When you think about eating in Hawai‛i, the thought of a big, juicy hamburger may not be the first thing that crosses your mind, yet the 50th State has quite a few ‘hamburger joints’ that could compete against the best in any of the other 49 and beyond. To make your search easier when you get the craving to indulge in that All-American mainstay, here are my choices for the best burger restaurants on the island so far. I still have dozens more burger joints to try out. Being on a Pacific island, I think you’ll find some of the unique versions of the hamburger found in Honolulu to be superb.
Burgers and Things! (Image above)
1991 Pauoa Road, Honolulu
Tuesday – Sunday: 11AM – 6PM; Closed on Mondays
You know you’ve found a winner when you ask locals where the best burgers in Honolulu are, and they tell you about Burgers and Things! Of course they have standard fare like the Juicy Burger braised in a house-made jus, and the Teri Burger dipped in their special teriyaki sauce. But they really shine with their Specialty Burgers, and the novelty names they give their burgers are good, too. The ‘I Came In Like a Butterball’ is a turkey burger with a tangy cranberry chipotle sauce. The ‘Wagyu Say?!’ is made from Wagyu beef, the Japanese-bred cattle that is known for intense marbling. The ‘Lamb Bam Thank Ewe Ma’am’ is made from Niihau lamb braised in a special jus with bacon, apple, and maple jam on honey pesto. All of their burgers are lightly charred to seal in the flavorful juices, and the meat is well-seasoned. With its fun comic book-themed dining room and playful customer service, this restaurant is a must-stop. The only negatives? Their dining room is often too small for crowds so you may have to order take-out or wait to be seated – and they close at 6:00 PM so it’s a lunch and early-dinner place only.
960 Auahi Street, Honolulu
Lunch truck in the parking lot (ocean side) near Starbucks/Jamba Juice
Open Tuesday – Sunday, Closed Monday
Lunch: 11 AM – 3 PM
Dinner: 5 PM – 9 PM
Chubbies Burgers is a no-frills lunch truck with plenty of seating outside and parking nearby. All they make here are angus beef hamburgers and fries, and that’s enough once you’ve tried them. They specialize in 50’s style hamburgers called ‘smash burgers’: cold beef is smashed down hard on a super hot griddle which forms a crust on one side locking in all of the juice and flavor. Their beef is from grass-fed cattle from Makaweli Ranch on Kaua‛i. All of their items are made-to-order so you know that your food is freshly made and not warming under a hot light. Their largest burger, the Ten Gallon, is packed with added bacon, grilled onion, cheddar cheese, and house barbecue sauce. Their signature crinkle fries are always crispy, and the Chub Fries are smothered with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, and a secret fry sauce. Any negatives? Yes, they’re closed on Mondays. Otherwise, they’re close to perfect for a hamburger lover. Not so much if you’re vegan or you’re into turkey burgers and other beef alternatives.
W & M Bar-B-Q Burger
3104 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu
Wednesday – Friday: 10 AM – 4:30 PM
Saturday and Sunday: 9 AM – 4:30PM; Closed Monday and Tuesday
This is another no-frills place where customers keep coming back for more. In fact, many people who grew up in this Kaimuki neighborhood return simply to buy the bar-b-q burgers they remembered from their childhood. The bar-b-q sauce recipe is so top-secret that the owner jokes that he was married for 5 years before he shared the recipe with his wife. The Royal Burger is their best seller with meat infused with the bar-b-q sauce. You can order the works with cheese, onion, tomato, and lettuce added. W & M’s fries are nice and crunchy, and there’s a popular Green River drink that’s non-carbonated and is the signature drink for hamburger lovers here. Negatives: there are only 5 parking spaces in their small lot, so many regular patrons park in the neighboring City Mill hardware store lot and dash over to get their burger fix. There’s also no place to eat on the premises, so customers order take-out, eat in their cars, and some die-hards eat on the sliver of a counter facing the wall in the corner – but W & M’s regulars will tell you that it’s all worth it.
Mahaloha Burger – Waikiki
Royal Hawaiian Center, 2233 Kalakaua Avenue
Open Every Day 9 AM – 10 PM
Located on the 2nd floor of the Food Court at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, this burger restaurant pumps out some good burgers and interesting items on their menu. The Loco Moco Burger is a twist on a local-style breakfast food, laying an over-easy fried egg onto the burger patty. The Avocado-Swiss, Bleu Cheese-Bacon, and Mushroom-Swiss all have patties that ooze out over the bun. Together with the house sauce, this can make for quite a messy and delicious experience. For non-beef eaters, Mahaloha offers a Chicken Katsu burger, a Mahi Mahi burger, a Veggie burger, and a Turkey burger. They also have a full assortment of hot dog varieties, and their Sweet Potato Fries make a nice partner to their burgers. Their service could be a little faster, but their food is made-to-order and they give customers a buzzer to carry with them if they want to order and continue shopping until their order is ready.