FOOD: The Californization of Utah Valley

Written by Chance Clift on . Posted in Food

Inside the belly of the California beast.

Inside the belly of the California beast's brand new location in the heart of Utah Valley.

November 19, 2009, will forever go down in history as the day Utah County got “hella chill.”

Today, I decided to witness the Californization of Utah with the grand opening of Orem’s In-N-Out Burger. I wasn’t really that hungry, but it was a local cultural event. Besides, I already slept through the meteor shower earlier this week, so I had to get my shared experience fix for the week — and I knew there would be some prime people watching to be done at the In-N-Out opening.

When I arrived at around 3:15 p.m. on opening day, the line went about 20 feet outside the door. “Oh no,” I thought. “I’ll definitely be late for class.” But, to my surprise, I got my order taken within 15 minutes, with only a 10 minute wait afterwards to get my food.

While waiting in line, there was already an excitement in the air. Employees stood by the door, greeting both Utah natives and transplants alike. They handed out pamphlets about In-N-Out, including nutritional information. Two bro-esque gentlemen in front of us smugly declined the pamphlets when offered, as if to say, “It’s cool. We’re from Cali. We’re In-N-Out vets. We just longboarded here uphill from Raintree; we don’t need your pamphlet!”

As I entered the doors of this hallowed, still spotless building, I saw the army of employees behind the counter, a machine as well-oiled as their fries. For many of the employees, this discipline and business sense no doubt comes from their years in BYU’s MBA program. I didn’t know who to feel more sorry for — the college graduates wearing the red, white and yellow hats, or me, for not scoring their job.

I expected this event to cater to two kinds of people: California natives that wished they were still in California, and Provo natives who wish they were born in California. While looking around at the crowd inside the restaurant, though, I realized something: this was the most diverse, yet unified group of people I had ever seen in Utah County.

Here was every social group in the valley, and yet they were all equals. Yuppie grandmas and hooded hardcore kids were eating the same fries. The condiments used may have been different, but they were essentially eating the same thing.

Unlike most clubs, cliques or cults, everyone feels welcome at In-N-Out. No cryptic handshakes are needed to order off of the “secret menu” and, unlike the band you discovered before anyone else, the more people that enjoy an animal-style Double-Double, the better.

In-N-Out is also a final frontier of burger joints who call a spade a spade, and admit with pride that they are, in fact, just a burger joint. Like a Facebook profile, void of the HTML customization of its social networking predecessor, In-N-Out is one of the few restaurants in this complicated world that still teaches us this universal lesson: no matter what the content of our personal profiles, we are all more alike than we really think.

Chance Clift is Rhombus’ newest contributor. He is NOT from California and is NOT “chill,” “random” or “spontaneous,” — and neither are you.

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