Whenever I come to California, I make sure I always have a bite at an IN-N-OUT, definitely the best hamburger restaurant on the planet.
It has become an institution here in the Golden State since the first restaurant opened in 1948 and there are good reasons why that is.
Not only do they use natural, fresh ingredient, but they also have a great employee policy, so you can eat a burger and have a good (social) conscience.
The other day, I went to the IN-IN-OUT on Sunset Blvd (between La Brea and N Highland)....
... and I talked to the manager for a little while. A very nice guy. He has been working with them more than 20 years and one of his employees has been there 18 years. Not something you see in any other fast-food chain.
The meat is fresh, not frozen, and you can see the potatoes they use for the fries in the back kitchen. It is actually one of the only positive mentions in Fast Food Nation - a fascinating book on an investigation of the fast food industry that everyone should read -The manager there also told me that it is difficult for IN-N-OUT to expand out east because it takes a lot of logistic to get the right fresh meat.
What I did not know though was that it is still a family business - owned by the grandchild of the founder. The manager there told me that they have a great employee policy, and indeed, unlike other fast food chains, they pay their employees significantly more than state and federally-mandated minimum wage. They also have all sort of positive incentives for their best employees - the guy told me he made a few trips to Europe thank to the company.
The other good thing is that their menu is very simple: three burger varieties: hamburger, cheeseburger, and "Double-Double" (or 2X2) - with or without onions and french fries.
But then, there's also their "secret menu" - the stuff that is not on the menu but that you can still order. I was told about it a few years back by friends here in CA, and it is fun because it makes you feel really special, like you're a local or something, which is always good when you're not.