No. 7, Alley 7, Lane 205,ZhongXiao E. Road, Sec. 4
website: Caliburger's FB page
$$ (NT$275+ per person)
Kid friendliness: yes
Visit reviewed: 4/11/2015
To the casual burger fan, Caliburger would appear to be very close to In N Out- the style of the burger, the fries, the dousing of thousand island dressing and cheese and onions, the palm trees and cherry red trays. But to those who grew up on In N Out, it might not satisfy completely- it might just make you long a little more for the real thing.
Caliburger took over the space from the previous Sanrio Cafe Kiko's Diner and kept most of the same seating format- except that it tore down the front register and moved it in front of the semi open kitchen. I went during its soft opening, when they were still training the staff and working out the flow in the kitchen, so our burgers took quite a long time. Thanks Caliburger for the sneak peek and the tasting- I know things will run smoother as your team gets more experience.
Though my meal was comped, the Cali Combos were slightly more expensive than I expected- NT$275 for a Caliburger (that's a cheeseburger), fries and drink, while a Calidouble combo bumps you up to NT$345. The burger alone costs NT$175 and the Calidouble is NT$245. Usually when I'm in LA at In N Out, I get just the burger and fries which according to current prices is US$2.10 and US$1.60, let's say with tax is around US$4. I think lower prices for a better-than-fast-food meal is one the things that makes In-N-Out a favorite in the states, besides its taste. With so many burger places now (and NT$80 bentos) in Taipei, Caliburger will need to keep its prices competitive. Even BLT Burger has already closed. Anyone else remember Burger Stop? They tried to bring double stack burger combos to Taipei for under NT$200.
I'd never heard of Caliburger until In-N-Out did its one day pop up in Taipei (confirmed to be really In-N-Out via twitter), and I did research on what other pop ups they were doing outside of the US and why. Part of it is to protect their trademark which Caliburger stepped on when it marketed itself as having "double doubles" and "animal style fries" when they opened its first store in Shanghai in 2012. The similarities to In-N-Out were not an accident- Caliburger's chef de cuisine Jonathan Wong was a manager at In-N-Out in Northern California and has said that "the model was In-N-Out." In-N-Out caught wind and sued, and the case was settled out of court with an undisclosed agreement. Since then, Caliburger has added shops in Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Manila, Dubai, Bahrain, with locations set to open in DC, London, Stockholm and In-N-Out territory, Los Angeles.
So is it worth trying? I always think it's worth trying on your own, since everyone has different tastes, but I wouldn't wait in a long line for it. Whether or not you love it, I think will depends on how hardcore you are.
I thought the fries were spot on (especially knowing how hard it is to get fries that also look like In N Out's with Taiwan potatoes, having seen and eaten fresh cut fries at Burger and Co and Lobster Bar that were sweeter and browner). Personally I liked the plain fries over the
animal style, excuse me, wild style fries, but I don't love Animal style fries to begin with. Too much going on with the thousand island dressing, grilled onions and cheese- I'd prefer it on the burger.
I thought the Caliburger was good, the meat, the veggies, the sauce, except I really disliked the bun. The bun was too sweet for me, but it might not be a deal breaker to some. Hopefully they'll keep working on it and make it less sweet. Note you can also ask to have your onions grilled for your burger instead of raw. The beef patty is made from Australian beef.
I found myself comparing the Caliburger to Burger and Co, my current fave for American style burgers, or to those from the newly opened gastropub Bing. I'd say those are my two go-to places for burgers these days, unless I'm watching a movie and grabbing a Whopper. Burger and Co recently also opened a second shop in Tianmu I'm looking forward to checking out.