Makiki Eats: Honolulu Burger Co.

The Counter? Teddy’s? Kua Aina? Burgers on the Edge? Pineapple Room? Wolfgang’s? W&M? JABSCOM Cafeteria?

Those seeking out “Hawaii’s Best Burger” have yet another joint to take into consideration, with the relatively new Honolulu Burger Company. Which is somewhat ironically named so, as owner Ken Takahashi hails from the Big Island of Hawaii, and the top-grade free-range beef featured at his new burger joint is also from Big Island’s Kulana meat processing company. Therefore wouldn’t it be more aptly named ‘Big Island Burger Company’?

Well, aside of its neighbor island roots, Honolulu Burger Company is indeed located just about smack in the center of Honolulu in the Makiki area, across of Times Supermarket, on the makai side of South Beretania Street, between Keeaumoku and Piikoi. They’re nextdoor neighbors to (one of several) Beretania Florist, with parking in a shared lot, along with metered street parking.

The relatively small hole-in-the-wall space they occupy  formerly was Mekong Thai Restaurant, where now it has a nicely-renovated cotemporary island deco’ theme going on, with ample seating, considering its size…

Like Burgers on the Edge on Kapahulu avenue, Honolulu Burger Co. also uses flat panel HD TVs to display their regular menu, while the daily specials are printed and displayed on the counter…

That Pastele Lumpia Burger daily special sounds really interesting, as does the Fresh Island Ahi Burger with watercress and sesame vinnaigrette and lemon caper sauce. Still, we MUST try their signature Big Island range fed 1/3 pound all-BEEF burgers since this is our first time here.

Here’s a look at their regular menu…

Yet another import from the Big Island is the Atebara taro chips and potato chips they offer…

Getting to our order, Diner AC decided to try the Paniolo BBQ Burger…

Honolulu Burger Co. – Paniolo Burger: Housemade BBQ sauce with fresh slices of Jalapenos. sauteed sweet onions and tomato on a whole wheat bread bun. $7.79 + Pepperjack Cheese for $1 extra

Diner E created his own burger, opting for Teriyaki sauce as the “dressing” and Pepperjack Cheese…

Honolulu Burger Co. – “Create Your Own” Teriyaki & Pepperjack Cheese Burger with sauteed sweet onions, lettuce, tomato and onions on Whole Wheat Bread Bun. $7.79

Last but not least, yours truly ordered what I normally get as my “gauge burger”: the one, the only Swiss ‘n Shroom!…

Honolulu Burger Co. – Mushroom Mushroom Burger: sauteed mushrooms piled high, covered with Swiss Cheese and topped with sweet onions (not sauteed per personal option), lettuce and tomato on regular bun. $8.95

As noted in the caption, I requested that my onions not be sauteed, as I’ve found in the past that sauteed onions overpower the flavor of the mushrooms. Fortunately they got my order right and indeed didn’t saute them, where often restaurants screw-up orders when it comes to special requests such as this. So bonus Musubi point already on that!

Before getting into the details of the burgers, the meal wouldn’t be complete without fries, so we ordered a large basket of their Sweet Potato Fries…

Honolulu Burger Co. – Sweet Potato Fries (large basket). $4.99

Notice they use Kosher salt, along with a sprinkling of finely chopped American Parsley. Nice! Try more like ONO! This is indeed some of the BEST Sweet Potato Fries I’ve ever had, and definitely beating The Counter’s take on it. The way it’s cut makes the difference here, while texture-wise, it’s super supple and tender inside, with a ever-so-delicate crunch on the outside. The Yams used to make them are full of flavor, with the kosher salt sprinkled on in perfect amount, not being over or under seasoned, and the parsley gives it that “finishing touch” of zestiness. The best part is it wasn’t greasy at all. We all LOVED this, unanimously giving HBC’s Sweet Potato Fries a very solid 4 SPAM Musubi. I’d personally go 5, even. Trust us, ORDER THIS!

We also shared a large basket of HBC’s Housemade Fries…

Honolulu Burger Co., – Housemade Fries (large basket). $2.99

Like the Sweet Potato Fries, the Housemade Fries are also seasoned with Kosher salt and finely chopped American Parsley. In this case the Idaho Potatoes are hand-cut with the SKIN ON, which I LOVE. Doneness-wise, the outside had some crunch and inside was tender, but overall they seemed a bit limp and soggy, while also being rather greasy. Thankfully the flavorful skin part made up in flavor what it fell back on in texture and grease factor. Overall we give HBC’s Housemade fries 2 SPAM Musubi.

