Update: This venue has recently moved locations to One Prime Mall, Hongkou. The Yanping Lu location has closed, but Caliburger have advised another Jingan location will open in 2013.
CaliBurger, the new burger joint that models itself after cult California brand In-N-Out, has opened its doors after much curiosity and debate over its copycat origins. With some pre-opening changes (courtesy of a lawsuit brought by In-N-Out) to the menu and interior now finished, the brand is free to start serving its burgers, fries and spiked shakes.
So how does it compare to the original In-N-Out? The hamburgers, which range from 28RMB for a basic burger to 48RMB for the ‘Cali Double’ (pictured), are impressive. The buns, from East Balt China Bakery, aren’t as pillowy as the Californian originals, but the Yunnan lettuce delivers the same gratifying crunch and the Land O’ Lakes cheese melts perfectly.
Meanwhile, CaliBurger’s ‘special sauce’, a tangy in-house mixture, is not served chilled as it is at In-N-Out, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Grilled onions for the ‘wild style’ burgers are left to simmer in meat drippings on the grill, giving them a sensuous, slightly blackened taste.
An improvement upon In-N-Out’s original model are the fries, freshly pared and shredded, and generously seasoned with a salt-and-pepper mix rendered extra-fine by an old-fashioned mortar and pestle.
On the drinks side, CaliBurger deviates from In-N-Out’s plain vanilla milkshakes by adding a hearty dash of Jim Beam bourbon (28RMB). Beer and the house label wine (a steal at 132RMB/bottle) are also served.
Californian John Miller, one of six international investors in CaliBurger, says he saw a need for healthier fast food options during his many visits to China. He and local partner David Sun, who was vice president of operations for McDonald’s when it first entered mainland China, say that this approach differentiates CaliBurger from other fast food competitors. Sun goes so far as to describe it as the first premium, healthy fast food concept in China. There are no warming lamps, and no food sits pre-made in the kitchen. Instead, everything is made fresh.Blessing Waung