HCC Eats: Cheeseburger Hawaii Lunch Truck

Hot off the heels (or grill) of our recent visit to Honolulu Burger Co., this past Friday Diner E and yours truly came across yet another burger joint, this time in the form of a lunch truck operated by Cheeseburger, a chain with brick ‘n mortar Hawaii locations in Waikiki and Lahaina, Maui, as well as Nevada and Florida.

Their kitschy old Hawaii memorabilia-themed meals-on-wheels was found parked near the entrance of the campus cafeteria at Honolulu Community College, right up the street mauka of the Iwilei Costco.

We originally went there with the intention of sampling da’ grindz at HCC’s campus cafeteria, but the sign on the door said they were closed on Fridays. So being that Cheeseburger’s truck capitalizes on the opportunity and parks right in front there on this particular day, it was pretty much a no-brainer to give this mobile alternative a try.

Getting right to it, let’s check out their menu…

OK, so their regular all-American menu is why I’ve named it a “lunch truck”. Yet I suppose you can also call it a “lunch wagon”, as even here, local style plate lunches are thrown into the mix to cover all student body demographics…

Wow, a plate lunch that also includes a green bottle import beer? Now there’s a “moke” dream come true! lol Nah but, no alcohol is served here — they’re just using the brewer’s chalkboard.

What’s nice is everything here is priced as a complete meal, where the burgers and sandwiches all include fries and a drink, plus you can upgrade to Onion Rings or Sweet Potato Fries for just $1.25 more.

What also nice is, if you care to “dine in” while enjoying the wonderful ambiance of  bustling Dillingham Boulevard in the heart of Kalihi (a.k.a. “God’s Country”, a.k.a. “The Center of Hawaii’s Food Universe), there’s covered seating conveniently located right there in front of da’ truck…

With that,  while not “dining in” (out), otherwise like Honolulu Burger Co., Diner E ordered his usual “gauge” burger here, this time sampling Cheeseburger’s take on “The Teriyaki Standard” (because, you know, there are standards) in the form of their ‘Island Style Cheeseburger’…

Cheeseburger lunch truck – Island Style Cheeseburger : Teriyaki Cheese Burger with a slice of Grilled Pineapple, topped with sliced iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion and “special sauce” on a toasted white bread bun. Served with (upgraded) Sweet Potato Fries and (included) Drink (not shown). $8.25

Here’s another “profile” angle of the plate…

My “gauge” burger of course is the Swiss ‘n Shroom, where here at Cheeseburger they prefer calling it the ‘Shroom and Swiss’…

Cheeseburger lunch truck – Shroom and Swiss Cheeseburger, topped with slice iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion and “special sauce” on a toasted white bread bun. Served with (uprgraded) Sweet Potato Fries and (included) drink (not shown). $8.25

Lookin’ good there, with a generous helping of  sauteed white mushrooms covering the thoroughly melted swiss cheese, which in turn is completely covering the 90/10 lean-to-fat ratio Y. Hata-sourced all beef burger patty.

The “profile” angle of the same plate, with my drink of choice, Hawaiian Springs Young Natural Artesian Water…

Here now is my Shroom ‘n Swiss in fully-assembled form, where you see it’s quite a stacker!..

Open wide and say “ahhhhh”!…

As you see, this stacker of a swiss ‘n shroom burger is pretty much dwarfing my hand. After several eye-closing, savoring bites…

So how is it? Winnahs! Ono!

I was skeptical all the way until this point, from the moment the server told me A) they “grill” their burgers on a flat top griddle (GRIDDLE, NOT GRILL!), and B) that the patty was preformed (a.k.a. institutional) 90/10 beef, which most burger enthusiasts may argue is too lean (less flavor).  But wow, hey! This is one mighty fine example of the classic Swiss ‘n Shroom’r, with almost all the right things in place.

