First Look: Burgers and Things
The burgers at this tiny Pauoa hole-in-the-wall are braised, not grilled.
Photos: Michael Keany
The search for a good burger is a lifetime one. Even when we find one we love (the Marky Mark burger from Franky Fresh, to name one), there’s always time and space on our favorites list for more.
SEE ALSO: Get the 411 on Franky Fresh in Kaimukī
The latest addition to the list is from Burgers and Things, a tiny burger joint so far off the beaten path not even sure the path even exists. And we kind of like it that way—not that its hidden location on the ground floor of a two-story walk-up apartment building in Pauoa has kept the crowds at bay.
Just the opposite. Burgers and Things’ hidden-gem status has catapulted it into must-have territory, and everyone is rushing in to get one of chef Ernesto Limcaco’s Juicy Burgers.
For burger lovers, here’s where things get a little wacky. As a general rule, great burgers are served medium-rare or medium, but certainly never well done. Except here, where Limcaco makes the most of his limited kitchen by braising the burgers rather than grilling or griddling them.
The result: a well-done patty that’s also super juicy. The patties cook low and slow in a umami-packed jus and, when it’s time to build your burger, the patty is pulled from its pan where it’s been soaking up all that flavor. A brilliant work-around, because the place is always bumping. We asked if we could call in an order on a Sunday, and head burger guy, Ky Constantino, said they had to stop taking call-in orders because they’re just too busy to answer the phone. So it’s walk-ins only, first come first served—and it’s only open until 6 p.m., so plan to go for lunch or for an early dinner.
The place itself is just a room with windows and a sectioned-off work space where one person builds the burgers and tends to the other Things. Here, the “Things” in Burgers and Things refers to sandwiches and a few desserts created by co-owner Kara Shimomura.
There are about a dozen-and-a-half seats for dine-in customers, and we suggest eating there at least once to take in what is essentially a museum of geekery. It’s like walking into a real life Bob’s Burgers where Sheldon Cooper is the manager. The burger and sandwich names are geeky-clever: Release the Quacken (a duck pâté grilled cheese), Wagyu Say?! (a wagyu beef burger), Lamb Bam Thank You Ma'am (a Ni‘ihau lamb burger), I Came In Like a Butterball (a turkey burger). Everything else is just straight geeky: framed comic books on the wall, a collection of superhero aprons for the staff, a bin of toys with Darth Vader at the top of the pile, a vase of selfie photo props that use classic Batman onomatopoeia (Bam! Pow!), the Star Wars film score on the little bluetooth speaker system. You get the idea.
First-timers to the braised burger game should start with the signature Juicy Burger and add onions, bacon and any one of the uber-long list of artisan cheeses available daily. We like the smoked gouda or the manchego, but really any cheese will do. For an even deeper umami punch, get the teriyaki version of the Juicy Burger. Both are really good, and, if you get them to go, they even pack the burger separately in a pool of its own jus so the bun doesn’t get soggy on the drive home.
We’ll definitely be back because, now that we know, we can’t live without these burgers. The Wagyu Say?! should be on everyone’s must-try list. It’s braised in a whole-grain mustard jus, topped with sauteed mushrooms and served sitting in a perfect puddle of creamy horseradish. Assume the stance: Elbows up and out, head positioned over your plate, and … bite! It’s worth every single drip.
We’ll also return to give the other hot sandwiches and the dessert bars a try. Our Release the Quacken needed more time between the panini irons to melt the cheese and was missing the buttery, crisp exterior of a good grilled cheese. Next time: The Ernesto Pesto (chicken and honey pesto panini), the Un-FoieGettable (Kaua‘i beef patty braised in a fois gras demi with truffle mayo) and bacon sando made with rosemary candied bacon: Don’t Go Bacon My Heart. We couldn’t if we tried.
Burgers and Things, 1991 Pauoa Road (next to Pauoa Chop Suey), burgers $7.50 to $16, sandwiches $6.50 to $7.50, 971-1946