There are two kinds of burgers in this world — the fast food burger and the meal burger. Through my travels I have had the opportunity to sample the best and worst of both types. The most notable burgers are always the ones that have fresh ingredients and don’t waste your time with things that shouldn’t be there. The Ave in the U-District is home to yet another burger joint that is trying their best to perfect the burger recipe — Caliburger.
Located in the University District, Cali Burger is the new hot spot to get fast and cheap hamburgers.
While I’ve never visited an In-and-Out Burger restaurant in California, from what I’ve heard it is to die for. Caliburger, however, doesn’t make me want to visit anytime soon if it is supposed to be similar.
The first thing you notice when you go to Caliburger on The Ave is how bright and comforting it is. Full wall photographs of scenes from California, a giant multiscreen TV set playing some hip music video behind the scenes footage or something and big garage doors on the front — that I can imagine let in a lot of air and sun during the summer — all make you feel like you’ve been teleported out of the rainy Seattle life and into a Southern California boardwalk burger joint.
Good fast food burgers are hard to come by, because there’s a balance that needs to be obtained. Seattle has been lucky enough to have been graced by Dick’s-Drive-In as the local burger staple. Dick’s Deluxe burger, one of the best fast food burgers you can experience, gives you two patties ,some cheese, lettuce, mayo and a bun that isn’t too big all for just a few bucks. Sure, you sacrifice the luxury of eating inside and free refills, but the quality is there.
Unfortunately the “fun in the sun” Caliburger experience they are trying to sell you is not what you’re going to get. A quick look through the limited menu landed me with a “Cali Double” combo with some chopped onions, and a little explosion bubble told me to try my fries “Cali-Style,” so I did. Totalling about $12, I had high hopes for what was to come.
Caliburger tries to bring something fresh and different to experience in an area that doesn’t have a lot of knowledge of what many would call good California style burgers. After my visit to Caliburger, I don’t think Caliburger knows either and I don’t blame them seeing as they don’t even have a restaurant in California. Much to my surprise “Cali-Style” actually just means they put a bunch of lukewarm liquid cheese and thousand island dressing on top of your fries, which didn’t go down well with the uber greasy double patty cheeseburger I got. This particular style of fry is meant to mimic the iconic In-N-Out “animal style fries,” but it is a poor replacement.
With all its faults, there are many things that Caliburger does right. There was plenty of seating, free wifi, pleasant employees and it was very clean. They have their liquor license, so beers on tap are available as well as Stumptown cold brew coffee, milkshakes that you can get a shot of alcohol in, and a coke machine that gives you a million different selections. A tablet computer by the seating area gives you the chance to order milkshakes and fries from in case you wanted more or forgot to order some the first time around.
Eating at Caliburger is an experience much like eating a burger underwater: both experiences give you something to talk about and they both give you burgers that make you wish you hadn’t eaten for days afterwards. The Caliburger experience is a lot more about making you feel welcome and comfortable in the restaurant so you stay there for a long time, but they have completely neglected the part where the food should taste good. I give Caliburger 2-3 out 5 stars because that’s how many days it took me to recover from eating there.
Jarrod may be reached at [email protected]