Where to Find the Best Burgers on Oahu

All-American beef patty receives gourmet treatment

At one point, it was enough for a burger to consist simply of “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” Even a steamed-grilled square rendition easily satisfied one’s ground-beef craving. But as time and culinary trends have evolved, so, too, has the almighty American symbol of classic diner food. And as we celebrate Hamburger Month later in May, we ask, “Where’s the beef?”


The Counter

The burger here is no ordinary sesame-bun-and-patty format; this one touts itself to be “gourmet” and “custom-built.” First the clipbord. Anyone with a test-taking phobia may need a little help. The choices aren’t merely A, B, C or All of the Above. The Counter claims to have 312,120 different combinations, chosen from a list of four proteins, 10 types of cheese, 28 toppings and 18 sauces. Step #1: Choose from Angus beef, turkey, veggie or grilled chicken, each weighing in at your choice of 1/3 pound,  2/3 pound or a whopping one-pound. Now it’s time to proceed with steps #2, #3,  #4 and #5: Cheese preference, toppings, sauce and bun, in that order. For the simplest of burgers, try the “Purist.” 4211 Kalanianaole Hwy., Kahala Mall, 739-5100, thecounterburger.com/honolulu/


Cheeseburger in Paradise

With “Cheeseburger” the key word in its name, it’s easy to guess what this restaurant’s iconic dish is: thick and juicy hamburger patties. The idea of opening of a burger joint stemmed from co-founder Laren Gartner’s hunt for a quality cheeseburger on Maui in 1989. But it wasn't until Edna Bayliff came home with a Jimmy Buffett tape that the pair found the perfect name—Cheeseburger in Paradise, which has since expanded with multiple locations on Oahu and Maui. Yet, it’s still all about the cheeseburger. Prepared with 100 percent fresh Black Angus beef from Harris Ranch Meats, the no-frills half-pound patty is slathered with Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato and onions, all sandwiched between a salt-and- pepper bun. For a burger with “attitude,” try the signature “five-napkin” cheeseburger topped with a slice of Colby Jack. 2500 Kalakaua Ave.,  923.3731; Cheeseburger Waikiki, 1945 Kalakaua Ave., 941.2400; Cheeseburger Beachwalk, 226 Lewers St., 924.5034; Waikiki Brewing Company, 1945 Kalakaua Ave., 946.6590 and 831 Queen St., 591.0387


Honolulu Burger Company

When owner Ken Takahashi opened Honolulu Burger Company in 2010, he was the first to serve only 100 percent free-range, hormone-free, grass-fed beef burgers. The flavor is remarkable and this well could be the #1 burger around town. It’s juicy, flavorful and complete cat nip for burger fans. The basic single burger costs $8.89, going up to Triple XXXL at $16.89 for a triple-patty version. All burgers are garnished with sautéed sweet onions, Mari’s garden-certified organic aquaponic Manoa lettuce, island tomato and a creamy housemade dressing. There are also a variety of Specialty Burgers, such as the teriyaki-and-kim-chee and the loco moco. First-time visitors might want to stick to the basics before trying to create their own, which is an option. 1295 S. Beretania St., 626.5202 


Mahaloha Burger

Lines form two and three deep in front of this counter where guests are handed a pager, which will buzz to alert them that their orders are ready. The original Mahaloha Burger is composed of 100-percent, grass-fed Big Island beef, topped with a “Happy Sauce” and sandwiched between a grilled buttered bun, which is a cross between Hawaiian sweet bread and brioche. It’s as good as any gourmet burger—and perhaps even better when you add a sunny-side egg and slices of bacon to the mix. It’s messy but worth the extra napkins.  Royal Hawaiian Center, Paina Lanai, 2233 Kalakaua Ave., 926.6500; Ala Moana Center, Lanai Foodcourt, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., 377.4484; Kailua Town, 143 Hekili St., 263.2777


Ruby Tuesday

Well known for its classic American fare that’s executed well and without a lot of frou frou, Ruby Tuesday’s burgers range from mini handcrafted sliders to the premium, two-hands-required Triple Prime cheddar burger. Done to a medium temperature, the moist patty comprises of a combination of USDA Prime tenderloin, rib eye and sirloin. This isn’t the average fast-food burger, and it’s worth the few dollars more. 95-1249 Meheula Parkway, Mililani Town Center (623-4949); and Moanalua Shopping Center, by the Navy Exchange (422-8585); Windward Mall (235-5800)

W & M Bar-B-Que Burgers

This classic, old-school burger was developed by Wilfred and Mary (hence the initials W & M) Kawamura, who opened their first fast-food window in Foster Garden. The location has since moved to Kaimuki where lines can reach three- and four-deep at any given time of the day. Somewhere between a McDonald’s Cheeseburger and Quarter Pounder in size, the secret to this burger is its tangy teriyaki sauce, which has been an enduring family secret, much like Ronald’s “special sauce.” 3104 Waialae Ave., 734.3350


Burgers on Bishop

If you're in the dowtown area, look for Burgers on Bishop inside the TOPA Tower. The burger selections include all-American burger ($8.15), the premium 100 percent Wagyu burger ($13.15), teriyaki burger ($8.15), and the Niihau lamb burger ($14.15). Guests can add cheddar Swiss Gouda, bacon and fried egg for $1.50 each or sauteed onions and jalapenos for $1 each. Be sure to order a side of truffle-and-garlic, beer-battered fries ($5.15). 745 Fort St., 586.2000


Teddy's Bigger Burgers

On average, each Teddy's Bigger Burgers sells 600 burgers on a busy day or 400 on a slow day. “It takes about eight to 10 minutes to turn around an order,” says co-founder Rich Stula. “But, like the sign says, it’s worth the wait.” Teddy’s burgers are made with 100 percent ground chuck, which are hand-formed, contain no fillers and no binders, and are seasoned with a special blend of spices. One-third burgers start at $6.99. Proving that “bigger is better,” Teddy’s also provides a one-pound hamburger for $13.29. “I always tell people that they’re going to pay a little more,” Stula said. “But, what they’re getting is a quality and made-to-order product.” 134 Kapahulu Ave., 926.3444; Kailua, 539 Kailua Road, 262.0820


Kua Aina

From a single location in Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore in 1975 to locations now in London and Tokyo, Kua Aina Sandwich Shop is legendary for its lava-rock, chargrilled burgers. It's a must-stop for tourists who endure long waits for what many consider the best of the best burgers. Thick, moist and homemade, the burgers can be garnished with avocado, bacon and many other accompaniments, including Ortega chiles and cheese. Of course, no burger meal is quite complete without a side of fries, which are thin and spindly here. Haleiwa, 66-160 Kamehameha Hwy., 637.6067

Simplicio Paragas
About the author

Simplicio serves as the Hawaii senior editor for Wh...