Animal fries at In-N-Out, Roscoe's House of Fried Chicken and Waffles, Kogi Korean BBQ Truck + Pink's Hot Dogs
Animal fries. You didn't think we'd visit LA without eating at In-N-Out did you? Welcome to the fast food version of Los Angeles, food blogger-style.
To say that In-N-Out has a cult following is an understatement. Devotees cannot Instagram enough photos to demonstrate their appreciation. Celebrity fans are many. Thomas Keller catered for The French Laundry's anniversary party with In-N-Out's Double-Double burgers. Anthony Bourdain said his favourite fast food meal was In-N-Out's Animal Style burger. Gordon Ramsay ate his first ever double cheeseburger takeaway then drove out to get another one immediately. Julia Child admitted she knew every In-N-Out Burger location between Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Even Beyonce's IG'ing it.
When In-N-Out did a one-off pop-up in Sydney in January 2012, the burgers reportedly sold out in 23 minutes.
The eat in queue at In-N-Out
Perhaps part of the appeal is that despite its current tally of 281 locations around the USA, In-N-Out remains a family-owned business. The menu is unbelievably short - just three types of burgers (hamburger, cheeseburger and the double-double of two patties and two slices of cheese) and the option of french fries. Nothing more except soft drinks and milk shakes.
Signature palm trees on the tiles
What isn't immediately apparent is the Secret Menu and that's where the fun starts. The Secret Menu enables customers to tailor their burger to almost every whim. That means you can order a 3 x 3 of three beef patties with three slices of cheese, or get your burger "Protein style" with the bun swapped out for lettuce (paleo fans rejoice). Although these options don't appear on the board, some now do appear on their website, listened under the Not-So-Secret Menu.
But wait. There's more.
Serious Eats did an awesome piece on ordering every single variation possible on the Secret Menu. You can get your onions grilled not raw, you can specify your fries to be cooked light or well done, you can ask for cold cheese if you don't want it melted, you can ask for a medium rare patty, your bun can be toasted dark or untoasted, and you can vary your ratio of meat to cheese by ordering anything between a 1 x 4 (one patty and four slices of cheese) and a 4 x 1 (four patties and one slice of cheese).
And what's a Flying Dutchman? Two slices of melted cheese between two hamburger patties. Who needs a bun and salad anyway?
Double-Double burger US$3.30
with french fries US$1.60 and chocolate shake US$2.05
But here's the thing. The first time we drove into In-N-Out, we were so excited about the burgers we completely forgot about the Secret Menu and all its possibilities!
So we sampled everything in its unadulterated glory, ordered as it was originally intended. And you know what? The burgers are truly awesome. The Double-Double is nothing like the squashed offerings you've endured from other fast food joints. The patties are tall and springy, the tomatoes are ridiculously fresh, the lettuce is crisp and the bun is soft and fluffy.
Holding the burger in one hand presents an awkward proposition - how to get it in your gob without spilling the innards everywhere. Yes it's still a fast food burger but it's a good one, neither soggy nor greasy and it won't leave you feeling bloated afterwards.
The fries may be cut fresh in-store but they're a little underwhelming - not quite cooked enough and lacking crunch - but the chocolate shake is intensity overload. It's quite possible you could suffer a brain aneurism trying to suck that stuff up through the straw. It would be inadequate to call this a thick shake. It's more like a thick shudder, and a deliciously rich and chocolatey one at that.
We make a second visit and right our wrongs by finally ordering the Animal-style fries. This is a step up from the original Animal-style burger variation - the inclusion of grilled onions, extra spread and melted cheese on the burger of your choice. Legend has it that one day a customer thought to ask for Animal-style fries not a burger, and the request was happily granted.
Fulfilling an order for Animal-style fries takes a little longer. The fries must be cooked first, loaded with cheese and melted under the grill, and finally garnished with separately grilled onions and lashings of "spread".
