Why does this keep happening? And why now? Why did everyone and their mom decide to make a run at the king at the same damn time?
First, Shake Shack truthers rolled into town saying In-N-Out’s reign was over. Then CaliBurger—the comically blatant knockoff that started in China and got sued because they tried to steal the term Animal Style—stormed the gate and announced a Pasadena location.
Now, in one of the most swagger jackingest moves of all time, Carl’s Jr. comes out with California Classic Double Cheeseburger, featuring—and this is verbatim from the website—“double meat, double cheese, grilled onions, thousand island, lettuce, and tomato on a plain bun.”
Anyone who knows anything about ground meat on bread can tell you that those are the exact components of an In-N-Out Double-Double; that part’s obvious. But there’s a strange, alarming piece in the California Classic puzzle: the so-called Thousand Island dressing.
This is about to get all jet-fuel-doesn’t-melt-steel-beams-y here, but if you go to Carl’s Jr.’s online ingredients list, Thousand Island is nowhere to be found. It just doesn’t exist. But maybe the list just hasn’t updated, right? After all, the California Classic only came out a week ago. Sure, believe that if you want, but let’s dive a little deeper and see how far the rabbit hole goes.
Pink ketchup and mayonnaise sauce, which is central to the In-N-Out culinary ethos, only appears on one other sandwich at Carl’s Jr., and it too is a terrifyingly obvious rip-off. The Big Carl (take that Ray Kroc!) that debuted circa 2009 has “Classic Sauce” to mimic the Big Mac’s “Special Sauce.” Not only is the Classic Sauce the only pink viscous substance to appear on Carl’s Jr.’s official ingredients list, if you go onto their interactive online menu and click the “Sauces” drop down menu for the California Classic Double Cheeseburger, all you’ll see is “Classic Sauce.”
Wait a minute, Carl. I thought there was Thousand Island on the burger. Is it Thousand Island or Classic Sauce? What exactly am I eating here?
CARL’S JR. IS LITERALLY USING THE SAME SAUCE UNDER TWO DIFFERENT NAMES TO RIP OFF TWO DIFFERENT FAST-FOOD COMPETITORS THAT USE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SAUCES MADE WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT INGREDIENTS. MCDONALD’S SPECIAL SAUCE GETS ITS PINK COLOR FROM TURMERIC AND PAPRIKA EXTRACT AND IN-N-OUT’S SPREAD USES KETCHUP. WHY ARE YOU NOT OUTRAGED BY THIS? BIG FOOD IS TRYING TO DUPE US ALL.
It gets weirder.
Take a look at this California Classic commercial featuring Jay Mohr and 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year/Los Angeles football messiah Todd Gurley. Nine seconds into the video, Mohr starts to list off the key ingredients: “Double meat and cheese, grilled onions, Thousand Island.”
Run the video back a few times and turn the volume all the way up. Something sounds off. After he says “grilled onions” there’s a strange break in sound before he says “Thousand Island.” It’s a blatant example of automated dialogue replacement (ADR), where Mohr’s voice was recorded after the initial video was shot and dubbed in. But why? An actor as accomplished as Jay Mohr should be able to nail “Thousand Island” in one take, right? Unless that’s not what he was saying at all. Look closely at his mouth at the 11 second mark. You can almost see it making out the letters “C-L-A-S-S-I”—my God, how deep does this thing go???
Carl’s Jr.’s press team did not immediately respond to our request for comment, so I randomly dialed a few locations to see what’s up. I asked Jerry from a store in Los Angeles if the sauce on the Big Carl and the California Double were the same. He said they were. I asked him if they both had Thousand Island or if they both had Classic sauce. “Thousand Island and Classic Sauce are the same thing, they just call them two different names,” said Jerry quite calmly, apparently sharing none of my same outrage. “I don’t know why.”
I think I know why, Jerry. Even though Thousand Island dressing originated as a ritzy salad topper in the Thousand Islands region along the St. Lawrence River sometime in the early 1900s, if you look at Wikipedia’s entry for modern-day uses, you’ll see a familiar name drop.
Even though In-N-Out never directly uses the term Thousand Island, they are clearly connected in the public’s collective consciousness.
So, Carl’s Jr. is deliberately misrepresenting their Classic Sauce—which was originally meant to mimic McDonald’s Special Sauce—as Thousand Island to more directly capitalize on the In-N-Out association, and they’re dragging future perennial Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley into their web of deception. And I’m mad about it.
tl;dr: I had the California Classic Double Cheeseburger for lunch yesterday. It was ok. Kinda tasted like In-N-Out.