The two most common words from my previous reviews of CaliBurger’s now closed outlets in Umm Suqeim and Sheikh Zayed Road were In-N-Out and imitator. I also asked if it’s plucky or plain stupid to base one’s business model so blatantly on someone else’s. Yet here we are again with the same old wannabe story. This time, however, the once mighty CaliBurger, darling of Dubai, has been relegated to the backstreets of Barsha, opposite a third-rate bargain basement Pakistani restaurant – really? Thankfully, its interior is familiar, similar to the old outlets. In fact, it looks like they may be using the same old furniture. If nothing, it adds to the hipster-Californian look but definitely not the feel: the bored-out-of-their-minds staff saw to that.
We are as much to blame, because more times than not, we are the ones who fuel the myth that there is some connection between CaliBurger and In-N-Out (@innout). My food buddy, Jack, is a prime example; he walked straight up to the counter and ordered a double double “animal-style” from the supposed secret menu. Dude, there is no secret menu because this isn’t In-N-Out. But then it’s my turn and I ask if they can do the same for my single. The girl behind the counter doesn’t so much as blink, playing her part with academy award precision – of course we can, she replies – would you like to upsize to a meal? You just gotta love the unashamed audacity of it all. Yet no where on the menu or anywhere in the restaurant is there any mention of In-N-Out, double double or animal style….
The CaliDouble and the Cheeseburger are both a joy to behold. They’re served facing up, smiling at you. The first two words I said after my first bite were Shake Shack (@shakeshackme). But things quickly got confused after my second and third bites, the lettuce and sauce and whatever else they had in there overpowering that initial (and quite mind-blowing) seared meat taste; the inner condiments also contributed to this being one of the messiest burgers I have had. Ultimately, I was totally underwhelmed – the first bite euphoria fuelling my disappointment. The fries were equally disappointing. Jack seemed happier than me with his double double. And perhaps, reminded by that phrase, I found myself reciting a long-forgotten chant as I left this new incarnation of CaliBurger – double double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble…
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join his culinary journey on Instagram: @ravenousxerxes or reach out to him via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.