It's worth the wait, a gooey mess of cheese-coated fries offset by the sweetness of onion and creamy Thousand-Island style dressing. The professionals' tip is to mix the whole lot as soon as you get it, and then slam it down quickly before the cheese starts to set.
Free paper hat if you ask nicely!
And if you ask nicely they'll give you a server's paper hat for free. You can also pick up free stickers or a free 16-piece sticker puzzle. Score!
Check out the full slideshow of In-N-Out Secret Menu variations here.
In-N-Out on Sunset Boulevard
In-N-Out, over and out
Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
Scoe's 1/4 chix prepared Southern style with 2 waffles US$10.70
After a 14-hour flight from Sydney, what was the first meal we ate in LA? We headed straight to Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. Established in 1975 by Harlem local Herb Hudson, there are now six locations across LA. We headed straight for the one in Hollywood.
Roscoe's House of Chicken n Waffles entrance
Roscoe's isn't glamorous. This is a house of soul food, especially famous for its fried chicken and waffle combinations. A slew of celebrity fans include Snoop Dogg, who took Larry King there during a spot on Larry King Live, and introduced David Beckham to the wonders of fried chicken on Snoop's reality show.
It's been mentioned in movies like Jackie Brown, Swingers and Rush Hour, and rapped about by Notorious B.I.G. in "Going Back to Cali" and Lil' Boosie's "California Love". But my favourite has to be Will Smith saying that "Heaven has to be like a cross between a Sir Mix-A-Lot video and Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles" on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Dining room inside Roscoe's
We push open the brown door at the Hollywood restaurant to find a cavernous dining room that is heaving with diners. The mood is jovial and casual, but there's also a serious sense of intent - everyone is here for fried chicken, and lots of it.
You'll only find one meat on the menu and that's chicken. Fried chicken makes up the bulk of offerings, served with variations of eggs, hot biscuits, grits and waffles, but they also serve chicken livers, giblets, chicken chili and a chicken salad.
Roscoe's fried chicken
I've gone for the classic Scoe's quarter chicken, deep fried to a dark golden crisp, served with two full-sized waffles, two mounds of whipped butter and two mini jugs of maple syrup. If you think that combo sounds weird, you probably haven't tried it. Crunchy juicy fried chicken tastes undoubtedly better with mouthfuls of fluffy waffle drenched in maple syrup. Seriously.
Sir Michael 1/4 chix with gravy and onions, grits and fluffy hot biscuit US$9.90
We hoe into fried chicken with gravy, biscuits, grits, mac & cheese and candy yams that are sweeter than a lot of confectionary I've eaten. Crazily sweet.
Overall, best post-flight meal you could ever ask for.
Kogi Korean BBQ Truck
Kogi BBQ Truck commences service
We were also determined to track down the famous Kogi Korean BBQ Truck. One of the early adapters of social media, Kogi originally used Twitter to simply advertise its truck locations. Interaction between the truck and its fans (like suggesting alternative spots when trucks were moved on by police, and competitions to design T-shirts or name their truck) created what was soon known as a Kogi Kulture of diehard fans.
Kogi was set up by Filipino-American Mark Manguera, but the name most people associate with Kogi is Roy Choi, Mark's friend and chief chef for the Kogi trucks. In 2010, Roy Choi was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine, the first time a food truck chef had ever won this award.
Kogi queue fifteen minutes after its arrival
Kogi offers a mashup of Korean with Mexican, mixing up Korean staples like bulgogi beef, kimchee and marinated tofu with Mexican soft shell tacos, quesadillas and salsas. The first Kogi truck rolled out onto the streets in November 2008. By mid-2011 the fleet had expanded to five, with the trucks determinedly covering all areas of LA, not just the usual Hollywood and Downtown circuit.
Kogi sliders US$6
We track down one of the trucks to Korea Town, turning up fifteen minutes before it's meant to arrive. We're glad we arrive early. By the time the truck has opened its shutters, there's already a snaking queue of fifty people.
