In-N-Out over-hyped? Fast food critic weighs in

Special Reports

Former 'Simpsons' head writer Bill Oakley moonlights as a Portland-based fast food critic

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With all the excitement surrounding Thursday’s opening of an In-N-Out Burger in Keizer, Oregon, just 45 minutes from Portland, it can be easy to get caught up in the hype.

But comedy writer Bill Oakley, who moonlights as a Portland-based fast food critic on social media, says the burger fervor may be overblown.

“To be totally honest it probably was one of the best fast food burgers for about 40 or 50 straight years,” Oakley said. “I think the thing is that a lot of other burger places have upped their game since then. And now, it’s good, but it’s not in the top three or four.”

As for the cult following In-N-Out Burger has amassed, which contributed to its line-around-the-block gathering for the grand opening of its third Oregon location, Oakley points to its southern California roots as the culprit.

“It’s from southern California where everything is larger than life, everything is about hype. It really kind of embodies the whole southern California ’60s surfer type thing in the restaurants and so forth,” he explained. “It’s kind of like a trip back to the past and I think for people who grew up in California, it’s a nostalgia trip that just can’t be beat. For people who didn’t grow up in California, I think they often have question mark over their head.”

Though Oakley contends the food is still really good there, he doesn’t think it’s worth it to drive all the way from Portland just to try it. He insists there’s dozens of places right in the Rose City that are just as good or better, such as Super Deluxe or the food carts Burger Stevens or Hit the Spot.

In fact Oakley said he filmed a review of In-N-Out Burger in L.A. earlier this year, expecting that he would declare it the best fast food restaurant in existence. He was let down, though, and didn’t bother posting it.

Oakley is a former head writer for “The Simpsons,” and contributor to shows like “Futurama,” “Portlandia,” and Netflix’s “Disenchantment.” Since relocating to Portland in 2008, he’s started reviewing fast food on Instagram as a hobby, which he said he is now known for almost as much as being involved in famous TV shows. He’s been called the “the Gordon Ramsay of Fast Food” by The Wrap, despite not actually being a chef.

Besides reviewing food, Oakley is perhaps best known as the creator of the “steamed hams” joke on “The Simpsons,” a reference that is worth a Google search. Jojo PDX food cart even named a ham sandwich after him in honor of the joke.

Check out Oakley’s Instagram @thatbilloakley to see his annual “Steamie Awards,” a video award show for the best fast food joints he reviewed this year. The award show will be co-presented by a secret celebrity guest and streamed from Dec. 16-20.

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