The last notes of the fight song rang out as the crowd began spilling onto the field. The football players lined up to shake hands, one side dejected and the other side thrilled. I stood in the band section among my fellow trumpet players, ready to play our alma mater (which went to the tune of “O Christmas Tree” for some unknown reason). The first football game of my freshman year had come to an end, and after looking forward to being in the high school marching band for all of middle school, I was not disappointed. Little did I know, the evening wasn’t over; we were headed to Whataburger.
For four years, this is what my fall Friday nights regularly looked like. Sometimes our team won; usually our team lost. Regardless of the final score, one thing remained consistent: the post-game party at Whataburger.
Before you read any further, let’s get a few things straight: first, I am from Texas. Second, I really like Whataburger. When I visit home, I almost always end up there at some point. But third — and I’m preparing myself for the death threats that are sure to come — it’s a pretty average fast food restaurant.
I like it a lot. Really, I do! But I think that most of my fondness for the iconic orange and white restaurant comes from the association it has with fun memories. I spent my high school years in a town with a population of less than 4,000 people, so there wasn’t much to do. We had to drive for 30 minutes to get to the nearest movie theater or bowling alley, and the local skating rink wasn’t that exciting after you turned 13. So where did we go? You guessed it — Whataburger.
Since coming to school in Arkansas, I’ve been surprised to see how many Texans try to force their beloved restaurant onto their non-Texan friends. In some opinions, it seems like a person just hasn’t experienced culinary greatness until they try a honey butter chicken biscuit, and how dare someone claim that any ketchup is better than Whataburger Fancy Ketchup! But friends, here’s the thing: to someone who didn’t grow up with it, Whataburger is most likely just another fast food restaurant.
So, to my fellow students from the Lone Star State: not everyone loves Whataburger. It holds a special place in our hearts, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But your roommate from Ohio probably isn’t going to cry tears of joy when they try it for the first time, just like you may not be overly impressed by Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili.
To those not from Texas: I’m sorry that we tend to be a bit obnoxious. Be patient with us, and if you do get the chance to eat Whataburger, I suggest the honey barbecue chicken strip sandwich — it’s a little more interesting than a cheeseburger.
And to my friends from California: go back to the top of this column and replace every “Whataburger” with “In-N-Out.” You need to hear this, too.