Square Barrels Brings More Burgers and Beer to Downtown Honolulu
The Pint + Jigger partners’ newest eatery is finding its groove.
The Inception Burger.
Photo: Diane Lee
When we hear there’s a new place in town whose main gig is burgers and beer, it doesn’t take much convincing to get us there. And quickly. We found ourselves at Square Barrels a mere two weeks into its existence. In all fairness, that’s totally jumping the gun, for the purposes of a review. We don’t know many two-week-olds who were born ready. Barrels is no exception, but we went anyway. Twice. OK, three times. And this is what we think so far.
First impressions: Square Barrels is a good-looking joint. Its whitewashed walls and high-walled booths evoke a sort of French country vibe. Then the sleek black accents make it less country and more townie cool. And then the bar—a wall of polished silver beer faucets punctuated by a steer skull hanging on a backdrop of pine-colored planks, bring it back around to farmhouse chic. We like it. We like walking in to all that. It feels good. And knowing you’ll be sitting down to a meal of burgers makes it feel even better.
Hideo and Grace Simon of Pint + Jigger opened Square Barrels March 6 in the old Café Che Pasta space in Bishop Square with a small, focused menu of mostly burgers. The burgers are made with local meat, ground in-house, and served like burgers should be: with a pile of perfect French fries. They really are perfect. Thicker than shoestring, slimmer than thick, fried in pig fat, salted generously and peppered lightly. There is the option to have them fried in rice bran oil. Don’t do it. Just don’t. There is no substitute for lard (in fries or in life). Ulu fries are also on the menu, but our server informed us that they had already depleted the island’s supply of breadfruit and were sold out until further notice. Fair enough. A reason to go back.
Over the course of three visits, we tried every burger on the menu, a couple of pastas and both desserts. And then tried the burgers again. The burgers will keep us coming back; the pastas weren’t a good enough alternative to the burgers (next time, we’ll just get extra fries). And the desserts? Skip dessert.
New on the menu on our first visit was the “Inception” burger, named for its dream-within-a-dream (or rather burger-within-a-burger) concept: ground smoked pork sandwiched between ground beef and then cooked as usual. It was the best burger of the bunch. Full of good, meaty flavor, heavy on the smoke and cooked to a perfect pink. Our other burgers, on all occasions, were cruelly over-cooked. We wanted the bacon burger to be our favorite. We picked it first, tried it first, tried it again, took a bite of venison to cleanse our palate and went back for more. Still it left us wanting. Too dry, too cooked, too thin. For $15, we want meat. MEAT.
The venison burger was better, but also suffered from over-cooking, giving it that felt-like texture that game meat gets when it’s deader-than-dead. But with less time on the fire, we’d go back for the venison burger. Hell, we’d go back for any of the burgers. All the pieces are there for burger greatness, and greatness doesn’t always happen overnight. We get that.
In the meantime, 24 beers on tap and perfect fries are two really, really good reasons to keep checking in on the burgers.
Square Barrels, 1001 Bishop St. (Hotel Street side of Bishop Square), burgers $9 to $15, beer $4 to $10, 524-2747.