Which there’s several reasons I can immediately point out in why I’m so fond of it. First and foremost, while Cheeseburger’s “institutional” preformed 90/10 patty can’t touch the open range grass-fed Big Island beef, nor was it ideally char-grilled, for what it’s worth, it was cooked to a nicely-crusted finish, while retaining a decent amount of moisture  inside. While its beefy flavor really popped thanks to the patty itself being well seasoned with salt and pepper. I can certainly taste when or when not a patty has been seasoned while cooking on the grill/griddle, and these were, thank goodness.

The same well-seasoned flavor also applied to the very generous helping of tender ‘n mighty tasty sauteed white mushrooms, while gluing all that together was the als0-tasty and thoroughly melted Swiss Cheese. In fact, the swiss cheese had much better flavor on this burger than the one that topped my Mushroom Mushroom Burger from Honolulu Burger Co..

Not stopping there, the cook also performed the crucial (almost to the point of being “kosher”-crucial) step of TOASTING THE BUN, where it’s split in the center. Very,very important, and thankfully, check! Done!

Last but certainly not least, unlike Honolulu Burgr Co., who uses fresh-cut white sweet onions, Cheeseburger uses fresh-cut RED ONIONS for their burgers, and THIS is where I personally think is what separates the two, with huge points in favor of the red onion. There’s just something so simple yet complimentary about the red onion’s flavor profile that makes all the difference between an “eh, so-so? Burger” to being a “Yeah!” burger! Like, Seriously. Seriously!

As for Cheeseburger’s “special sauce”, it tasted pretty much like your usual thinned-down Thousand Islands Dressing (essentially ketchup and mayo’), where while I prefer simple ‘n plain ‘ole mayo, this worked…

Summing up Cheeseburger’s take on the classic Swiss ‘n Shroom (or vise-versa; however you wanna’ say it), I was pleasantly surprised, given the circumstances (griddled institutional burgers from a lunch truck) and give their take on this visit a very solid, absolutely incredibly tasty 3 SPAM Musubi!  Enough where I’d “Hana hou” it (go back for more)!

Back to Diner E’s ‘Island Style Cheeseburger’, let’s check it out in built form…

Witness the Teriyaki sauce “juicyness” on the top of the bun, where you know that’s just gotta’ be some “crazy-tasty” goodness (in the words of Diner A). Also witness the slightly “papa’a”  (a.k.a. “Koge”, a.k.a. “burnt edges) on the slice of pineapple topping the teriyaki burger patty with melted American cheese on it. Can I get anymore descriptive than that?

Continuing on,we need to check the requisite Tasty Island cross-cut view of this baddy (after a few tasty bites, of course!)…

The verdict from Diner E? “Eh,so-so”. First of all, he didn’t care for the addition of the ‘Island Style’ grilled pineapple slice, finding it non-complimentary to both the melted American Cheese, as well as the Teriyaki-coated beef patty.

The Shack also offers an almost entirely identical burger to this called the ‘Island Burger’, which I myself tried, and thought was just “OK”, but not something I’d order on a regular basis. What i think is, whoever thought of this ‘Island Burger’ concept of combining a pineapple with teriyaki, weren’t thinking about complimentary physical flavors, but marketing flavor by sound via combining two familiar food names often associated with Hawaii.

Anyhow, Diner E also complained that the bun had a stale texture, which was contrary to my thought on it, where I personally found my bun was nicely-toasted and quite supple.

Ultimately, yet not surprisingly, the key contrast for Diner E was his recent memory of the FAR-SUPERIOR Big Island free-range hand-formed 1/3 pound burger patty featured at Honolulu Burger Co., that ultimately made Cheeseburger’s burger — or perhaps ANY burger for that matter PAIL in comparison. Which of course is an unfair comparison (because, you know, anything made in Hawaii RULES!), yet must be noted.

Not much more commentary about his burger other than that, where he sums up Cheeseburger’s ‘Island Style Cheeseburger’ with 1 SPAM Musubi.

