Columbia: Caliburger

The following review is the first of hopefully many posts by my good friend and guest blogger, Stu. 

Earlier this Month, LiketheteaEATS was invited to attend the media opening of Caliburger in Columbia, Maryland near the Columbia Mall. For those unfamiliar with Caliburger, you’re not alone. While based in California, it is relatively unknown in the country. The vast majority of its stores are overseas. Caliburger, as the name suggests, describes itself as a quick serve restaurant that “brings that all-out California spirit and lifestyle to you.” It operates under the mindset of “fresh tastes best, that selection matters, [and] that service still counts.” It has been referred to as an imitator of the ubiquitous InNOut Burger, which can be found all over the western United States. After doing a little pre-meal research, my girlfriend and I entered Caliburger, not knowing exactly what to expect.

Caliburger
Caliburger

When we walked in, we were greeted by their simple menu.  The company’s Chief Operating Officer was on hand to help with the opening of the store. He described the menu as “narrow but deep.”

Caliburger Menu
Caliburger Menu

The concept of Caliburger is to offer a simple menu of only a few items, but do them exceptionally well. After perusing the menu, my girlfriend opted for the cheeseburger, while I decided to try the Chipotle BBQ chicken sandwich. We got the combo with both sandwiches, which included fries and a drink. I upgraded to a chocolate shake at the suggestion of the cashier, though I never need much encouragement when chocolate shakes are involved. (Side note: other Caliburger locations are able to offer boozy milkshakes, but the liquor laws of Maryland make that option difficult for this location.)

We ordered and sat down to await our meals. The decor of the restaurant has a very vibrant  and “California” feel.  The bright colors and panels on the wall make me think I’m not too far from the beaches of LA or the tall trees of the Redwood Forest. While not operable tonight, we were entertained by a demonstration of a 4-panel television display which will allow guests to play an interactive game through the restaurant’s app. While a wall of entertainment is not reason I particularly choose a dining establishment, I can certainly see how it would be engaging for patrons while eating (or a much needed distraction for kids allowing parents a quiet moment to eat).

Caliburger Decor
Caliburger Decor

After a short wait, our food arrived. Our meals were nicely presented on a metal tray. The presentation is appealing, but the way the sandwiches are wrapped makes it a little hard to share one tray, so I asked for a second one.

Burgers and Fries
Burgers and Fries

I’ll start with the mediocre review: the fries and the shake were nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, the regular fries and chocolate shake I had were both solid items, but they were nothing exceptional.My girlfriend was enticed to try her fries “Calistyle”, which is their normal seasoned fries but topped with melted American cheese, grilled sweet onions and Caliburger’s signature sauce. She enjoyed her Calistyle fries quite a bit. A good tip though, is to eat the fries and sauce as soon as you can before they get cold. Soggy fries and sauce just gets messy.

Calistyle Fries
Calistyle Fries

My girlfriend really enjoyed her cheeseburger. She said it tasted fresh and was cooked well. Caliburger’s mantra of “Always Fresh” carries over with never frozen burgers, and the difference certainly is in the taste.

Cheeseburger
Cheeseburger

For me, the best part of the meal, and Caliburger generally, is the BBQ Chicken Sandwich. The restaurant’s house-made Chipotle BBQ sauce is a deliciously complex bbq sauce with enough heat and flavor to make you appreciate the taste, but not too strong to overpower the chicken. The salty pickles and crisp tomatoes help to cut some of the heat from the sauce, but in a way that compliments the lemon and herb marinated chicken and allows it to still be the star of the show. The sandwich also includes bacon for good measure. For someone who is not a fan of intense heat, I found the sauce to be just right (and the shake did help quell a few particularly spicy bites). The only missing component I thought which kept the chicken from being truly Californian was the presence of avocado.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich
BBQ Chicken Sandwich

We spoke a little more to the COO before leaving. Because the restaurant is often compared to In-N-Out, I asked about any “secret” menu items. He offered up a few suggestions, such as the ability to order any burger “Calistyle” or wrapped in lettuce. I was puzzled why a lettuce-wrapped sandwich would be considered a “secret menu item” when so many other prominent chains make lettuce-wrapped sandwiches prime menu items.

As you can see from the menu above, the only “non-meat” option is the grilled cheese. While we didn’t order it ourselves, it was described to us as “the cheeseburger with everything except the burger,” i.e., lettuce, tomato, onion, and melted cheese on a bun (with the added option of bacon). I’m sure it’s good, but the concept of grilled cheese on a burger bun seems strange to me.

Overall, Caliburger is a solid place for lunch or a meal out. The vibe is trendy and the food is dependably delicious. Try the BBQ chicken sandwich and you won’t be disappointed!

Caliburger is located at 10000 Town Center Ave, Columbia.

Drooling for more? Follow LiketheteaEATS on Instagram or Facebook.

Looking for a place to eat? Check out Rachel’s Baltimore Restaurant List.

Want to drink and have reliable transportation? Consider Lyft or Uber.

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