Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine September-October 2014 - September-October 2014
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Battle of the Burgers

We Taste-test Five Favorites

Attention, burger fans! Whether you’re a closet carnivore who limits red-meat indulgences to holidays, or a full-bent, unapologetic meat eater who salivates at the mere mention of the grill, this list’s for you.

For most of us, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying lunch or dinner for those road-tripping, sightseeing, beach-going vacation days than a juicy hamburger. Toss in a sack of French fries, cut from fresh potatoes and fried just so, and a hand-dipped shake scooped from the local creamery’s best, and my, oh my, you’ve got yourself one swell refection.

We selected one burger joint from each corner of Maui, added the requirement that they use island beef, and rated them on three criteria on a scale of one to ten:

Taste - as in juiciness, flavor, texture, use of spices and sauces
Value - not price alone, but rather our somewhat subjective assessment of whether the burger’s worth the asking price
Ambiance - the vibe and overall dining experience

Hula Grill
Whalers Village, 2435 Ka‘anapali Pkwy., Ka‘anapali • (808) 667-6636
Hours: Dinner daily 5 - 9:30 pm;
Barefoot Bar & Café 11 am - 10:30 pm

Taste: 9 | Ambiance: 9 | Value: 8
Overall Score: 26

the scoop: Take a break from whale sightings, people watching, and snorkeling in the crystalline waters that front Hula Grill, and sink your toes into the sand under a palapa-shaded table at the Barefoot Bar. Hula Grill dishes up a menu heavy in locally grown ingredients, including a hearty eight-ounce hamburger. The salt air imparts a tang to the crisp/tender fries; if you enjoy an extra kick in your spuds, try the truffle-and-parmesan-roasted potatoes. Some of Maui’s favorite musicians strum breezy, beach-bum classics while diners sip award-winning mai tais and watch the world go by. Oh, yes, and the burger’s great, too.

nearby attractions: Sugar Cane Train, Ka‘anapali’s “Dig Me” Beach, Airport Beach, Honolua Bay, Whalers Village shops and Whaling Museum, sunset sails


Johnny B’s
65 Hana Hwy., Pa‘ia • (808) 579-9790
Hours: Daily, 11 am - 8 pm

Taste: 7.5 | Ambiance: 7 | Value: 8
Overall Score: 22.5

the scoop: Johnny B’s dishes up a yummy Big Island burger that will satisfy any day-tripper’s protein cravings. Our taste testers sampled a number of different “build your own” toppings, including grilled onion with mushroom, and teriyaki sauce with avocado. But the winner was the pineapple-and-barbecue-sauce creation, which added extra juiciness to the lean beef. Be aware that most toppings are priced a la carte, so if you’re into piling mushroom, cheese, bacon, onion, avocado, and jalapenos on your patty, it may set you back upwards of $10. The signature volcano fries are flavored with Cajun-style seasoning mix that’s highly aromatic but not too spicy. Shakes are super thick — like eating a pint of ice cream out of a glass.

nearby attractions: Boutique shops, art galleries, Baldwin and Ho‘okipa beach parks — great for watching wind- and kitesurfers


The Sure Thing
790 Front St., Lahaina • (808) 214-6982
Hours: Daily, 11 am - 5 pm

Taste: 9 | Ambiance: 7 | Value: 8
Overall Score: 24

the scoop: It’s not every day a two-star Michelin chef opens a burger joint on Maui, but Josiah Citrine did. The chef of Santa Monica’s Melisse restaurant created The Sure Thing with a commitment to using top-grade ingredients. A secret, chef-inspired sauce sends the hand-formed patties of his classic burger over the top. Burgers can be had bunless, though I’m not sure why anyone but a starving starlet would pass on Sure Thing’s unique bakery item, a cross between brioche and Hawaiian sweetbread. The fries are made on site from fresh potatoes; they are crispy outside, tender inside. All that’s missing here is a milkshake, and for that I recommend bringing one from Ono Gelato across the street.  

nearby attractions: Art galleries, shops, Banyan Tree Park, Wo Hing Temple, Baldwin Home Museum, Hale Pa‘i, Lahaina Harbor


Peggy Sue’s
1279 S Kihei Rd., Kihei • (808) 875-8944
Hours: Sun - Thurs, 11 am - 9 pm • Fri - Sat, 11 am - 10 pm

Taste: 8 | Ambiance: 8 | Value: 8
Overall Score: 24

the scoop: The only restaurant on Maui that offers ice cream sodas and egg creams, this Happy Days–style diner could be mistaken for a Midwestern cliche were it not for the Maui Cattle Company beef burgers and Roselani Ice Cream shakes in flavors seldom seen east of the Mississippi. There’s no doubt you’re in Hawai‘i when the milkshake menu boasts haupia (coconut) custard, mango-n-cream, chocolate macadamia nut, Kona mud pie, blue Hawaiian, and Pauwela sunrise. Elvis would surely approve of the Don’t Be Cruel burger with chili, cheese and onion.

nearby attractions: Pacific Whale Foundation, Kama‘ole Beach Parks, Maui Ocean Center


‘Ulupalakua Ranch Store’s Deli & Grill
Hwy. 37, ‘Ulupalakua • (808) 878-2561
Hours: Daily 9:30 am - 5 pm • Grill 11 am - 2:30 pm • Closed on major holidays

Taste: 9 | Ambiance: 9 | Value: 8
Overall Score: 26

the scoop: If you’re driving the “back way” to Hana, you’ll pass this endearing little ranch store and grill. Stop and stretch your legs or sit a spell on the lanai, whose whimsical cowboy sculptures were carved by the late Maui artist Reems Mitchell. Livestock grazing nearby let you know your burger’s got the Maui Cattle Company brand. As with all great barbecues, the hand-formed patties sizzle over smoldering embers, taking on a smoky flavor before settling into a griddle-toasted Home Maid Bakery bun.

nearby attractions: Tedeschi Winery Tours & Tasting Room, Kula Country Farms stand, Kula Botanical Gardens, Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm, O’o Farms, Surfing Goat Dairy