With spring break here, I’ve been approached by numerous California-bound friends wondering what and how to order at In-N-Out. Whether you’re traveling west to sip Tecate on a San Diego beach, or wind down Lombard Street’s hairpin turns, no visit to the Golden State is complete without an In-N-Out voyage. And as a born and bred Californian, In-N-Out devotee, and connoisseur of all things edible, I’m here to help.

First and foremost, you will be a ordering a “double double animal style add chopped chilis” unless, like my 13-year-old brother, you have an aversion to beef with heat, or, like my 75-year-old grandmother, consuming chopped chilis would send you into a digestive downward spiral of indefinite duration. Animal Style is non-negotiable and by speaking these sacred words you ensure mustard grilled patties, onions browned in surplus beef fat, crisp iceberg lettuce, extra pickles, juicy tomatoes, gooey American cheese and a hearty slathering of Secret Sauce, otherwise known as crack spread. And if you’re a vegetarian, do not fret. “Animal Style grilled cheese” is a great alternative and includes all aforementioned components sans meat.

In-N-Out’s fries are notoriously subpar, hence the tendency by most In-N-Out goers to order them Animal Style (smothered in grilled onions, Secret Sauce, and cheese). Since you’ll already be ordering an Animal Style burger, I advocate a path that is both ulterior and superior. “Cheese fries with spread packets on the side” grants you a paper boat of fries blanketed in melted cheese and the option to douse them in crack spread at your discretion. Ordering your fries like this, as opposed to Animal Style, also means that the bottom layer remains untouched by savory sauce or cheese, ensuring optimal milkshake dippage.

This brings us to the question of beverage, to which I answer, shake is sacrosanct. Each of the classic shake variations—vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry—arrives thick enough to occasion an inner cheek workout, but a few minutes of meltage gives way to velvety, frost-kissed bliss. For the indecisive, a Neapolitan shake boasts all three flavors swirled into one divine amalgam. Black and white (half vanilla, half chocolate) is yet another commendable choice. Regardless of your shake selection, fry dipping is a must.
After almost two decades of weekly, if not biweekly, consumption, I offer you a foolproof algorithm for guaranteeing the most comprehensive In-N-Out experience possible. Here are the keys to the kingdom. Go forth and devour!

Illustration: Yasmin Ahram

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