by Kieran Healy on April 22, 2007

“In-N-Out is opening a franchise in Tucson soon”:, not too far from where I live. This may well pose problems for my, uh, ruthless nutrition and fitness regime. I’m not a connoisseur of American fast food, but In-N-Out is pretty damn tasty. “Sonic”: is apparently also worth a bypass. I mean detour. Two locations recently opened in Tucson, but I’ve never eaten there. I think the last really good fast food chain I ate at was a while ago in Auckland, where I got to try the frighteningly large burgers and dangerously tasty kumara fries at “Burgerfuel”:, on Ponsonby Road.



todd. 04.22.07 at 3:33 am

Gah. There’s an In-N-Out across the street from campus, and it’s a real problem. I don’t even really like fast food, but once every ~2 weeks I get a ridiculous NEED to have an Animal Style cheeseburger.

Also, you should go to Sonic, just for the cherry lime-ade.


nick s 04.22.07 at 3:53 am

Eat? Sonic is for drinks. Or rather, the syrups: cherry watermelon Diet Sprite (and they’re just advertising as I type this, oh dear).


lee 04.22.07 at 4:16 am

I worked at Sonic a few (5?) summers ago. It’s nothing special. Their fries are better than average, but as Todd (above) mentioned, the cherry lime-ade is their claim to fame.


Ben Alpers 04.22.07 at 4:37 am

Sonic is also a relatively progressive corporation headquartered in Oklahoma (a relatively rare combination). They’ve also been a patron of the University of Oklahoma’s history department. So drink plenty of those limeades!


Sebastian Holsclaw 04.22.07 at 6:12 am

The company I work for in San Diego has a number of executives from Australia. Whenever they stop by they eat at In-N-Out at least two or three times for lunch. I like the place, but it seems weird to seek it out. ‘Though I guess it is traditional to seek out the native cuisine–and nothing says Southern California like In-N-Out.


Chris 04.22.07 at 6:20 am

I’m with Nick: if you go to Sonic, just get the drinks. The burgers are god-awful, as are the fries. Some people like the tots, perhaps because they reminds them of school lunches in elementary school, but the novelty of tots at a fast food restaurant soon wears off. The cherry limeades and other syrup drinks are great, though, and since you live in a rather hot place, you will immediately appreciate that Sonic has produced some sort of formula that allows their drinks to be about 10 degrees F. Just watch out for the cherry limeade migraine.


swampcracker 04.22.07 at 6:29 am

Yikes, bypass is an understatement.


MissLaura 04.22.07 at 6:34 am

Sonic fries suck – although that’s a matter of taste, they being of the breed that has the salt, like, embedded in some kind of batter rather than on the surface. I don’t like it.

The peanut butter fudge shake is fabulous, though.


Todd Larason 04.22.07 at 6:40 am

Sonic also has (or had, 8+ years ago) above-average tater tots.


bad Jim 04.22.07 at 8:02 am

“[N]othing says Southern California like In-N-Out”? Please. McDonald’s may have started out in San Bernardino, but burgers are hardly the definitive cuisine of Southern California. Perhaps nothing could be, since the place is so ethnically diverse, or perhaps fusion itself will emerge as the defining characteristic.

Your best bet for lunch is generally Mexican. There are some decent chains, but unless your schedule demands a drive-through you can enjoy an amazing culinary experience at a modest price at nearly any local joint. Fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, chimichangas, flautas, de carne asada, carnitas, pollo, pescados, mariscos, con arroz y frijoles, cilantro, salsa … why would anyone choose burgers and fries instead?


UCFJOUstudent 04.22.07 at 11:56 am

Please, who hasn’t had a burger and fries in Auckland…


Lindsay Beyerstein 04.22.07 at 2:06 pm

I’m suspicious of a restaurant that calls a drink Ocean Water.


J. Ellenberg 04.22.07 at 3:19 pm

I know I say this on every In-N-Out thread, but seriously — Culver’s, people.


Eugene Marshall 04.22.07 at 3:50 pm

As a former Wisconsite, I second the Culver’s emotion. However, also being a former St. Louisan, I promote that most lowly and yet noblest of burger joints – White Castle’s.
And Steak n’ Shake can do in a pinch.


Cranky Observer 04.22.07 at 6:41 pm

Culvers is good, but as a midwesterner I have to say that In-N-Out is better, and the best hamburger-joint-with-more-than-one-location that I have found in the US of A.



bitchphd 04.23.07 at 5:39 am

Don’t listen to these idiots. Sonic > In n Out. Much.


