Brace yourself: Eater Los Angeles has published drone photos of the long, long lines of cars in the drive-thru lanes at some of LA’s popular fast food spots, and the images are fascinating but almost viscerally unpleasant. From Krispy Kreme to Raising Cane’s, Hollywood to Gardena, each scene depicts an orderly, cone-riddled one-way vehicular rats nest.
I lived in Los Angeles near one of the city’s most popular In-N-Out Burger locations well before any pandemic, and I can attest that, whether ordering at the counter or the drive-thru, you were never In-N-Out in under 40 minutes. Hell, even Randy’s Donuts is a half-hour ordeal at the best of times. I can only imagine how much longer it’s taking now. No burger or fritter in the world is this good, is it?
Truthfully, I can’t possibly knock the residents of Los Angeles for their fast food fervor. Before its closure in 2014, it was a summer ritual of mine to spend hours in line at beloved Chicago institution Hot Doug’s. When the weather forecast was good, I’d pick up an iced coffee just before 8 a.m., walk the two miles to the hot dog emporium, and grab a spot near the front of the ever growing line until it opened at 10 a.m. (or maybe 10:30?). There was true camaraderie in the waiting: you’d ask, and be asked, if it was a first-time visit, and whether today’s order might include the duck fat fries. I had a friend who always brought Yahtzee dice and we’d play right on the pavement until our butts fell asleep. The hot dogs were an occasion, and the anticipation was a key part of the proceedings.
I suppose it’s the same principle if you head to an LA drive-thru with a roommate or significant other. As you inch forward in line, you can blast music, play games on your phone, maybe even invite the dog along for the ride—Eater even photographed a couple of savvy customers playing Nintendo Switch on their dashboard. “Together but apart” is the golden rule, and a packed fast food parking lot might be the image of our new normal.
As Eater points out, “Pandemic or not, dining in cars is a California tradition — and as these hour-long lines show, one not likely to go away any time soon.”