We Tried the Entire Menu at The Daley in One Sitting
The new smash-burger joint downtown does one thing and does it well.
It was by chance that we were eating lunch at Encore Saloon in late August the same day its owner, Danny Kaaialii, opened his new restaurant, The Daley, right across the courtyard next to Fête. He told us to stop by and check it out when we were done—and then I immediately regretted stuffing myself with fish tacos. In the spot most recently occupied by Yield, Kaaialii and partner Jonny Vasquez transformed the tight space into a smash-burger joint, complete with stainless steel counters, a soft-serve machine, glass ketchup bottles, a letter-board menu, and photos of celebrities eating burgers interspersed with historic shots of Chinatown.
The very short menu consists of three burger options: a single Kunoa Cattle Co. beef patty ($7.50), a double ($11) and a meatless Beyond Burger ($12). There’s also crinkle-cut fries ($4), draft beer ($5), shots ($5) and a soft shake ($5), and you can try everything on the menu in one sitting—in one order, in fact. The Man on Five gets you a shot of your choice, a beer of your choice, a double-patty burger, fries and a shake for $25. There’s a certain thrill to ordering an entire menu’s worth of food, so for my third visit in just as many weeks, I gave it a try.
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The soft shake—with a consistency between soft serve and a milkshake, eaten with a spoon—comes from Mid-Late Summer, an ice cream business run by former Pai Honolulu pastry chef Aaron Lopez. When I went last week, The Daley had roasted strawberry agave flavor, so I filled my little cup halfway at the machine in the corner, added a shot of whiskey and topped it with more ice cream. If you like boozy shakes, this is a must. It makes the shake thinner and easier to drink, and while it does water down the flavor a bit, the roasted notes still come through. Other flavors so far have included an intriguing burnt orange molasses malt and a cherry malt. Liquor selections are limited to pretty much one of everything, including Tito’s vodka, Buffalo Trace bourbon and el Jimador tequila.
There are three taps for beer, dedicated to Anchor Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada and Aloha Beer Co. (Kaaialii says the taps won’t rotate.) I went with Aloha Beer’s Queen St Pils, a super refreshing pilsner, served in a chilled beer mug.
If you sit at the counter, you get a prime view of the flat-top grill, where the burger magic happens. It starts with the smashed patty—4 ounces of 70% lean Kunoa meat with clarified butter—which is topped with raw onions that get partially cooked when the burger is flipped. The juicy patties are cooked medium-well until crisp around the edges, then topped with cheese. The bun, lightly toasted yet pillowy soft, is slathered with what Kaaialii says is basically a dijonnaise with diced pickles. When The Daley first opened, the buns came from a Mainland company as a way to keep costs down, but now they’re potato buns from La Tour—and they hold up better than most burger buns I’ve had. Golden fries and a few bottle-smacks of ketchup rounded out my dinner, which I struggled to finish only because I was crunched for time.
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The Man on Five is an impressive (and delicious) meal, but it’s totally doable and saves you five bucks, which is essentially a free beer. Kaaialii says the connection to former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, known as the Man on Five for his fifth-floor office, is more of a double entendre than homage, as they want The Daley to be the kind of neighborhood place you visit on the daily. I’ve already run into familiar faces each time I’ve stopped by and I think everyone working there knows my name by now.
When I ask Kaaialii why he chose burgers, he says he went to school in Austin where there were a ton of great burger places—and he can still name them 20 years later. He figured he and his team could contribute to that conversation here. There are few burgers I’ll go out of my way for—luckily, I don’t have to go far for this one, since The Daley is just two blocks from my office. I’ve already made a habit of coming by weekly, if only for a quick bite and not the whole menu.
1110 Nu‘uanu Ave., open daily from 11 a.m. until late, @thedaleyburger on Instagram