The first In-N-Out opened in 1948 in Baldwin Park, California, a San Gabriel Valley town that was, at the time, known mostly for its family-run turkey farm. That restaurant became the state's first drive-thru and, over the next several decades, it slowly became synonymous with California fast food—despite the fact that the chain didn't start expanding outside of state lines until 1992.
Seventy-plus years later, In-N-Out's 346 locations are all contained within six states, and none of them are further east than Texas. And all of that is a long way of saying that no one has any clue how—or why—an impeccably wrapped In-N-Out double-double could've ended up in the middle of a street in Jamaica, Queens.
Lincoln Boehm, a Brooklyn-based creative director, was on his way to McDonald's for breakfast before he caught an early morning train from the Jamaica Long Island Railroad (LIRR) station. He looked down and that's when he saw it: this decidedly out-of-state burger, sitting neatly on the pavement. "We didn’t touch it. We stopped for a second and took photos and looked around to see if anyone else was noticing it and then we walked on," he told the New York Post, adding that the unexpected burger sighting "genuinely shook me to my core."
Boehm, a California native, told the Post that he'd probably eaten a thousand In-N-Out burgers in his lifetime, and that's how he recognized it as a legit Double-Double. But his familiarity with that particular menu item is also why he's so freaking confused: He said this burger looked fresh off the grill, despite the fact that the closest In-N-Out is some 1,500 miles away. He also said he'd tried flying from Los Angeles to New York with a personal stash of In-N-Out, but that the food had a tendency to get soggy during the trip.
So… what gives? Boehm believes it could either be a marketing stunt, or some unintentional (or deliberate) litter from "somebody incredibly wealthy" who could've packed his or her private plane with In-N-Out. But Twitter has some other no-less-ridiculous theories, including:
- The burger is some kind of art installation, was dropped there by Banksy, or by some would-be Banksy with a less compelling accent.
- That some "fancy company" hosted an In-N-Out pop-up—or had the means to fly In-N-Out into New York—and that an attendee dropped it after leaving the party.
- That it was a prop from a TV or film shoot, with a craft services burger dressed up in an In-N-Out wrapper
- That it was from Queens' own Petey's Burger, which has been described as an In-N-Out knockoff, right down to the "California Fries" and the similar paper wrappers (although Boehm's find did have the In-N-Out logo on the wrapper, as well as the words 'Double-Double')
- That alleged early-70s airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper is still alive, and is now deliberately dropping burgers on the East Coast, instead of accidentally dropping tightly-bundled $20s in southwest Washington state. (Look, they can't ALL be winners).
- That this burger is just a seed and, if properly planted, it would eventually grow into a fully functional In-N-Out restaurant
VICE has reached out to In-N-Out for comment. Until we hear back, you can be damn sure we'll be looking at the ground when we're walking around today. And yes, we're totally eating any Double-Double we find.
UPDATE: Denny Warnick, In-N-Out Vice President of Operations, provided the following comment to VICE regarding the mystery burger.
"We were surprised to hear recently that one of our Double-Doubles was found on a street in New York. Because our burgers are only cooked fresh to order in six states, it must have taken considerable planning for that burger to make the trip from the grill all the way to the Empire State. So while it is a mystery as to how one of our burgers ended up in Queens, we’re sure someone is having a good laugh."