Speaking of which, in light of Honolulu Burger Company’s absolutely SUPERB Sweet Potato Fries, how does Cheeseburger’s take on it stack up?…

They’re Yam-based and quite flavorful in and of themselves and certainly have potential, yet they weren’t seasoned adequately with salt and lacked the delicately-crispy texture on the outside that HBC’s was so good about. I’m not even sure if they were deep-fried, as they were rather greaseless in a lifeless way, if I shall nitpick it.

Still, a good accompaniment that I’d say is worth the extra $1.25, where their suble sweetness was a wonderful contrast to the savyry burger. Some help in the form of their deep-frying method (if it’s even cooked that way) and a few taps more of the salt shaker, and Cheeseburger’s Sweet Potato Fries would really pull it off.

Summing it up, I’d DEFINITELY return repeatedly for Cheeseburger lunch truck’s onolicious, well-seasoned, RED ONION!-laced Mushroom and Swiss Burger, while I think their Sweet Potato Fries have star potential if/when executed properly. Plus, the price is certainly right at $8.25 for the complete combo, and the convenient location near the Iwilei Costco works for me.

Cheeseburger Hawaii “Aloha on Wheels” Lunch Truck
Honolulu Community College campus
Tel. (808) 852-7146 for more info’


The Tasty Island rating

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it. (Ono)

P.S. Diner A’s Teriyaki Prime Burger combo plate from Zippy’s on the same day…

Zippy’s Teriyaki Prime Burger combo, including fries and medium drink. $6.25

Yum-yum potato bun!…

P.S.S. (can I say that? lol), I sampled my first Ono Pop at KCC Farmers’ Market this past weekend…

That’s quite a spread of exotic paletas popsicle flavors, so instead of driving myself nuts trying to decide which one to choose, I simply asked the owner which one is HIS favorite, which he quickly handed me the Butter Mochi…

Let’s have a bite…

The verdict?  Full-bodied in a frozen, somewhat gelatinous mochi kind of way. Definitely a butter accent going on, while not being TOO sweet, which I always appreciate. Overall, very tasty and accurate in flavor and texture to what it’s described as.

My only complaint is that it tasted a little freezer-burnt, being contrary to them being touted as being fresh-made.

While $3 seems a bit steep for a popsicle, one must take into consideration the ingredients this particular Butter Mochi Paletas Ono Pop lists: Island Milk, White Star Mochiko Flour, Naked Cow Dairy Butter, Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk, Local Eggs, Pure Hawaiian Vanilla and Island Sea Salt. Very nice!

Summing it up, I give Ono Pop’s Butter Mochi flavor 3 SPAM Musubi. Loose the “frost bite factor” and it could be a 5!

On my next visit, I’m all over that Ume Thai Basil Ono Pop.


13 thoughts on “HCC Eats: Cheeseburger Hawaii Lunch Truck

  1. Pomai, not sure but I thought beers not allow on school campus ground . I guess it not that near. Ono Pop’s price is steep but just once is still good to try.

  2. Pomai, I informed the school of this truck selling beers in it. It bad ideal near the college indeed. I went to HCC and felt not happy after seeing your entry of it.

  3. Have you ever come across a Shroom and Swiss burger where the mushrooms are put under the cheese, which (when melted) encases the mushrooms and keeps them from falling out of the bun?

    I haven’t yet, but I wish that’s the way they were made! Too many times, I’ve had mushrooms falling out onto my plate or tray.

  4. David, great point. I think the swiss cheese should indeed be melted OVER the sauteed mushrooms to help keep them in place. Not to mention get all its ooey-gooey goodness seeping between the mushrooms instead of just sitting under it. Next time I order a Swiss ‘n Shroom Burger, I’m going to make that a special request! Melted cheese OVER the mushrooms please!

    Michael, as mentioned in the write-up, that’s just a brewing company’s chalkboard that they’re using to write their daily food specials on. Cheeseburger is NOT selling alcohol out of this lunch truck. For that, there’s a dive right across the street.

