Saturday, February 11, 2012

Locavore Loco Moco

During my trip home to Hawaii in November, my father took me to many cool restaurants. Honolulu Burger Company was one of them. On the drive, he mentioned the numerous write-ups lauding their use of local ingredients like free-range, grass-fed beef from family owned ranches on the Big Island, Manoa lettuce, Waimanalo tomatoes, in addition to being delicious.

Hawaii is ideally situated for strategic reasons and a tropical paradise, however, bulk fresh-picked produce and meats at reasonable prices is unavailable, a downside of being in the middle of the Pacific. In addition, varying degrees of animosity towards the mainland was pretty evident, even for a 5-year-old.  As far back as I can remember, grocery stores focused on local products with "local pride" shelf flags and signs. I was unaware there was a whole world of lettuce until I left Hawaii, as my mother bought Manoa lettuce exclusively.

As we walked into Honolulu Burger Company, my eyes were drawn to two large, snazzy flat screen televisions hanging on the wall above the counter that displaying their menu items. The decor, 6-7 wood tables, a freezer case, and soda fridge, plopped us somewhere along the North Shore where I would expect to find the glare of a beach across the street, the rhythmic effervescence from the waves, and the salty sandy smell of the ocean, instead of standing along urban Beretania Street bustling with cars whizzing by on a breezy night.

Being a burger lover with so many burger choices like pastrami, loco moco, kalua pig, teri-kim (teriyaki-kimchi), and more (!), it was torturous making a decision...until my eyes fell upon the Loco Moco section.

Honolulu Burger Loco Moco
Loco moco

The loco moco choices were:
1) loco moco: 1/3 lb patty, 1 egg, grilled Maui onions, and brown gravy over rice with macaroni salad
2) loco moco deluxe: 1) + another egg, Spam, and bacon
3) The Macomber: 2) + 1/2 lb kalua pig and another scoop of macaroni salad

I cried a little inside because I wanted the Macomber ($11.75) since this would likely be my only shot eating here. With several days of fabulous meals behind me, I could not bring myself to order it and asked for the standard loco moco ($6.95).

My father ordered the Blue Hawaii, a burger with blue cheese, grilled Maui onions, lettuce, and a tomato slice. He asked me about the sweet potato fries, and I responded not to worry about them since I can make those. Later that evening, I regretted responding so callously, as I didn't even make him a batch.  I continue to feel guilty about that moment.

Honolulu Burger Blue Hawaii
Blue Hawaii

We ordered 1 each of their hand-cut garlic and regular fries. My regular fries were an excellent representation of thin-cut, skin-on fries -- a crisp outer crunch and solid potato flavor without feeling like I'm being suffocated by a baked potato. With grated garlic sprinkled atop my father's garlic fries, there was no turning back for him to try my fries.  

From the occasional mmphmm between prolonged masticating silence, my father enjoyed his burger. My loco moco was the best I have ever eaten. I'm not just saying that as if a starry-eyed follower of locally grown food. The beef was tender, moist, with good texture (substantial grind). The beef flavor shined through the brown gravy without being gamey.

The mac salad was superb -- creamy local style, firm pasta, without the crunch of raw onions that I abhor. If I lived there, I would order a bucket of their macaroni salad and rock gleefully at the front of their store savoring every spoonful.

Constrained by time and health, I have a limited number of meals on each visit. Honolulu Burger Company has been added to my "must visit" list with the hope that either the restaurant will remain strong when I next visit or that I am able to visit soon!

- Cassaendra

Honolulu Burger Co.
1295 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96814
Tel: (808) 626-5202

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