The Best Burgers In Town

Jo McGarry
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Friday - January 20, 2006
| | podcast Podcast |

Jason Chong — there’s bison, venison and even ostrich on that grill
Jason Chong — there’s bison,
venison and even ostrich on that

Every once in a while I am reminded that you can’t tell people enough about a great place to eat.

I was talking about best burgers and sandwiches with a friend last week when they admitted that they had never heard of Kiawe BBQ Grill.

Never heard of it? I was almost speechless. I just assume that after a couple of years almost everyone who loves good food has discovered this delicious mom-and-pop Korean restaurant. Obviously not. So, here, just for those of you who love to eat and want to know the very best of the mom-and-pop eateries in town, is a brief description of Kiawe Grill and some of the reasons I rate it among my favorites of all time.

First, there’s the grill. Kiawe wood burns from early morning on a reconstructed original grill from Korea. Jason Chong, the owner, wanted to cook Korean food - and American favorites - the way he ate them as a child.

“I looked for almost 10 years until I found this grill,” he says of the open flame pit with its hand-cranked wheel that lowers the meat to the desired level of flame. “Then I restored it and hoped that it would give a different flavor to the meats.”

Kiawe wood grilled Kobe beef in a burger? You bet it has a different flavor from anything else in town.

Deeply infused with the flavor of kiawe, the already tender meat is marinated to add even more depth and taste. Jason’s Kobe beef burger might be the most popular item on the menu, but others are catching up fast. On a koa wood menu at both the North King and South King locations, the list of kiawe-grilled offerings ranges from beef, steak and shrimp, to scampi, salmon and scallops. Throw in a little bison, venison and some ostrich and you’re beginning to get the picture.

This is not your average Korean restaurant. The food is outstandingly good, and just because I hadn’t been in a while, I went by last Saturday morning for a grilled chicken burger deluxe (my favorite) with a plate of extra crispy steak fries. It was as juicy and moist and flavor-filled as the first one I tasted more than four years ago.

Local restaurants struggle to keep up with the costs of running a small business. Between increased taxes, the cost of fuel and higher wages, it’s not easy to keep on top of the basic things - like making sure the food quality is great. Chong and his family (it really is a mom-andpop operation) do a fabulous job. Korean side dishes such as kim chee, watercress and sweet potato are homemade daily - and the quality of the meat dishes (kalbi, steaks and burgers) is first rate.

If you haven’t made a visit to this unique, value for money, casual restaurant, then make a note to go soon. It gets my vote every year for the best burger in town - and so far, in 2006 I haven’t seen anything else that will change my mind.

Kiawe Grill BBQ and Burgers
1311 N. King St.
Honolulu, HI 96817
Phone: 808-841-5577

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