  5. What a deal! The last time I went to Cheeseburger Waikiki, I shelled out about $12 for a mahi mahi sandwich without fries or drink.

  6. Those are fab-lookin’ burgers and I’m particularly intrigued by that butter mochi pop. I’ve been on a mochi-making kick of late and making paletas with the stuff is one heck of a notion!

  7. Oh, you’re in for such a treat when you try the ume thai basil!

    I read about Ono Pops shortly before I left for vacation. Since I was arriving on a Wednesday afternoon, I made plans with my cousin to meet her at the Honolulu farmers market (she lives about a block away from Blaisdell, and walks past there on her way home from work). I was torn between trying the carmel shoyu and the butter mochi. The woman behind the table said the creator was especially proud of the butter mochi; having had shoyu Kit Kats in Japan, I had an idea what to expect from the former, so I went with the latter. Excellent choice. It had that same sticky, toothy quality baked butter mochi has, and also like it, was buttery without being too rich or, as you said, overly sweet — also a bonus in my book. (Bummer about the freezer burn on yours, though.) My cousin had the chocolate apple banana. I tried it and thought it was good too, with nice, clean representations of the two component flavors.

    The day after, I went to First Friday and had the pineapple li hing. The brother with the beard was manning the booth. When I ordered, he pointed to a shaker on the table and said I could add some extra li hing if I liked, and that it was his own blend. Of course, I took him up on it! The li hing itself was understated, in a good way, and brought the sour and salt to pair up with the sweet pineapple to create that irresistable multi-pronged taste experience. My only regret was I didn’t swipe the shaker of li hing to bring with me while I walked around eating my pop & checking out the rest of the scene!

    I was starting to become obsessed by now, so on Saturday I got a free day pass for Marukai at Ward’s Warehouse, which is one of their retail outlets. I got another butter mochi, and was strongly tempted to get the pineapple lh again, but decided on the ume thai basil (yes, I ate two pops in a row and called it lunch). What a revelation! The pungent ume followed by the fresh punch of basil was fantastic! I could totally see this served in granita form as part of a multi-course tasting menu at a fine-dining establishment. Just fantastic.

    My next choices will be the kalamansi coriander, pickled green mango and dark chocolate 5-spice. How sad that my next opportunity won’t be for 6 mos. to a year from now! : (

    And call me an eco-death warrior, but you know what else I love? Those Hawaiian Spring water bottles. I swear they make the water taste better!

  8. Jodi, now that you mention that, we used to make “POG POPS” all the time. Back then it was called “Ice Cake”. Simply fruit juice frozen in a cup, then popped out and inverted in the same cup as a “holder” to eat it.

    Debbie-chan, wow, what an in-depth comment on all things Ono Pops! OK, you have me SOLD on the Ume-Thai Basil flavor! I’m so all over that on my next KCCFM run! In fact, I’ll try one or two flavors every week and report in here to keep you updated on it, up until your next visit home. I also agree with you on the Hawaiian Spring water. It was very smooth, soft and actually in a pleasant way, a tad “sweet”. Truly pure, top-quality H2O!

    Midge, heralding its Spanish heritage, “Paletas” could fit right into being “Filipino” as well. Is there a Filipino spin-off named similarly?

    Diner E, you’re right! I missed that. All HBC needs is a TASTIER Swiss Cheese and/or mushroom topping.

    Molly, I have yet to try Cheeseburger’s brick ‘n mortar locations in Waikiki, which I understand are quite pricey.

  9. I ordered their Guacamole burger once. I don’t think the burgers are grilled to order because wait time was only four minutes – I timed them. Sweet potato fries are soggy on the inside.

    A coworker of mine ordered their chicken wings once only to find them still bloody inside.

  10. Between my husband and I, we’ve tried 8 of the Ono Pops. The most memorable was the pickled green mango – talk about cho cho lips! The mango lime habanero was another good choice.

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