The guy who on Thursday morning provided the very first review of the new In-N-Out Burger on Rosedale Highway appeared to know what he was talking about.
Former Bakersfield resident Sam Vonderheide said he and his family have visited 313 In-N-Out locations since early July. They got a tour of the new location at 8:30 a.m. Thursday after spending the night before in a car in the restaurant's parking lot.
Decked out in a hat, neck gaiter, shirt, socks and shoelaces all bearing the burger chain's imagery, the high-school teacher from Templeton immediately spotted distinctions between the new location and Bakersfield's two others. There was a different wallpaper design and new architectural touches, choices of tile color and seating.
"It's like a nicer look," he said, calling the new restaurant near Coffee Road clean and classic. "I like style, you know?"
Right — but how's the food?
"Food is great!" he said, adding it's consistent across the whole chain because of the family-owned company's insistence on extensive training. "They are insane about quality control."
Vonderheide wasn't the only one impressed Thursday. Bakersfield resident Jody Piner bought a meat patty with no salt for each of the three dogs in the back seat of her truck.
"Oh my God they love them," said Piner, who also purchased five takeout cheeseburgers for her grandchildren.
The Baldwin Park-based chain, now with 362 locations across several states from Oregon to Texas, employs about 60 people at the new location, which opened 30 years after Bakersfield's first In-N-Out on Panama Lane.
Vice President of Operations Denny Warnick, who was on hand Thursday overseeing the launch and taking questions from news media, said Bakersfield residents had made it clear they wanted a location in the city's northwest, even though the new one is only about four miles from one on Stockdale Highway.
"Bakersfield has just been a wonderful place to do business here for us," he said.
The company is grateful for the city's support, he added: "We're very thankful for the loyal customers that we have."
Warnick said the new restaurant his still hiring.
Most of the customers filing into the new location Thursday picked the drive-thru, which moved steadily as a team of several dozen In-N-Out workers took and processed incoming orders.
Vonderheide said for breakfast he had ordered a "Double-double" with extra cheese extra-melted and cooked "animal-style," meaning a burger with grilled onions and a mustard-grilled patty.
To drink he ordered — again, off the menu — a "Coke float." That's a Coca-Cola with the company's soft-serve vanilla ice cream added in.
"We've tied a lot of interesting combinations" during the family's travels, Vonderheide said. For example, a strawberry shake mixed with 7-Up soda tastes like a Starburst candy, he said.
Thursday's opening event was enjoyable and well run, he said, which is what he has come to expect of the chain.
"There's just a lot of energy" with openings, he said.