Mystery solved: How a fresh, pristine In-n-Out burger ended up 1,500 miles away from the nearest franchise

To cleanse the palate, I owe you closure on this after having pronounced it the most compelling minor mystery in American news yesterday. The facts are straightforward: A guy walking down the block in Jamaica, Queens (i.e. greater NYC) a few days ago spotted an In-n-Out burger lying in the street, much to his surprise. Why surprise? Because there are no In-n-Out franchises east of Texas. And this burger didn’t look old. It looked fresh. Immaculate. Not soggy and worn, as a burger with all the fixins normally quickly would. How? “It genuinely shook me to my core,” said the burger’s discoverer, Lincoln Boehm, who’s apparently easily shaken.


One theory: Rich people. New York City has a lot of ’em! If Mike Bloomberg or any of several thousand other ultra-rich New Yorkers get a hankering for In-n-Out, they can have it delivered without a problem. But if some rich eccentric had ordered out to Texas, why was there just one burger in the street? Presumably the whole order would have been lost en route.

And why the hell was it in Jamaica? The rich folk live in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Another theory kicking around the Internet as this picked up media steam was that it was a viral marketing stunt by In-n-Out itself. What if they were planning to begin operations on the east coast and this was part of a still-secret promotion? First someone would find a random burger on the street in Jamaica. Then one would turn up in Staten Island. Then a few would be discovered in the Bronx. “NEW YORK ROCKED BY UNEXPLAINED BURGER INVASION,” the tabloids would scream. Were they being carried into the City by rats somehow? Were they multiplying of their own accord, like tribbles? And then, voila — In-n-Out would spill the beans about new locations in NYC and all would be revealed.

But there were no other burgers. And In-n-Out claimed to be “surprised” by the discovery. Hmmm.

My own theory from yesterday’s post: Either Boehm took the photo in some other city and was pranking the media about finding it in NYC to show that they’ll print anything without fact-checking *or* “someone brought some In-n-Out with them on a flight home to NYC from out west and then got careless at the curb outside their apartment when they were focused on unloading their luggage from the cab.”


I almost had it right. Boehm has a piece up at Vice today with the apparent solution to the mystery: A 16-year-old girl from Queens reached out to him after the story of his burger discovery went viral to say that the burger was almost certainly hers. It was one of several she bought at an In-n-Out in Encinitas, California, on the night of July 19, before a long red-eye flight home to New York. She told the employees there that she was going to eat them on the plane and over the course of the following day so they took the produce and sauce off and put those in separate containers to keep the burgers from getting soggy. She has screenshots of the gate at the airport terminal and even of the In-n-Out receipt. She landed in NYC early on the 20th and rushed to make the bus for home — where the fateful mishap happened:

She landed at JFK a bit earlier than her 5:27 am estimated arrival time (again, props to JetBlue) and immediately made her way to the JFK-Jamaica AirTrain. She got off in Jamaica to make her transfer to the Q44 bus that would take her back to her home in Flushing, Queens when she saw the bus sitting a block away at the stop, about to leave.

This was when her badminton training came in handy. She started running down the street to try and catch the bus with the now slightly greasy bag of three In-N-Out Burgers in her hand. The good news: She caught the bus. The bad news: The bag burst open at the bottom while she made this fateful sprint.

Again, thanks to her badminton training, her reaction time was elite enough to enable her to catch two of the three burgers before they fell to the ground. But once she sat down on the bus and caught her breath, she noticed that the Double-Double was missing—and she even has text exchanges to prove it.


There are in fact screenshots of a text exchange in which she tells a friend that one of her In-n-Out burgers was lost. That was around 5:30 a.m.; Boehm came strolling along an hour or so later, when the sauce-less, veggie-less burger would have been only 10 or so hours old.

And thus was the mystery solved. It turns out that, in the age of commercial flight, people can transport things long distances in short periods of time and then misplace them. Great.

Now we need to turn to the other major mystery involving In-n-Out, which is how anyone can willingly consume the cardboard garbage they call “fries.” Good lord.

Exit question: Now that that’s over, what’s the new best mystery in the news? I think it’s “How many years in prison will Michael Avenatti spend for allegedly defrauding Stormy Daniels?”

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David Strom 3:30 PM | June 20, 2024