When it comes to California history, there is certainly a lot. One aspect of California history that has become a staple of American life is fast food. Yes, one could argue that fast food started right here in Southern California, and while not typically viewed as “important” history, fast food is certainly a cultural phenomenon that has gone on to have reaches around the world. A big part of fast food is the drive-thru, and they very first restaurant to do that was In-N-Out Burger. In-N-Out lost its very first location to the building of the freeways, but a few years ago, In-N-Out decided to built a replica of that first restaurant.
Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out in 1948 in Baldwin Park, and in doing so, he came up with not one, but two now standard operations for fast food, the drive-thru and two-way speaker. Until then most burger joints were walk-ups and/or drive-ins with carhops who both took your order and gave you your food.
In-N-Out has always prided itself on its ingredients and being a family affair. In the beginning Harry shopped at local butchers for his meat and vegetable markets to purchase fresh ingredients every morning. Today In-N-Out carefully controls its ingredients with its very own processing facilities located within short distances to each of their restaurants. While Harry cooked and served burgers and fries from his no-frills (but absolutely adorable) ten foot by ten foot burger stand, his wife, Esther, did the bookkeeping.
Three years after opening this tiny stand, the Snyders opened a second location. In 1957 Interstate 10 began construction, and their first little stand was smack in the middle of where the freeway was going in. The Snyders moved operations literally a few feet and built things a little bigger. The following year they had five locations.
Inspired by one of his favorite films, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which featured palm trees that created a “W” to mark where a treasure was buried, Harry started planting crossed palms at In-N-Out locations beginning in 1972, marking each as his own “treasure.” Just a few years later, another treasure was introduced the famed annual In-N-Out shirts. In-N-Out continued to grow slowly, and opting not to go the franchise route, like that of other Southern California fast food chain McDonald’s.
On December 14, 1976, Harry passed away, and the now legendary In-N-Out was left in the hands of his and Esther’s sons. Today In-N-Out has over 350 locations in seven states, all overseen by Harry and Esther’s granddaughter.
Aware of their beloved status from people all over, in 2014, In-N-Out chose to honor their history and build this replica of their first location just a few feet from where the original once stood. Visitors can pull in for a photo opt of the first drive-thu that changed fast food history and even get a tour of the inside, complete with vintage equipment. While this wee burger stand doesn’t serve food, you can stop by the newer In-N-Out just on the other side of the freeway and bring your burger and fries over here to eat at one of the picnic tables.
Also next door to the operating In-N-Out is the In-N-Out Company Store and University. The University is where new associates go to train, and is built on the location of the Snyder home. The Company Store sells the iconic t-shirts as well as lots of other goodies.
Visit the replica of the first In-N-Out at 13752 Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park. As of our visit, the replica is open Thursday through Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The Company Store is located at 13800 Francisquito Avenue, however it’s important to note that the Company Store is closed on Sundays.