A few months ago I was at a friend’s holiday party. During one of the conversations I had, someone told me about an In-N-Out knockoff that exists in Queens. Legend has it that a former employee moved cross-country and took the chain’s secrets with him. If true, this would be LIFE CHANGING. I am a die hard In-N-Out fan, but I only make it out to the West Coast once a year at best. Could a replica be located right here in NYC? I decided to find out.
Before I hopped the G train out to Long Island City (home to one of the Petey’s locations; the other is in Astoria), I made sure to check out the website. It’s comically bad (has been under construction since 2015), but from what I could gather from the menu, it did seem like they were serving up some similar (if slightly more pricey) In-N-Out staples, right down to the “California Fries”, a not-so-subtle nod to Animal Style.
It took a few weekends before I could actually get my shit together and make the journey. I ended up pulling the trigger when a friend asked me to go with her to a dog adoption event at Dog Island City, which is in roughly the same vicinity as Petey’s. After hanging out with a beagle from Korea named Connie (who was very disinterested in us) for half an hour, we decided to throw in the pup towel and embark on our burger pilgrimage.
The unassuming exterior of the restaurant was not nearly as inviting as your average palm tree-laden In-N-Out; had I not received the hot tip in advance, there is little to no chance I’d have casually paid a visit. My expectations were fairly low when I ordered a Double Cheeseburger (aka a Double-Double) with everything on it, as well as California Fries. We’d made a pit stop at 5 Hammer Brewery for a beer beforehand, so I skipped out on the milkshakes. My total came to about $11, which is indeed more expensive than In-N-Out, but if you factor in the money saved on a cross-country flight, it was theoretically worth it.
The food took about the same amount of time to appear as it would have at In-N-Out, which I took as a good sign. Freshness dot com. The burger wrappers were very similar to In-N-Out as well, though I immediately noticed a glaring difference – the gigantic slice of pickle that was sticking out between the lettuce and tomato. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of pickles. I am just not used to them in an In-N-Out capacity. Would it change the flavor profile? Only time would tell.
So without further adieu, I dug in. And do you know what? It was INCREDIBLE. While I haven’t been to In-N-Out since September, and only a side-by-side comparison could afford a 100% accurate assessment, you could’ve told me you flew the burger in from LA and I’d have believed you. The pickle factor was the only thing that blew the cover off the Petey’s version. (If you’re looking for an exact replica, just asked them to hold that as a topping.)
The fries were also a very close match to In-N-Out’s signature Animal Style variety, but the cheese played the starring role, rather than the sauce. To be honest, I preferred Petey’s to In-N-Out. [INSERT GASPS OF HORROR!]
Was it the complete package? Of course not! It was cold and dreary AF, and there nary a palm tree or cheery, paper-hatted teenage employee to be seen. But if this is how I have to get my In-N-Out fix without making a trip to the other side of America, then so fucking be it! Of course, some might argue that the trek out to Queens is just as arduous, but to those people I say “SHUT UP, BEGGARS CAN’T BE CHOOSERS!”
This is just another example of why it’s great to live in NYC – why travel the world when the world consistently travels to you? Shout-out to Petey’s for shamelessly copying the greatest fast food chain in the United States, which has deprived us East Coasters of its bounty all this time. Life (and burgers) finds a way.
Petey’s is located at the following:
Astoria – 30-17 30 Avenue
LIC – 46-46 Vernon Boulevard