Like many of my fellow culturally astute Utahns, I have crossed borders and sampled fine cuisine elsewhere, including, and perhaps topped by, the fabled burgers and fries at the California-based In-N-Out burger chain.

So I was intrigued by what I heard a couple of weeks ago when our family, returning from a California vacation, stopped at the In-N-Out just off the freeway in Las Vegas — the closest In-N-Out location to the Wasatch Front — and a woman saw my daughter's "Park City" T-shirt and guessed, "You're from Utah."

That established, she proceeded to tell us about a new place "back home" in American Fork called Chadder's that she said is an imitation of In-N-Out, although the food isn't as good.

Otherwise, she said, the color scheme, the simple menu, the layout of the building — pure In-N-Out plagiarism.

"I hear In-N-Out wants to sue them," she added.

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On a recent trip to Provo, I exited at American Fork and found Chadder's.

It wasn't hard to spot with all that red-and-white — not exactly colors of choice in Utah County.

The restaurant is located across from a Smith's Food & Drug and a Zions Bank — two Utah originals — but it looked enough like the California original in question that for a minute I thought I was back in Santa Barbara.

Although it wasn't exactly the same.

One difference was the lack of a long line snaking out the door. Another was zero palm trees in the landscaping.

Still another was a sign that said, "No Taking Pictures Allowed Inside of Restaurant — The Management." You don't find that at In-N-Out.

Suspecting the sign might have something to do with the rumored lawsuit, after I ordered a No. 2 — cheeseburger, fries and a drink, which by the way is the same as a No. 2 at In-N-Out — I asked the cashier why it was there.

"I don't know why, but I do get asked that a lot," she said, as if reading off a cue card. "I tell people it's because I'm having a bad hair day but they don't believe me."

Later, when my order was called, I asked a woman at the counter who appeared to be in charge, "So are you like the Utah version of In-N-Out?"

She said, "Of who?"

I said, "In-N-Out. They're a popular California burger chain."

She said, "Why would you say that?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "You look alike."

She turned her head in the direction of the menu board and pointed at the blue trim around the traditional In-N-Out colors of red, white and yellow and asked, rather defensively, I thought, "Do they have blue?"

I said I couldn't remember.

She then asked, "Are you from In-N-Out?"

"Nope," I said, "just curious."

As I dined I heard the four guys at the next table talking about how much this place was like In-N-Out. Other than the food's not as good.

"So you think so too?" I said.

"Yeah," they said. "I hear In-N-Out is suing them."

I mentioned that I'd heard the same thing as I dipped my fries in the complimentary fry sauce, a Utah invention that we all know is the Beehive State's major contribution to the culinary universe.

Then I recalled that three weeks ago when we were in California, and again in Las Vegas, I noticed that In-N-Out was offering, for the first time in my experience, complimentary packets of its special sauce. Which is a lot like fry sauce.

Coincidence?

Maybe Chadder's can sue 'em back.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.