Story by Becky Speere
When I was 12 years old, I went to my friend Janice Isemoto’s house for dinner and a sleepover. We were tasked with helping prepare dinner, and as I washed the iceberg lettuce, Mrs. Isemoto shared her secrets for the perfect burger.
“The most important thing is the beef,” she said. “Always use a good cut. In our house, we use sirloin.” She indicated a large yellow Corningware bowl inside of which sat two pounds of said sirloin. Mrs. Isemoto added salt, pepper and diced onions, then instructed us to mix it well with our hands.
“But don’t mix it too much or it’ll be tough!” she said in her best schoolteacher voice. (Mrs. Isemoto taught second grade at Chiefess Kapi‘olani Elementary School.) “Very good! Now pat the burgers into the same size. There should be eight.”
We handed our plate of perfect patties to Mr. Isemoto, who placed them in neat rows on the charcoal grill and supervised their progress. When the centers were juicy and pink and studded with sweet, white-onion jewels, Mr. Isemoto proclaimed them ready to eat. To this day, those were the best burgers I have ever had.
Though nothing can top the fond memory and taste of Mrs. Isemoto’s burgers, these five island iterations come very close. Sample these sandwiches yourself and create your own perfect-burger experience.
Maui Cattle Company Cheeseburger
The atmosphere at Monkeypod Kitchen resembles a boisterous honky-tonk. My husband and I settle in at the bar, and I sip a mai tai made with Kula rum, macadamia-nut orgeat and honey-liliko‘i (passionfruit) foam as the musician plays an upbeat tune to a roomful of joyful patrons. I am smiling and happy as our server arrives, and my smile widens as she delivers my grass-fed Maui Cattle Company beef burger. I cut the burger in half and take my first, delicious bite. It’s cooked perfectly and is topped with a sweet ‘n’ sour namasu-style pickle, savory sauteed onions, Dijon aioli, creamy fontina cheese, a thick slice of sweet tomato and locally grown butter lettuce. My sides of garlic-truffle-oil fries and crunchy won bok kimchee slaw complete my meal, the ultimate treat on a perfect spring day.
2435 Kā‘anapali Pkwy., Kā‘anapali | 808.878.6763 | monkeypodkitchen.com | IG @monkeypodkitchen | FB @monkeypod kitchenkaanapali