Pinko Punko 04.23.07 at 7:22 am

Sonic is for the tater tots and drinks. Sadly, for a progressive company, their drive ins in the sun belt lead you to eat in your car while it idles so you can have the AC on, while you drink out of a styrofoam cup. They do have the awesome crushed ice, though. Their burgers are thin, midwestern fast food style fried burgers. And for what they are I enjoy them. InO of course are geniuses at the perfectly toasted bun.


vanya 04.23.07 at 10:29 am

Glad to see the consensus that the Sonic burger cannot even compare to the In-n-Out, kind of restores my faith in the human race. I assume bitchphd is just being contrary for the sake of being contrary.


Keith M Ellis 04.23.07 at 10:46 am

In the innumerable times in my life I’ve eaten at Sonic, I’ve never eaten with the car idling so the air conditioner could be on. Perhaps I’ve broken some law I was not aware of?


strewelpeter 04.23.07 at 1:08 pm

If you’re going to do fast food this is the way to do it:
I came across it in Madrid recently and it is really good.


mds 04.23.07 at 7:07 pm

From the perspective of one who grew up in Arizona, Sonic is for drinks and onion rings. The times might have changed, though; my most-frequented Sonic in Willcox has closed. And anyway, Tucson people should dine on fast food at “Wienerschnitzel.” Not for reasons of quality, but just because it’s a hot dog chain called “Wienerschnitzel.” Similar logic applies to “Whataburger.” Oh, and don’t wear a tie you like to Pinnacle Peak. And leave the rattlesnakes alone.


Linkmeister 04.23.07 at 7:56 pm

That’s an odd location for a first franchise. Isn’t the 3700 block of Broadway out by ElCon or Randolph Park? If I were the franchisee/company, I’d have looked for a site on Speedway near the UofA campus. Or, gasp, has the U expanded that far east?


CBH 04.23.07 at 8:11 pm

I’ll admit it – I’m one of those skinny guys with a high metabolism that can eat anything with nary a negative consequence. With a commuting/road-traveling job for many years, here’s my take. Sonic’s burgers and sandwiches are okay, drinks and shakes are good, onion rings and chili-cheese tots are great (and chili-cheese onion rings if you can talk them into it). In-n-Out has the burgers figured out, but Backyard Burger (not sure of their whole domain, but I visit them in the St. Louis to Nashville area) has the best burger of any modestly sized chain – hands down. If you want a place with the best combination of sides, deserts and burgers, the Iceburg chain in Utah (and I think Idaho and Wyoming) is the king. Of course, when I’m on the road and time allows, I’ll travel a block or three off the mainstreets in small towns to find the mom & pop greasy spoon burger joints that look like they’ve been around for more than a decade or four. IF there’s a line, or if the quality of the cars in the parking lot seem much nicer than the decor of the establishment, I know I’ve struck gold.


CBH 04.23.07 at 8:14 pm

and to the commentor who likes Whitecastle (and Krystal, I’d presume) YOU ARE INSANE. If I need a laxative, I’ll take an Exlax, thank you!


Gene O'Grady 04.23.07 at 11:13 pm

Anyone who visits the Pacific Northwest should try the small chain called Burgerville, which manages to combine quality hamburgers and fries (from locally grown potatoes, of course) with fresh local products such as hazelnuts, marionberries, and salmon.

The furthest south (as their billboard tells you) is in Albany Oregon; I know there are others in the Portland area, Washington state, and maybe Idaho.

The prices are more fastfood than gourmet, by the way.


RETARDO 04.24.07 at 11:29 pm

Sonic’s fries are teh 5uxxor. Awful. Soggy nasty things. The tots are divine, though — especially if you order them with the melted glob of cheddar cheese on top. Their onion rings are good, too. As everyone else said, the drinks are great (Cherry Lime-Aid is awesome spiked, or at least that’s what cloudy memories of high school tell me to say). Burgers, not so much; I’d instead recommend Hardee’s (or Carl’s Jr., where you’re at) or better yet, Backyard Burger which is insanely good.

Our Sonic still sometimes does the carhops-on-roller-skates thing. But I think they finally got rid of the stupid window-tray thingy that always put you in gander of wearing your food.

There is a Sonic rip-off chain in Mississippi but I can’t remember the name of it; not quite as good as a true Sonic, IIRC.


RETARDO 04.24.07 at 11:31 pm

Uh, danger somehow came out as ‘gander’. Please no comments about Freudian slips and oggling skating car-hops.


Eszter 04.25.07 at 4:20 pm

I ate at an In-And-Out just a week ago, I think. It was the only place open that we could find around midnight driving down various LA highways. The people at the hotel sent us on a ridiculous hunt for food and this was the best we could come up with. It was okay, but only worth the 20 min wait, because we were starving.


Dave 04.25.07 at 6:12 pm

Enjoy your new In-N-Out! You may want to wait a few days for the line to die down, I hear it’s been a 1 hour wait to get your order in and a line of cars 100 deep. But it’ll be worth it.

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