Who Needs In-N-Out When We Have Chubbies?
Chubbies Burgers serves simple, quality old-school burgers and fries near the old Sports Authority.
Owner Jeff Nedry always loved the simple but quality burgers from In-N-Out Burger and the New York-based Shake Shack but couldn’t find anything comparable here. So he decided to make his own.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
Who spends $20 on a burger and fries?
I do. And I’m not complaining.
Neither are the dozens of others who have flocked to Chubbies Burgers, a food truck stationed outside the old Sports Authority on Auahi Street, on a rainy Friday night. This food truck specializes in old-school juicy burgers, grilled to order, and crispy crinkle-cut fries. I sit at one of the tables outside the truck and pull back the white paper wrapper to reveal the kind of burger you see in commercials: a perfectly grilled patty smothered in melted American cheese with thick-cut bacon, a thick tomato slice and an unblemished piece of lettuce, all between a potato roll that’s buttered and grilled, too. I have to pull my hair back to eat this.
Owner Jeff Nedry, who moved to Hawai‘i from Costa Mesa, California, five years ago, has always loved the simple but quality burgers from In-N-Out Burger and the New York-based Shake Shack. But none of the burgers served in Honolulu stood up to those in his mind.
So he decided to make his own.
“I just thought there weren’t a whole lot of good burgers out here with that Southern California flavor,” says Nedry, 26, taking a break from cooking. “I also fell in love with the local ingredients and I was shocked that no one [serving burgers] was really using this stuff.”
After months of perfecting the burger and his sauces, nailing down local distributors for ingredients, finding a food truck and testing out his concept on friends, Nedry parked on Kona Street on Aug. 1, 2016, and sold about 20 burgers. “I only had four followers on Instagram then,” he says, laughing. “I wasn’t expecting much.”
Today, Chubbies has more than 5,500 followers and a semipermanent spot at Ward Village. Nedry wants to move into a brick-and-mortar location, using the food truck as a way to test the concept without the huge financial commitment. Because he’s sourcing nearly everything locally—the grass-fed beef is from Makaweli Ranch on Kaua‘i, the lettuce from Mari’s Gardens in Mililani, the potato buns are custom-baked for Chubbies by a local bakery—his food costs are higher than other burger joints’. And since he’s cooking everything to order on the flat-top in the truck—the burgers are prepared “smash-style,” meaning a cold beef patty is pressed down on an extra hot griddle, creating a crust, he explains, like searing a steak—service isn’t drive-thru fast. I waited eight minutes for my burger and fries, without a line.
Yet people come from all over, wait in line, wait for their orders, all for what some customers I spoke to say is the best burger on the island.
The ’50s Burger ($8.50), which comes with a local grass-fed beef patty, lettuce, tomato and Chubbies’ signature sauce. Add-ons include grilled onions, bacon and avocado. The chub fries ($5) features crinkle fries with melted cheddar cheese, grilled onions and its specialty fry sauce.
The Ten Gallon Burger ($11) comes with bacon, grilled onions, cheddar cheese and a house-made barbecue sauce.
Nedry plans to keep the menu simple for now—just three burgers and three fries—but will add milkshakes and ice cream soon. Maybe a vegan option, but that’s about it.
About the name, there’s nothing to it, Nedry says. He just thought Chubbies sounded friendly and approachable. “People keep telling me I need to make up a story about it,” he says.
ORDER THIS: ’50s Burger (with bacon) and Chub Fries
INSIDER TIP: Expect to wait around 10 minutes for your burger as it’s cooked to order.
Read more about what happened to Hawai‘i’s food truck scene in HONOLULU’s Restaurant Guide, available for digital subscribers and on newsstands now.
Bring the family down to the Best of Honolulu Festival July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Honolulu Hale civic grounds. Eat at ‘ono food booths, shop local designers in the marketplace, bring the family to the keiki zone for face painting, balloon animals, rides, games and more. For more information, visit honolulumagazine.com/bestofhonolulu.