It breaks my poor, healthy heart to say this, but I live in a part of California where there is no In-N-Out for hundreds of miles. For that reason, the following may be outdated, but here goes:
At In-N-Out, a “stock” burger, with or without cheese, is equipped with Spread, Tomato, Lettuce, and optional Onion (STL-O, we were trained), served on a toasted bun of sponge dough. Along with soft drinks of various sizes are shakes (of real ice cream!), iced tea, lemonade, coffee, and wee bottles of milk. Then we have the fries. There is considerable flexibility with this well-honed menu.
- Meat and cheese can be ordered in any combination from none of either (“veggie burger”, being vegetables only on a bun) up to 4×4: 2 cheese, no meat (‘grilled cheese’ sandwich); 2 meat, 1 cheese; 4 meat, no cheese, etc.
- Spread (not sauce or secret sauce) can be left off entirely, or replaced with/used in combination with ketchup and/or mustard.
- Tomatoes have the most boring options: on or off.
- Lettuce can be ordered light or extra, as well as used to replace the bun: a “protein style” sandwich. Protein style is not its own category of burger – it’s merely a condition of preparing your burger of choice, e.g., one cannot order a “protein burger” (this I’ve heard and had to gently contradict more times than I can count), but a “cheeseburger protein style” is perfectly acceptable (and delicious!).
- Onions can be served in a variety of interesting ways: raw (as opposed to placed on the grilling patty, where they are lightly steamed), raw-chopped, and whole-grilled. (Fun fact: if you order light onions, cooks are trained to arrange the rings in a Mickey Mouse-head shape. This was instated when one of the founder’s sons took over: He loved Disneyland.)
- You can have chopped chilies added to your burger (although it’s a bit of a pain for the associates – not that they’d tell you that!). They used to keep the chilies behind the counter, but I recently visited In-N-Out in Redding, CA, and they had a container of them at the condiment stand, yours for the taking.
- Buns can be ordered “no toast”, extra toast, or replaced with lettuce (as mentioned above).
- Shakes can be ordered in a variety of flavor combinations: any two, or all three (Neapolitan). (Amusing sidebar: When I was a newbie, I had a guy ask for an extra chocolatey shake. I just gave him a regular one and pretended it was extra chocolatey, but he called me out on it. The manager came over and showed me how to unhook the syrup dispenser and pump it into the cup – I definitely don’t recommend ordering this way, as it’s a pain and a little unsanitary. But there you go.) One may also choose to increase the size of one’s shake (large and extra-large), whereupon the treat would be served in a soft drink cup.
- Lemonade and iced tea make a smashing Arnold Palmer (although my favorite was always lemonade and root beer – try it sometime)!
- Finally, fries can be served in several ways: Light, well, extra light, extra well, extra salt, no salt, and the famous Animal Style fry: topped with a layer of melted cheese, a splash of spread, and grilled onions.