First Look: Betty’s Burgers, A New Diner Near University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Betty’s scores big with fresh-baked buns, killer shakes and crisp steak fries. But its smash burgers need refining.
Photos: Katrina Valcourt
Betty’s Burgers recently opened on University Avenue, replacing the Greek Corner that had been there since the early ’90s. It’s a risky spot, only half a mile from Teddy’s Bigger Burgers (and a block away from Burger King, if that matters to anyone, which it shouldn’t), but Betty’s Burgers specializes in smash burgers. Give me a juicy patty with crispy edges and I’ll gladly ignore every other restaurant in the area. With 15 burgers (including fish, chicken and vegetarian options) and competitive prices, it’s worth a shot for burger lovers.
Past the white picket fence and colorful umbrellas outside, retro décor jazzes up the former blue-and-white spot: a Coca-Cola clock; a modern jukebox; photos of classic burger diners such as Dick’s, Hodad’s and Burgermaster; new fun murals. Our group of three ordered a bit arbitrarily to try a range of items, so when our burgers didn’t match the menu descriptions, I didn’t mind too much. I’m very forgiving during a restaurant’s opening phase, and the staff plans to update the menu within the next month or so.
What I couldn’t get over, though, was the patty. I heard multiple rave reviews about this place and how it has the best smash burgers in town, yet mine were neither crispy nor juicy. In fact, they were a little dry. I’m hoping it was just an off day. Still, if your menu revolves around one thing, it needs to be consistently good. Most of the rest of the items—from fries to shakes to toppings—were.
Inside the ’shroom and guac’ burger
Each burger starts with a quarter-pound beef patty, shredded iceberg lettuce and a super soft bun from Liliha Bakery. From there, Betty’s Cheese Burger ($5.50) adds American cheese and a house sauce; when we got it, it also had tomato, pickle and onion, which is actually a Betty’s Deluxe with Cheese ($6.25). Other than the patty problem, it’s not bad for a basic burger, with crunchy toppings and buns so fluffy and flavorful they almost steal the show.
The ’Shroom and Guac’ was my favorite, with peppery guacamole, lightly sautéed mushrooms, tomato, onions and house sauce ($7.25). I’d order this again and add some pepper jack cheese for 89 cents. Other burger options include blue cheese and bacon, a spicy burger with jalapeños and Sriracha mayo, a grilled fish burger with homemade tartar sauce, and a vegetarian Beyond burger. Prices range from $4.99 to $8.25.
our order of betty’s cheese burger turned out to be betty’s deluxe with cheese.
We wanted to try a chicken burger, and the one that arrived appeared to be a combination of both the teriyaki chicken burger ($6.99) and the barbecue chicken burger ($6.99). The homemade teriyaki dipping sauce that came on the side was delightful but none of us cared for the meat’s flavor or texture and would rather walk across the street to Raising Cane’s for chicken.
the teriyaki dipping sauce that came with our chicken burger was delightful, but we didn’t enjoy the meat itself.
We were hoping to try a strawberry slushy float ($4 for 16 ounces, $5.25 for 24 ounces), but the machine wasn’t working properly, so we ordered chocolate and strawberry shakes ($4.89 for 16 ounces, $5.49 for 24 ounces). I loved the chocolate (it came with chocolate sprinkles!), but the strawberry shake was shockingly good. Topped with whipped cream and a whole strawberry, the shake’s strawberry flavor was front and center. I alternated sips between each shake and suggest you grab a burger buddy and do the same.
You can also order an 8-ounce shake dipper for $1.75—just enough to dip your fries into, if you’re that kind of person. I am not. I’m not usually a fries person in general, but these thick-cut beauties were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and well-seasoned ($2.99 large, $2.49 small). The menu also offers a few salads, onion rings, sodas and options for kids.
I really want to love this place, so I’m gonna give it a bit of time before I come back. It has potential to rival the other great smash burger restaurants of Honolulu, but not until it solidifies the menu and perfects the meat.
1019 University Ave., open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, parking in Puck’s Alley is free for an hour with validation, (808) 762-0099
HONOLULU Magazine’s gathering the top breakfast and brunch restaurants for BrunchFest presented by American Savings Bank. It will be a morning of delicious sweet and savory bites, bloody marys and mimosas, lawn games, entertainment and more. Join us for a relaxed Sunday Funday vibe on March 8, 2020 at the Ho‘okupu Center. Click here for ticket details.