The large basket of both fries were certainly generous in portion, with enough of each by itself to easily feed three hungry adults when accompanied with their also giant burgers.

Along with the fries, we also ordered fountain drinks to wash it all down, where totalling it up, my order came out to just under $14 for the Mushroom Mushroom Burger, large basket of Homemade Fries and large drink, with the fries being shared on the table. Which is right about what to expect paying at most “gourmet” burger joints around town for a similar offering, if not a little on the higher side here. Yet, keep in mind this is locally-raised, range-fed beef, along with most of the other ingredients being locally produced, hence the higher prices.

Now for the main attraction, let’s sample the burgers, starting with Diner AC’s Paniolo BBQ Burger…

Wow, lookin’ juicy! Perfect right-under-medium doneness. Biting into it, Diner AC immediately exclaimed how tasty the range-fed Big Island beef was, with — like the fries — the patty being well seasoned with Kosher salt. As juicy as it looks, is as juicy as it tasted. She also really liked the way tasty BBQ sauce and spicy fresh Jalapeno complimented the burger, while her only dislike was their “house sauce” (sort of like Thousand Islands dressing) that they also put on it. She also thought the cheese lacked some flavor, yet then again, she’s a “cheesehead” like me, where there’s never enough cheese. More cheese please!

Next to the quality of the beef, just as importantly, the burgers here are FLAME-GRILLED on cast iron grates, giving those critical and tasty sear markings on the surface of the patty…

Summing up HBC’s Paniolo BBQ Burger, Diner AC gives it a very tasty and satisfying 4 SPAM Musubi.

Next up we have Diner E’s Pepperjack Cheese Teriyaki Burger…

Looks just as juicy as Diner AC’s Paniolo BBQ Burger! Also like Diner AC, Diner E noted the range-fed beef was flavor-packed and had a noticeable higher quality flare about it, while like myself, he especially appreciated the slightly smokey flavor from the charred edges of the patty imparted by the open flame grill. The Teriyaki sauce coating the patty was spot-on (not under or over sweet), had good viscosity (thickness) and was adequate in quantity. He also noted the nicely toasted bun, which makes a huge difference in the total package, and the veggies were crispy and fresh-tasting. Rounding it all out was the slightly melted Pepperjack cheese and sauteed sweet onions, where the latter of which brought lots more life to this party of burger love.

Summing it up, Diner E gives HBC’s Pepperjack Cheese Teriyaki Burger a solid 4 SPAM Musubi, noting he’d definitely return to try other burgers, and also interested in trying their Pastrami Sandwich.

Finally, let’s try HBC’s Mushroom Mushroom Burger, first assembling it…

That’s quite a “stacker”. Let’s check the crosscut view…

My burger actually looks done more medium than the other two, which I’m guessing the reason being is it had cooked through more as it sat around on the table for a few minutes while I took pictures of the other food items shown above.

Biting into it, I’ll third what Diner AC and E said about the great flavor and quality of the range-ref Big Island 1/3 pound all-beef patty. It’s not “just a label”, it’s true, you really can taste the difference! Then you have the papa’a (charred) edges of the flame-grilled patty that slam the ball out of the park. I also really appreciated that they toast their buns — a step that’s unfortunately often skipped at many restaurants — yet not here. HBC really knows how it’s done RIGHT!

If there’s any disapppointment, it’s that they use common white mushrooms for this burger, when with all the “Big Island this and Big Island that” going on here, they don’t use HAMAKUA MUSHROOMS! Especially for the premium almost $9 price they’re charging for this burger, I really was expecting that.

Thankfully, as advertised, the sauteed mushrooms are indeed piled high, where I enjoyed a good ratio of mushrooms-to-beef in every bite. Because, you know, the “mushroom-to-beef ratio” is very important to Swiss ‘n Shroom Burger enthusiasts such as myself. lol

Speaking of Swiss, like Diner AC thought of the Pepperjack, I also thought the Swiss Cheese in this burger kinda’ lacked flavor. I dunno, maybe the mushrooms didn’t have enough salt in it to bring out the flavor of the cheese.