I'm determined to try as much as possible, never mind the fact that dinner was only two hours ago. The Kogi slider is one of the first specials that was added to the menu, and is said to be a fan favourite. For six bucks it's a generous serve of two toasted buns jammed with short ribs, cabbage romaine slaw in a chilli soy vinaigrette, salsa roja, cheese and sesame mayo.
Kogi kimchi quesadilla US$6
Lex orders the kimchi quesadilla. It's packed with molten cheese, a river of melted jack and cheddar cheeses that swirls with chunks of spicy kimchi. The whole lot is ladled with salsa roja and sesame seeds. It's terrifically spicy but you do have to scoff it down quick - within minutes it starts to get soggy.
Short rib taco US$2.29
I've also ordered the signature short rib taco, marinated beef short rib cooked on the grill piled into a soft taco with cabbage, romaine lettuce, coriander relish and sesame seeds. It's tasty but the beef isn't as gloriously fatty as I'd expected.
Kogi dog US$6
And hey, while I'm here, I order the Kogi dog as well. In what's becoming a clear pattern, it's the usual cabbage romaine slaw, coriander relish and sesame mayo combo on a kosher beef Hebrew National hot dog.
Kogi service window
Pink's Hot Dogs
Lord of the Rings dog
Pink's Hot Dogs is also legendary. We'd driven past several times, and no matter what time of night, there was always a queue twenty-deep. What started as a street cart in 1939 has morphed into a permanent fixture with more locations around Southern California, Las Vegas and Ohio.
Pink's Hot Dogs
There may be burgers on the menu, but it's all about the hot dogs here. There are thirty different kinds, including several designed by and named after a swag of celebrity fans.
There are turkey dogs, Polish dogs and even a 12" behemoth (that's over 30cm) dressed with everything from pastrami to bacon to tortilla chips.
Emeril Legasse Bam Dog $US5.95
Lex hoes into the Emeril Legasse Bam Dog, a 9" whopper of a hot dog perked up with crispy bacon, coleslaw, onions, cheese, mustard and some eye-popping jalapeno chillies.
Lord of the Rings Dog US$5
Onion rings on a hot dog? Why didn't anyone think of this before? The Lord of the Rings Dog is all mine, sweet onion rings battered and deep-fried, draped over a 9" stretch dog and drizzled with barbecue sauce. My preciousssssss.......
Palm trees in LA
We'd only had four days in LA (yes, seriously) but eaten enough for a week. But what of the city itself? Growing up on American sitcoms and movies means that every scene looked eerily familiar: wide streets, rows of lofty palm trees and a quivering pulsating heat that seems to slow down everyone's motions. The pedestrians with shopping bags and sunglasses, the motorcyclist passing you in leathers, skateboarders and cyclists whipping past you in traffic - everything looks like an cinematographic stereotype of LA.
Allllllll the candy!
When we weren't eating food, we were shopping for it, developing a disturbing habit of visiting supermarkets and pharmacies just to check out the food aisles.
Got cheeseballs? 481g for US$4.99
Pickled pork rinds.... mmm dericious
Giant bottles of hot sauce shouldn't amuse me but they do
The X2 on approach to Magic Mountain
We spent a full day at Magic Mountain too. It's not cheap, with tickets costing US$66.99 at the park, or do what we did and get them discounted to US$41.99 if you buy online at least three days in advance.
The park is so huge it could qualify as its own suburb. Sprawling across 260 acres, there are more than 100 rides including 17 roller coasters.
The first ride we went on: Scream which has a top speed of 105km/hr (65mph)
We started off with Scream, a floorless roller coaster train that whipped us around at speeds of up to 105km per hour. Don't have breakfast, kids.
The big ticket roller coaster is the X2, regarded as the world's first 4th dimension ride, meaning each rider moves independently of the track. On the X2, this means your seat can independently spin 360C forwards and backwards as the train runs through raven turns, backflip, a twisting front flip, and a stomach-churning 65.6m backward sky dive at an angle of 88.8 degrees - with flame throwers on the side for extra effects! The top speed is 122km per hour with a maximum g-force of 4g.
