Why Did These People Queue Two Hours for an In-N-Out Burger?
Legendary Californian burger chain In-N-Out – immortalised forever in Tyga's "Get Silly" freestyle, if you know your terrible, badly-produced trap rap – decided to open a pop-up shop for one day at a nondescript cafe in Hendon, middle-of-nowhere, North London yesterday. Why? I have no idea. If you don't know the area, here are a couple of pointers: its last export was Peter Mandelson and its main attraction is an old aerodrome. All due respect to you if you're a local, but as a culinary destination, it's not exactly Hell's Kitchen.
Anyway, Twitter was buzzing with reports of hundreds of people eagerly queuing up outside, splashing their saliva all over the pavement and instagramming feverishly while they peered at the people ahead of them, so we headed down to ask them some intrusive questions about why they'd travelled miles and miles and miles to wait two hours for a burger.
This was the scene when we arrived. To be honest, given the time of day, I was expecting the queue to look more like one for a Jobcentre Plus than the 2AM turnaway line at some bar in Dalston.
But whatever, it was time to make some friends.
How far have you travelled today, Wesley?
Wesley: From Twickenham, via Notting Hill to pick my friend up.
Woah. So, let’s say the guy comes out right now and says "None left!" What would you do?
That’s what the shotgun in my jacket is for.
You'd spill blood for this?
Nah, nah, nah. We wouldn’t be very happy, though, I'd spill metaphorical blood, then we'd go to Nandos.
Oh, you'd just roll off to Nandos like that? That's not very loyal.
Well, it’s something to do, man. I was supposed to be at work today, then I get a call that work’s cancelled – shafted three days in a row.
Why don't you quit your job and just go to pop-up restaurants in suburban London every day instead?
That's not a bad idea. Smoke weed everyday – that's all you need to do, man! Roll it up, light it up, blaze it the fuck up, go to In-N-Out. If In-N-Out isn't there and the burgers are run out, go the fuck to Nandos. And if Nandos is whack and they only got chicken livers, go the fuck somewhere else.
You seem pretty passionate about fast food.
Bruv, Nandos is not fast food. Neither is In-N-Out. They never refry the oil, all the meat is fresh, all the potatoes are hand cut – this shit ain’t fast food, man. If this was fast food, it would have been done fast. We’ve been in the queue for an hour and a half; this is SLOW food. Fuck this place, actually. We should just go Nandos anyway. Basically – moral of the story – smoke weed everyday.
Jake, 23 (left) and Josh, 24..
VICE: Tell me straight, guys: Are In-N-Out burgers really worth queuing two hours for?
Jake: They're life changing. I lived off them when I was out in America.
Josh: They're like a really good McDonalds.
Hmm, OK. I mean, to be honest, that doesn't sound that appealing.
Trust me, McDonald's is good but these are, like, incredible.
How far have you come to get down here?
Jake: From Clerkenwell.
Josh: Ladbroke Grove.
That's a long way to travel for both of you, no?
Jake: He fucking called me and told me to come. I was quite happy sitting in my house doing nothing.
How do you feel about your friend being such a slob, Jake?
Josh: Well to be honest I'd just ordered a pizza, too. So I had to wait for that to come then I stashed it for later. I want to buy, like, ten of these burgers and stockpile them for when I get lonely.
Someone just told me you can only get one per person.
Oh well that sucks.
A guy who gave his name as "Sleazy P", 20 (left) and Niall, 20.
What got you guys down here? Are you big burger fans?
Niall: I was on Twitter late last night and just saw a bunch of people talking about In-N-Out. It’s a bit weird having it in Hendon of all places – it could have been a tonne busier than this if it was in Central.
How long have you guys been waiting?
Sleazy P: We've already been queuing for about 45 minutes and we're only halfway down the line. I've only got a half hour left on my parking meter.
Let’s say they had a last man standing competition – how long would you stick around?
I’d wait pretty damn long.
Niall: About an hour or so.
An hour? You've already come to Hendon and waited 45 minutes, surely it deserves a bit more time than that?
Well, there's a McDonald's up the road if all else fails.