As for their (Thousand Islands Dressing-like) house sauce, it was fairly subtle on my palate. Usually I prefer just good ‘ole plain mayo’ in my Swiss ‘n Shroom, yet thankfully this sauce didn’t get in the way of anything and just did its job of adding more fatty goodness to the bun. lol

Overall, it was a well-executed, mighty fine, mighty tasty burger that’s worthy of a solid 4 SPAM Musubi. Switch the sauteed white mushrooms for some more exotic Hamakua variety and use a better quality (or tasting) swiss cheese, and I’m confident HBC’s take on the classic Swiss ‘n Shroom Burger can easily attain 5 SPAM Musubi status.

As for service, it was FANTASTIC. The three young ladies working the front were very friendly, greeted us with a smile, and were very informative and knowledgeable about the menu and daily specials. Amazingly, our order arrived at our table within 5 minutes of placing it, which had us a wondering a bit whether the burgers were cooked to order, or if they were pre-cooked and flash-grilled for service. Yet our server assured us every burger is cooked to order (from raw). OK, if you say so.

On a future visit, I’d like to try the Hawaiian Beachboy Burger, as well as their Philly Dip Sandwich, as I LOVE me a good French Au Jus Dip Sandwich.

When the lady in the Wendy’s commercial asked the famous question “Where’s the beef?”, the answer to that would definitely be found right here at the new Honolulu Burger Company. Where it’s not just big beef, but GREAT TASTING, HIGH QUALITY, MADE IN HAWAII BEEF. And make sure whichever burger or sandwich you try, to accompany it with their most EXCELLENT Sweet Potato Fries!

Honolulu Burger Co.
1295 S. Beretania Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96814

Tel. (808) 626-5202

Honolulu Burger Co. takeout menu (76k PDF document; current as of 9.10)

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related links:
New No. 1: Honolulu Burger Co. – Eatizen Jane
Honolulu Burger Co. – Yelp user reviews

P.S. While on the subject of American (burgers), here’s a video I shot at this past weekend’s  Kaneohe Bayfest of an F-22 Raptor doing a flight demonstration. Turn up your speakers for maximum effect!…


16 thoughts on “Makiki Eats: Honolulu Burger Co.

  1. I loves me some sweet potato fries.

    I’ve been meaning to try this place. I keep reading the reviews on Yelp and they seem a bit mixed. But I think the least favorable reviews on Yelp were possibly due to Honolulu Burger Co. getting out the kinks when they first open.

    I shall definitely give them a try soon.

  2. QuarryLaneFarms, I haven’t tried 5-Guys or Fat Burger, but as far as Bob’s Bar-B-Que (I always get a kick on the various ways barbecue is spelled) and W&M, I think Honolulu Burger Co. is on a whole nother level, both in price and ingredients, where it’s almost unfair to compare the two. For what it’s worth, W&M and Bob’s both offer mighty tasty burgers that don’t hurt the wallet. Yet as I repeated in my write-up, Honolulu Burger Co.’s burgers are all about quality, along with I dare not say superior, but “refined” taste and textures that comes with that.

    Marvo, my impression is that Honolulu Burger Co. takes online (Yelp) reviews very seriously, as the almost over-the-top EXCELLENT customer service on our visit seemed to address the negative reviews on customer service that some Yelpers reported. And DO get the Sweet Potato Fries. Highly recommended!

  3. Whoa, I think I’m going to have to stray from my favorite Teddy’s burgers! It didn’t seem crowded when you went. Did you go really early or after the lunch crowd had thinned?

    Also, are you going to write a special report on the Kaneohe Bayfest? I have always wanted to go and would be interested in a “review” with your usual excellent pics.

    (P.S. That dang H & T burgers at Donki’s was sooo junk! The burger patty was so cold the cheese didn’t even melt! Threw half of it out. And had one creepy guy staring at me while I ate with my friend.)

  4. Eh Pomai! the Menu u posted is from the website some of the sandwiches not on the menu anymore like the Buta Kau Kau, I remember the lady said it’s not up to date…

  5. Diner “Saimin Kaukau, you da’ man” E!, no worries, as I also included a link to HBC’s most recent menu in takeout form (a PDF document) located via link at the end of this write-up.

    Molly, we arrived right before the lunch hour rush, hence the empty-looking dining room. When we left it was almost full. As for this past weekend’s Kaneohe Bayfest/Blue Angels airshow, I took plenty of photos on base at the event, which I’ll post and share soon! Sorry to hear about your experience at H & T. Go a little off the beaten path, fork out a couple more bucks and give Honolulu Burger Co. a try!