To say I was nervous is an understatement. We went on a weekday but even then Lex and I ended up queuing over two hours for this ride. The queue design is also sneakily deceptive, set up so you're convinced you're almost there until you turn the corner and realise that no, there's more to go.
But actually the ride was crazy awesome. Unlike Scream and the wooden roller coaster Colossus, which end up jolting you every which way and making you feel nauseous, X2 is nothing but speed with a weightless motion, usually because your seat is slowly pitching forward or backward into a slow spin. It's terrifying fun. I didn't feel sick at all, and if I didn't have to wait two hours I would have happily gone on it again!
Wanna know what it's like to ride the X2? This is a pretty neat video.
Bacon and maple funnel cake and oreo funnel cake US$9.99 each
While Lex and I were queuing, Suze hunted down a giant turkey leg which was generously shared afterwards (tasted exactly like ham!) before we moved onto dessert. Funnel cake! Primarily served at carnivals or fairs, funnel cake is made by piping batter into hot oil until it resembles a giant deep fried fritter.
Why stop at one when you can have two? The oreo funnel cake is smothered in ice cream, lashings of fake cream and what seemed like half a packet of crumbled oreo cookies. The hit of the day is the bacon and maple funnel cake, laden with strips of crispy bacon, squiggles of maple syrup and a heaving dusting of icing sugar. Sweet and salty, fatty and crunchy, oh baby this was good.
It's the Hollywood sign!
More non-fooding stuff? We got as close as we could to the Hollywood sign - it's a twenty minute drive up narrow twisting roads in a residential area.
Tandem bicycle in Santa Monica
We trekked out to Santa Monica where I excitedly snapped tandem bicyclists through the car window.
And I papped random street carts as we cruised through the streets of east LA.
TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's Chinese Theatre and Mann's Chinese Theatre)
We also made it to the TCL Chinese Theatre, more commonly known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre or Mann's Chinese Theatre. TCL Corporation, a Chinese multinational electronics company, bought the naming rights for more than $5 million in January 2013.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's handprints and shoe prints
Oh yes, Arnie. We'll be back.
Bacon egg and cheese biscuit combo US$4.69
Our final meal in LA, eaten at 7am at LAX airport was a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit combo from Carl's Jr. Biscuits! Like a scone but with more butter. And better. There were hash brown nuggets on the side and we even chortled over the novelty of adding half & half to our coffee (that's half milk and half cream).
Next stop? Austin. BRING ON THE BARBECUE.
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7009 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, California, USA
Tel: +1 800 786 1000
Sunday to Thursday 10.30am - 1am
Friday to Saturday 10.30am - 1.30am
More locations around California (214), Arizona (28), Nevada (16), Texas (18) and Utah (10)
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Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles
1514 North Gower Street, Los Angeles, California, USA
Tel: +1 (323) 466 7543
Sunday to Thursday 8am - 12 midnight
Friday to Saturday 8am - 4am
Also located at Manchester and Pico in LA, plus Long Beach, Pasadena and Inglewood
Kogi BBQ Truck
Up to four trucks roaming the streets of Los Angeles
Kogi BBQ Trucks: Roja, Verde, Naranja and Rosita
For truck schedules, follow them on twitter or check their website
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Pink's Hot Dogs
709 La Brae Avenue, Los Angeles, California, USA
Tel: +1 (323) 931 7594
Monday to Wednesday 9.30am - 12 midnight
Thursday 9.30am - 2am
Friday 9.30am - 12 midnight
Saturday 9.30am - 3am
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Six Flags Magic Mountain
26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, Los Angeles, California, USA
Tel: +1 (661) 255 4100
Check the park website for seasonal opening hours
>> Read the next USA 2013 post: Texas BBQ - Franklin BBQ, Salt Lick, La Barbecue, Ruby's BBQ and Green Mesquite in Austin
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8/05/2013 12:22:00 a.m.