Historians posit cooked bread and cheese as cross-cultural ancient foodstuff. This staple of Depression era America has evolved over the decades.
Yesterday’s recipe, known as the “cheese dream,” was simple and inexpensive: two slices of toasted bread, cheese, and a broiler.
Today, the sandwich has evolved. Luxurious grilled cheese sandwiches known as lobster melts, bacon melts—whatever-melts—are paired with craft drinks at hip restaurants.
You won’t find craft beer nor craft cocktails at In-N-Out, for religious verses are stamped on drink cups and burger wrappers. But, what you do get are trans fat-free cooking oils, whole potatoes sliced in-store for fries that are never frozen; so, a virtuous and comforting fast food experience.
In-N-Out is a source of pride for Californians. At the In-N-Out off Interstate 5 in National City—the closest one to the US-Mexico border, south of downtown San Diego—the drive-thru wait is often as long as the border wait into Mexico, it seems.
Recently on a trip into Mexico, as a cannabis user, sometimes veggie-forward eater, I wasn’t in the mood for the chain’s infamous Double Double. I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich, which isn’t nearly as luxurious as the brand’s other offerings. It appears on In-N-Out’s “Not So Secret Menu”.
So, I stopped off at the National City In-N-Out, where the line at the drive-thru wrapped around a strip mall parking lot onto a main east-west thoroughfare but five minutes from the border of Baja California. I considering going in, but the line for “in” stretched outside.
I wait for about twenty minutes before I make my order. There’s no confusion as I order the grilled cheese, until I make some “hacks.” I order it Animal Style. But things slow down when I elect to include not two slices of American cheese, but four. Instead of one tomato, I want two. I also want extra grilled onions, and extra lettuce. The process goes smoothly enough. It’s a Grilled Cheese Double Double.
After I order, I daydream of the employees whistling as they work. Young kids, who never sport hair dye nor tattoos, but a “good American” vibe, are seemingly gleeful to earn well-above minimum wage.
The standard In-N-Out grilled cheese comes with two slices of melted American cheese, hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, spread on both baked buns. The artisan sandwich tastes like a classic In-N-Out product. The spongy, doughy bread is like a warm blanket for your mouth, and the fries are a refrain of salt and oil. Yet, it is a bit bread-forward and unsatiating.
The main difference between the regular grilled cheese and the Animal Style seems to be the addition of extra In-N-Out thousand Island inspired spread, and pickles. But, it’s the extra tomato, extra cheese, extra lettuce and extra onions that gives this sandwich some weight.
Upon finishing the Grilled Cheese Animal Style (with extra cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and grilled onions), I feel as though I’ve just mowed down a Double-Double. For the sandwich and fries I paid $4.78. For that price, the quality of the sandwich and friendly service, it’s a deal that would make any God very proud, especially a weed loving God.