Hey, guy. Your accent suggests to me that you're not from round here.
Matthew: That's right, I'm from San Diego – the west coast. The home of In-N-Out, buddy.
So is just a west coast thing? Would you say In-N-Out was the Tupac of the burger world?
Minus the untimely death, I'd say it’s got the legacy of Tupac, yeah. West side! [does west side hands] Am I supposed to thump my chest now or throw up gang signs?
I'm not sure, I guess it depends on the extent of your burger tribalism. Are you angry that word about In-N-Out is spreading?
A little bit, yeah. You see people from Utah and Arizona talking about how they love In-N-Out now, and they’ve only been going there for two years.
Those fucking dilettantes!
Well, I have to confess, I'm actually from Utah. But I also worked at an In-N-Out Burger, so I guess that makes up for it.
Oh yeah? What makes a perfect In-N-Out burger?
I get a double single – two meats and one cheese – with spread and lettuce. I don’t get tomato or onions because – well, because it's too healthy.
Let’s say in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future, there’s only one outlet left and you can only get a burger made of human flesh – would you eat it?
As long as it’s up to In-N-Out's usual high standards and the family are cool with it, I think they know what’s best for me. As long as it still has the Bible verses still printed on the packaging. I think the original owners were Christian and the current owner is born-again. It’s no big deal.
Is In-N-Out the best contribution Christianity has made to the world?
Yeah, fuck the Salvation Army; In-N-Out is where it’s at. Who needs relief for Katrina when you’ve got an In-N-Out?
What are you so happy about?
Chris: I went to an In-N-Out Burger when I was eight in California and I’ve been waiting my whole life to go back there. I turned on Twitter and read about this. I'm so incredibly happy.
Would you say that In-N-Out Burger is one of your fondest childhood memories?
Definitely, I’m not even joking.
Better than losing your virginity?
Nah, it wasn’t that good. Maybe better than not failing my GCSEs.
Okay, OK. So, if a kid walked out of here with the last one and you were still stood in line, would you beat him down for it?
I wouldn’t slap him, but I might nick it off him. I’m pretty hungry. I’m fairly moral, though.
So you only wile out for burgers?
Andrea, 30 and Yvonne, 33.
How much do you love In-N-Out burgers?
Yvonne: I really don't want to miss out. I actually drunkenly rang the In-N-Out phone line once to ask them to open a chain over here. So I’d be gutted if I didn't get one.
How many do you reckon you could eat?
Andrea: Just two, I reckon. You start to feel really wrong otherwise. They're so, so addictive, though.
Comparable to heroin?
I've actually thought that they might put heroin in the burgers, but they're Christian, so I doubt they would.
Do you think this could be God’s work?
Sure, why not?
After standing around for ages with the smell of burning meat sworling in our nostrils, Andrea and Yvonne's words took on a profound resonance for us. We were both about ready to join the queue ourselves and sample some of this delicious meat.
Unfortunately, we couldn't, because they had run out. Instead of brooding on the cruel and ironic fate that inevitably befalls the man charged with observing socio-cultural phenomena, rather than joining in with the hysteria himself, we decided to speak to the lucky last guy.
So, you’re the very last person who’s going to get a burger.
Joel: I am. I’m a very lucky man. I would’ve been inconsolable if I didn't get one.
That guy behind you doesn't look very happy. Would you have resorted to violence?
No, I doubt it, but I knew it was my destiny to get the last burger. I just had a haircut and there was no queue in the hairdressers, so I knew that was a good sign.
Did you get the haircut for the…
For the burger, yes. I wanted to look nice for my burger.
You're obviously on a streak here – what’s your next life challenge?
I think anything is possible. Seeing the guy complete the Red Bull challenge the other day and now this! It’s a very special time to be alive. I would say that things have never looked so good for me. I'm living the dream.
Do you want to give a shout out to any particular deity?
No. I normally believe that you make your own luck along the way, but this could be a real change. There’s no way this could all be a coincidence. No way. There must be a greater power at work.
Have you found God through In-N-Out?
I'll tell you after I’ve eaten my burger.
Can I have a bite?