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August 3, 2022

The Burger Wars- Texas VS California

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.

I am a homegrown Texas girl re-planted in a sunny California world.

I have experienced the best of both worlds. I grew up in Texas in the time of Ann Richards, the Houston Oilers, Gilley’s Bar with the famous mechanical bull, Janis Joplin and Whataburger. All of the things on this list are long gone with the exception of Whataburger.

Relocating to California has given me a whole new list of things to experience. Endless sun-kissed beach days, Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, movie star sightings, Disneyland and In-N-Out burgers.

During a recent trip back home to Texas, after the expected comments about my great tan and questions about who was the most famous movie star I had seen- Brad Pitt and Sam Elliott to answer your question- the inevitable debate began- Whataburger vs In-N-Out Burgers.

Wanting to honor my Texas roots and at the same time embrace my new California lifestyle I struggled to give them an answer we could all live with. You see, this is an extremely important question to both loyal Texans and well cultured Californians.

The long lines snaking around most In-N-Out fast food restaurants imply that it is worth the 45 minute wait to taste this burger. And it is a tasty burger. The patty itself is smaller than what you might expect or hope for. The incredibly fresh vegetable toppings ( you would expect nothing less from a California vegetable), the crispy, green leafy lettuce, the vibrant red thick sliced tomato, the pucker worthy pickles and the sharp taste of the ring of onion (always optional), paired with their rich, creamy secret sauce all nestled between a fragrant toasted bun will definitely have you waiting in their famously long lines. In-N-Out is always the pick for my grandsons fast food Friday treat and I have never said no to one either.

But then there is the Whataburger. Just the name conjures up memories that are making my mouth water as I type- which might explain why, when you hear a Texan pronounce the name of their favorite burger joint it almost sounds like they are saying water burger.

There is an unmistakable aroma that comes from the iconic orange and white bag that holds your order. It makes it nearly impossible to wait till you get home to unwrap all that deliciousness. The usual vegetables are there but definitely not as big a part of the show as with the California choice. It’s the combination of the tangy yellow mustard ( no good Texan worth his weight in burgers would ever put mayonnaise or secret sauce on their burger) and the briny old fashioned dill pickle rounds with the peppery beef patty and grill toasted bun that distinguishes this burger from its counterpart.

In my mind though, what really sets the two apart and makes me want to jump back on a Houston bound plane to sink my teeth into another Whataburger, are the memories this burger conjures up. It’s the family trips to buy new school shoes with the promise of a stop there for lunch. It’s sitting in the park with my best friend munching on our burgers and fries, consoling each other about the boys who weren’t noticing us. It’s the more recent memory of sitting with that same best friend, both of us gray haired and wrinkled now, at her dining room table, making joyful noises as we devoured our burgers and laughed and cried as we retold all the stories from the good old days.

I know I should prefer the healthier version of the fresh vegetable laden In-N -Out burger, but my nose, my tastebuds and my heart will always prefer the  memory laden sandwich that is the Whataburger.

“We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” Winnie the Pooh

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