Surfin’ USA: Fast Food – Part One

11 October 2010
by Phuoc

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.

Image taken from Wikipedia

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.

In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon

The 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).

Hat on Urbanspoon

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.

Alondra Hot Wings on Urbanspoon

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.

Jack in the Box on Urbanspoon

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  1. rarrarla

    heart-attack, much?
    though i really want to try the chilli cheese fries now!

  2. Minh

    Ahhh American Fast Food. I love it and hate it but those chicken wings look fantastic! I laughed at how you guys ordered 50?!

    Your trip sounds like it was great fun, looking forward to part 2!

  3. chocolatesuze

    i am like all kinds of jealous with everything on this post. esp the cheese balls oh gawd i want i want!

  4. billy@a table for two

    Ohhh… mahhh…. garrrrdddddd……… OOohhhh….. maaahhhhh…. garrrddDDDDDD!!! I agree with Suze, i am jealous looking at all the cheesy goodness in this post!!!!

  5. Laura

    american fast food scares me, its pretty unhealthy but the chili cheese fries are killer!

  6. Ant

    I think I just gained about 10kg from reading this post…

  7. Jacq

    hahaha actually I wouldn’t be surprised if someone did get cardiac arrhythmia from eating those chilli fries! But omg the deep fried cheese and the curly fries look so good yummm. All that fast food and you’re still so skinny!

  8. Steph

    Oh my god all that food is crazy but I totally want to try it all. Especially the wings! I would have totally wanted to try the Atomic sauce!

  9. Julie

    holy crap *bookmarks*. will take this list with me when i am in th uSA 🙂

  10. Jen

    LOVE LOVE LOVE! Chilli cheese fries, oh my gosh, and cheese balls… I have massive food envy!

  11. Betty @ The Hungry Girl

    OmG! That is so intense. It’s so interesting to see all these fast-food joints as I didn’t see that many in NY! The pics of you are too cute 😀

  12. kristy @ ksayerphotography

    This was so interesting to read! I’ve been to LA on 5 separate trips but have never eaten at any of the places you went to.
    Looks like you had an awesome trip! 🙂

  13. Sarah @ For the Love of Food

    I feel like I’ve been bathed in a vat of grease just reading this!’ Those fried mozzarella balls look amazing!

  14. Gianna@TheEmptyFridge

    Im ashamed to say…i licked my screen! LOL

    oh im getting so homesick, i lived in LA and my heart (literally) aches for in-n-out burgers and pastrami sandwiches and wet fries from the hat. Im going to read this post over and over and over and over again with celine dion in the background – what i would do for junk haha!

    So nice to meet you this weekend, hope to catch up again sometime soon before my arteries clog up…I think thats possible from just reading this it!!

  15. Isis-Rae

    wow, looks like a heart attack waiting to happen. but yummy!!

  16. Anita

    How do you stay so tiny eating all this stuff??!!!!! I could smash some of those cheese balls right now.

  17. mademoiselle délicieuse

    Fried cheese! Must say I’m more taken by the pastrami than the chilli fries but, then again, I love all kinds of cured meats.

    Is this an appropriate occasion to adopt the phrase, “saliva on screen”? =p

  18. Richard Elliot

    The best and worst of America in one blog! It’s made me miss living in New York reading this post.

  19. Ladybird

    Phwooarrr! I think I’d be as big as a house if I lived in the states – all those fries look awesome!

    ps – how cute are you in that hat?! 🙂

  20. FFichiban

    OH WHAT?! They limit the burgers at in & out now?! Boooooooo! Did you try animal fries as well?
    Hee hee hee

    and mannn I want hot wings mmm

  21. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Loved this post! I really want to try In-N-Out and chilli cheese fries 🙂 Super excited to visit San Fran one day.
    Heidi xo

  22. Trisha

    We were staying at the hotel next to that In-N-Out burger joint in LA! Oh man all the greasy food in that country is crazy!!!!! But the pastrami burgers especially in NY were awwwwwesome!!!

  23. betty

    love this post of junk and all those fries and especially the deep fried pizza dough cheese balls- YUM!

  24. Margaret | fangirlish

    I swear US fast food chains need to come with free angioplasty procedures. But if In ‘n Out is as good as how I remember it, BRING IT ON. You look so adorbs in your pics! =]

  25. Phuoc

    Rarrarla: HAHA Just wait for the next installment!

    Minh: Yeah.. Americans eat alot! I think I only ate about 3 wings, 2 pizza slices and 2 cheese balls! Fail…

    Chocolatesuze: Mmmmm… fatty cheese ball goodness.

    Billy: HAHA melty cheese overload I know!

    Laura: Tell me about it! It can be scary but it won’t hurt that much to just try it once..

    Ant: Which then makes me a fatty for eating it all 😛

    Jacq: HAHA I wish I was skinny, my body ain’t what it used to be.. Next time I’ll need to visit Heart Attack Grill

    Steph: Atomic sauce is crazy!!

    Julie: Hehe.. Like an infomercial, “But wait! There’s MORE”

    Jen: It’s weird but I get so hungry when I write post like these…

    Betty (Hungry Girl): Really? That’s surprising. I would have thought that fast food places would be everywhere (like Starbucks) in the states. So going to the east-side coast next american trip..

    Kristy: I think I had the advantage of having my cousins show me around, so basically lived like a local when I was there. LA is not a tourist-friendly city imho; there isn’t that much to see/do there and limited public transport. Maybe when you go back, you can check these places out 😀

    Sarah: HAHA Yes.. Wait until you see the next installment because nothing, besides the chilli cheese fries, tops what you’ll be seeing..

    Gianna: You’re so funny! The food was good but I wouldn’t have it too often.

    Isis: Mmm… Yummy heart attack 😛

    Anita: I think I’m blessed with this thing called Fast Metabolism, but I’m scared that it will leave me one day.. 🙁

    Mademoiselle délicieuse: HAHA.. New meaning to SOS! Yeah, you can’t go wrong with cured meats; whoever invented it is a GOD!

    Richard: Just wait for the mexican food… 😀

    Ladybird: I agree! It doesn’t help that fast food is so cheap too.

    FFichiban: No I didn’t get to try them, I would have gotten something else from that second secret menu if I had known..

    Heidi: San Fran is such a beautiful place, I hope you get to go one day too 😀

    Trisha: Did you have any In-N-Out though?

    Bettybites: Yeah American fast food is crazy!

    Margaret: Imagine some crazy people doing Man vs Food adventures. So insane!

  26. Iron Chef Shellie

    I think I gained 10kg reading this 😛

  27. Helen (grabyourfork)

    lol i just watched the man vs food episode where he takes on the atomic wings challenge in a similar institution. he was crying with pain. lol

  28. Phuoc

    Iron Chef Shellie: Tell me about it! I had to eat it!

    Helen: Man vs food is insane! I don’t know why people put themselves through that torture..

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