When in Rome, do as the Romans do… And what do Americans do? Well they eat!
On my recent trip to The States, I managed to travel to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Grand Canyon. The stand out places for me were San Fran and of course The Grand Canyon. I travelled on my own; which was good and bad because I got to eat out a lot and plan my itinerary around my eating endeavours and not feel guilty about doing so, however it meant that I didn’t get to share some moments with others (like a plane ride over the Grand Canyon!). The only time I was with familiar faces was when I was in LA with my cousins. I must admit I ate pretty good when I was travelling on my own, it was only when I was in LA that I was thrown in the deep end of American fast food (Thanks cousins!)
The night I arrived to their place, they devised a list of eateries they were to take me to for An American Experience. On this list were fast food joints, bakeries and also must-try food items. So without further ado, I’ll take you through some of the fast food places I visited.
Found only in the southern California region, In-N-Out is a fast food chain specialising in burgers. In-N-Out boast that everything is made with the freshest ingredients (which is how it should be but I realise that the standards are pretty low in America) and made fresh to order as they have no microwaves or freezers. They are considered to be one of the best fast food outlets according to this survey.
The menu displayed in the outlets only features 3 burgers; hamburger, cheeseburger and double-double (double beef patty/double cheese), fries and drinks (soft drinks and milkshakes). However there is a not-so-secret menu which can be found on their website and ordered at the counter; with items like 4×4 (4 patties and 4 cheeses), Animal-style burger (basically mustard on the patty, pickles, grilled onions and extra serving of their famous spread sauce), Protein-style (replaces buns of any burger with lettuce) and Animal Fries (fries with two pieces of cheese, spread and grilled onions). EDIT: I found this website which shows a more extensive secret menu not found on their website. The Flying Dutchman is crazy!
For a while In-N-Out would accommodate custom orders of any size burgers at an additional cost. Things got a little out of hand as a 100×100 burger was ordered and after that, management restricted the orders to 4×4 maximum.
So we ordered the double-double burger, fries and chocolate milkshake each. Everyone I’ve talked to about In-N-Out was raving on about how good the burgers were, so I think my expectations were set real high. The burgers were definitely juicy but it was pretty much the same standard as our average burgers here. However, what I was most certainly impressed with was the fact that the fries were actually cut at the store (I wasn’t able to take a proper photo of this though) and the chocolate milkshake was really nice because it was more of a thick shake since real ice cream is used to make it.
On my second and last visit, my cousins made me ask for FREE stickers so I could take them home as a souvenirs and wear this silly hat.
When my cousins came over in 2009, they kept going on about chilli cheese fries and how awesome it is and that I have to try it when I come over. Chilli cheese fries? My initial thought was that it is some kind of fries stuffed with chillies (peppers) and cheese.. *shrugs* Little did I know what they meant by chilli, they call chilli con carne, chilli! Damn backward Americans! So these chilli cheese fries are actually fries topped with cheese and chilli con carne, aka a cardiac arrhythmia.
The Hat is a fast food outlet specialising in pastrami sandwiches and claim to offer the “World’s Famous Pastrami”. This outlet my cousins took me to was the first franchise to be opened.
One weekend we make our way to The Hat so I can try these chilli cheese fries AND pastrami dip. Pastrami dip? As in a dip made by blending up pastrami? Ok… As I peep through the counter window to see the staff prepare our meal I was surprised that it wasn’t actually a dip at all. So why is it called dip?! The reason why it’s called “dip” is due to the fact that the bread is dipped into mustard before layers and layers of pastrami is piled onto it. Of course, now why didn’t I think of that?
A serve of chilli cheese fries was ordered to be shared amongst everyone and we all order something different. There are burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs to be had but I had the honour of eating the pastrami dip. With over 200 grams of pastrami in a bread roll, this sandwich was cut in half. After I finished the first half my cousins told me that I didn’t have to finish it off but I did anyway. They were all amazed that I could finish it off because they would only have half of it.
Now doesn’t this look like a big fat mess? I can’t remember too much of these fries because I didn’t have too much of it as I was demolishing the pastrami dip instead. The fries were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. You’d be crazy to finish this off on your own (but I’m sure people have).
Alondra Hot Wings
After an evening at the Griffith Observatory, it was getting late and we were all feeling peckish. We decided to go grab a quick bite at Alondra Hot Wings; a very typical-looking American diner offering a wide range of food. I’m not too sure why the restaurant is adorned with portraits of various mobsters but it is, and there are sports shown on the various TVs around the restaurant. We’re here for the “best wings in town”..
Amongst 6 of us, we ended up ordering a platter of chicken wings, a 16inch (40cm) pizza and cheese balls.
There was a debate over how many wings to order; “50“, “No.. 100!” The guys were lucky to have us girls there to help make a rational decision as they tend to do crazy things without thinking sometimes. We ordered a platter of 50 chicken wings and were allowed to have 2 different sauces; all platters are served with ranch or bleu sauce, carrot and celery sticks.
Named Alondra HOT Wings, you would be right to assume that there will be some hot wings here. We didn’t go crazy with the hot sauce, I think we choose the Mild and Honey BBQ sauces. I like to think that I can handle my chilli but the Mild sauce was surprisingly hot, I’d hate to imagine how hot sauces Suicide, X-Hot and Atomic would be. Atomic is the hottest sauce they serve, so hot in fact that customers who order it have to sign a waiver! Lucky for me, not so lucky for someone else, I got to witness someone actually ordering the wings with the Atomic sauce. One moment everything is fine. The next moment this person is seen running to the toilet and rushing to drown themselves in water. I don’t know why people torture their bodies like that…
So how were the wings? They were crispy on the outside and smoothered in a wonderfully sticky sauce. I don’t think the veggies were touched though.
Next up was The Don 16 inch pizza; chicken breast, italian sausage and tavern smoked ham. This had got to be the biggest pizza I ever saw! Don’t expect it to scream out gourmet because it’s your typical greasy pizza, but sometimes you can’t have it any other way..
One of Alondra’s signature starter options, we ordered a dozen cheese balls. Pieces of mozzarella are wrapped in a pizza dough and fried until golden, it is then tossed in garlic butter and served with a napolitana sauce. Mmmm… melted cheese.
Jack in the Box
I couldn’t believe the amount of fast food outlets there are. Jack in the Box is another major fast food outlet offering burgers and tacos; most being open 24/7, every day of the year. Jack in the Box caught my attention when I watched a tv advertisement featuring some guy dressed in a business suit with a big round white face; this guy was Jack Box, the founder/ CEO/spokesman for the company.
A midnight snack lead me to the discovery and obsession of curly fries. What got me hooked was the fact that they were crispy (very similar to beer battered chips) and of course, curly!
On my last day, my last junk food request was curly fries but my cousins told me that I HAD to get a large meal. Might as well leave in style right? I got myself a large chicken burger meal and was astounded by the enormous size of the soft drink! Considering their small size is about the size of our medium drinks, the large size drink had got to be more than 1L! There was no chance of me finishing this off, I probably got down to the level where Jack’s eyes are.
At Jack in the Box, you can ask for FREE car antenna balls which are shaped like Jack’s head. They tend to change depending on special holidays or major events and the one I got was made especially for the World Cup.