum up the gears when you offer three different flavors of deep fried chicken paste. Once you get waved into the parking lot, two new lines form where they take your order by tablet and merge forward into one final single file line after you get printed a car receipt ticket. After that, it’s a really quick whip around the lot to the windows to pay and then pick up. It’s pretty fucking rapid with the amount of employees on hand, even if 70% of the workforce is dedicated solely to traffic control.
After less than an hour, I finally got my bag full of Double Doubles, fries and Cokes. Nobody else in my household can eat any of this stuff, so I definitely felt like a big ol’ piggy sitting alone at the table with my pile of meat and fries, but deep down, I felt like a prehistoric warrior hunter that deserved it. I could not believe I was eating a piping hot FRESH Double Double on my dining room table. In Colorado. Far away from the Utah.
And boy, was it amazing.
To be fair, my version of the Double Double might not look the most appetizing on camera, because I forgo a lot of the healthier components and opt instead for extra grilled onions. If you take anything from this long-winded article, please do not keep yourself from enjoying the grilled onions at In N’ Out, it is undoubtedly the magic ingredient. If you bitch about how you don’t like In N’ Out but you also forego the grilled onions, I’m just gonna assume you’ve got an untreated head injury and leave it alone with no further discussion.
The burgers there are nothing short of pure bliss. This is a sharp contrast to the In N’ Out fries which leave much to be desired. The fries there aren’t just bad, they are aggressively terrible. It’s hard to believe a fast food empire this legendary could be founded on a bedrock of potato styrofoam, but that’s exactly what is going on here. No flavor, no color, and a freshly cooked basket would look identical to a handful of fries pulled directly from the seat cushions of your car. The other In N’ Out staple are their shakes, and just for the sake of review, I ordered a chocolate one the other night. I guess I felt let down since I was expecting Paradise Burger quality, but the one I got was practically flavorless. When it comes to drinks, the shakes might suck, but he fountain Coke I got was really good. If you go into this fast food warzone only focused on the burgers, I can promise you will have a great time. I personally recommend dumping off your combo fries on a handsome devil who is really into weird foods.
Going on the second day after the grand opening, my wait from start to finish clocked in at exactly 46 minutes. This was not too shabby compared to the awful 10 hour wait times logged in at the Aurora location. I have gone three other times (don’t judge me) and since then, and the lines have thinned out significantly. Visit number two clocked in at 28 minutes, visit three at 22 minutes and the fourth one was 27 minutes. These are pretty comparable times to any other fast food restaurants in my area that have three cars in the line. I tend to go at Voicestream “off-peak times” instead of normie meal times: twice around 2:30 pm and twice around 8:30. The entryway is set up completely from behind, which means you cannot see how bad the wait is directly from Wadsworth without cool X-ray specs, so be aware that you might get caught in a big mess you can’t escape. Hip Tip: Make sure you go the bathroom before you leave.
I thought for sure having this In N’ Out was going to be detrimental to everything, but they really have the traffic side of things well under control. The only business really suffering from all this fuckery is the ER next door that has its main road entrance completely closed off for burgers. I’m sure they can make this up by marking up the aspirin tablets another few hundred dollars, the market always corrects itself somehow. Surprisingly, the overall demand has diminished much quicker than I thought it would have. It’s still kind of inconvenient if you are picking food for more than one person because it could be a long wait for them depending on the time of day you leave to go on your journey. Financially, I think the addition of In N’ Out Belmar is a net positive to our freshly bankrupted downtown. I’m sure this is also driving up overall business to other retail stores inside Belmar and I secretly hope Spirit Halloween is thriving. I can’t wait for the day I can casually swing into The Rock for a 5 shot bucket drink with a tummy full of meat and onions.
The “secret menu” at In N’ Out is in full effect as well, and they can still input every one of your smarmy requests on those tablets with ease. I got a “pup patty” for the dog which is a salt free patty wrapped in a hash brown pocket thing. If you are insane, you can order all your stuff “animal style” (encased in thousand island dressing), and if you are feeling extra hungry and really fucking hate your arteries, you can try to attack the “4×4” which is four patties and four cheeses on top of all the other stuff. Have fun with these hidden options, and definitely try the neopolitan shake, it’s gotta be better than whatever they consider “chocolate” flavoring to be.
I drive past our beautiful In N’ Out every morning, and at 4am every day, they are unloading a semi truck into the building. My community eats a full sized semi container of full of ground cows…every single day. That’s a shitload of red meat, you guys!
You should come on down, join in the fun and come get yourself a Double Double! It’s a little taste of California right down the street!
(Disclaimer: The following article was not paid promotion by In N’ Out, Inc.)
Teh Ben is a burger connoisseur and often cosplays as Three Pickles from the game BurgerTime. Whenever he’s not sending his circulatory system death threats, he enjoys not uploading new content to his YouTube channel, his Instagram or his always fun MyPillow Guy lovin’ Twitter account.