  6. Pomai, I would like to try their Ahi burger. Why is there a place that serve taro fries. I had sweet potato and purple sweet potato fries in Taiwan and it was awesome.

  7. Pomai, I would like to try their Ahi burger. Why isn’t there a place that serve taro fries. I had sweet potato and purple sweet potato fries in Taiwan and it was awesome.

  8. Pomai, while on business in Taipei I have taro fries for the first time with wasabi mayo and it was pretty good. Sweet potato fries popular there too.
    Purple sweet potato fries served as sample platter with regular potato and two kind of sweet potato fries along with taro fries.

  9. Pomai, I never had truffle fries or sweet potato fries. I do like to try the ahi burger it sound good for this weekend. Now that taro fries seem like a good one to have .

  10. Big Island beef is really ono. My Step-Dad and his brother and friends have cattle in Kamuela and they are all natural grass fed….best hamburgers I’ve ever had. We just got a 5 guys here in Spokane. There is also a fatburger here in town. Haven’t tried it yet. There is also another local burger place called D.Lish’s…just like In and Out, but better than In and Out IMHO.
    On another note…my friends and I are doing a iron chef type competition tonight….battle SPAM!

  11. djmitcho, let us know how your Iron Chef: Battle SPAM! competition turned out. Sounds fun! As for Big Island beef, I’m curious if Kulana Ranch are the same people who make Kulana sausages? I tried In-n-Out Burger in Vegas, and wasn’t impressed. Especially the hand-cut fries, which didn’t “wow” me at all.

    Midge, indeed.

    Kimo, not fries, but the Truffle (oil) Mac ‘n Cheese at Hank’s Haute Dogs is mighty tasty.

    Michael, funny you mention Taro Fries in Taiwan, as nearby in China is where McDonald’s introduced the Taro Pie, using the Chinese variety of dry white taro, which is much easier to produce than the Hawaiian wetland taro. I heard Costco is now selling the Yam-based orange-colored Sweet Potato Fries in the freezer section.

    Aaron, you can now sign up as an alumnist of ‘Kukui High” at As you may know, that’s where Daniel Dae Kim’s Hawaii Five-0 character “Chin Ho Kelly” and “Steve McGarrett” were classmates.

    Amy, I think you’ll be very impressed with HBC’s Sweet Potato Fries. The way they’re cooked, along with the Kosher salt and parsley seasoning is a winnah.

  12. After reading about it on Chowhound, I gave Honolulu Burger Co. a try during my trip a few weeks ago.

    I got a cheeseburger, with gruyere (which was cool, because a lot of places don’t have it, especially if they already offer swiss). I might have gotten the gorgonzola, but since this was my first experience with grass fed beef, I wanted the taste of the beef to be at the forefront. I generally don’t get a lot of trimmings on my burger, so no lettuce, tomato, mayo or other condiment. I did add avocado, just because I was feeling that way.

    As I said, this was my first experience with grass fed beef. The patty was on the medium rare side, which is my preference., and nicely juicy, without creating a complete and utter mess, like a grain fed patty can. I as afraid that with the lower fat content it might be drier, but that was not the case. It also has a distinctly different, but tasty flavor. I was really impressed. Next time, I might switch it up, and top it with bacon, or maybe Spam (which sounds really good to me!). My only complaint, and not really a big one, is the bun. The one they use is quality, but I just prefer a softer one.

    I also got a small order of sweet potato fries, and they were awesome. No other word for it. But even the small order is really too much for one person, especially given the size of the burger. I thought that the blue cheese fries sounded good, but someone on Chowhound had the same complaint you did — that the regular fries just didn’t measure up. I wonder if they need to change their method — maybe try frying twice? Seems odd that the sweet potato could be so good, and the other not too great.

    Not food related, but I really like their retro-but-fresh logo!

    Pomai, if you ever come to the SF Bay Area, you have to give Adamson’s French Dip in Sunnyvale a try. Theirs are sublime!

  13. Pomai, I am so very glad you reviewed this place. We were on Oahu last week and visited HBC twice thanks to your recommendation. (Well once because of the recommendation and the second time because the food was so good.) The first time we were there the special was The Boar – kalua pig on top of a grilled pork patty. My husband said it was fantastic.
    And the staff was incredibly friendly.

    I miss it already!

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