Wednesday, December 26, 2012

W & M Bar-B-Q Burger

W & M Bar-B-Q Burger is a mom-and-pop burger joint located on Waialae Ave. in Honolulu, Hawaii. It's a place that generations of people have been coming to. Here, it's all about the signature BBQ (teriyaki) burgers.

Wilfred and Mary Kawamura (W & M) opened the original W & M establishment in 1940. The family still runs the place to this day. The original location was on Nuuanu Ave., then moved to 9th and Waialae around the late 1960s. W & M has been at its current spot, just a few blocks south on Waialae, since 1980.

Growing up in Hawaii, I remember my mom taking me to W & M every so often. I may have been a pickier eater back then, but I'd always get a plain burger with lettuce and ketchup. It's all about the teriyaki beef patties here. While the patties are small and thin (maybe 3 oz. max), the meat soaks in a secret teriyaki sauce recipe, and you get that explosive flavor from the first bite.

How secret is the recipe? Probably only two people know what it is. The recipe's kept under lock and key. Even the longtime employees have no clue.

The food still comes in paper bags. The burgers are still bundled in the familiar thin white paper wrapping. The order-in lingo scribed on that wrapping determines which burger is which. Don't we all wish the original prices for burgers (19 cents) still existed?

Since growing from panda cub to curious-adult-panda-who-destroys-stomach-with-superspicy-food, the appetite also got larger. Yeah, the prices also rose -- and trust me, my wallet hated me -- but nostalgia wins this time. The burgers here are not real fancy, but that's not how this place has stuck around for 60 years, anyway.

There are other menu items, but there's only one BBQ burger here. What you want on that burger determines the final price.

While the "Royal" ($3.60) is basically a cheeseburger with the veggies, Hal's Special ($6.40) takes that Royal and includes some of W & M's thin BBQ steak inside. A big hell yes. From the first bite to the last, I enjoyed the strong flashbacks when life was a heck of a lot easier.

Hal Special
(W & M Bar-B-Q Burger)
To W & M's defense (sorta), you can get extra patties on your burger -- for $2.20 each.

I feel that the fries have declined in quality and gotten smaller over the years, though. They had a bit of thickness to them in the past, with a healthy golden color and a decent amount of salt. Now they appear more like McDonald's fries, with not as much sodium sprinkled on top. Bags of frozen uncooked fries sat on the counter, waiting for the dip in the fryer. I hear they are fried twice, which I personally like. The fries here weren't overly greasy and should still satisfy any fry craving.

The current spot is tight, with limited parking. Busier days could become an adventure.

Here are some great articles on W & M:

Honolulu Magazine (2008)
Tasty Island Hawaii -- Kaimuki Eats (2008)
Serious Eats (2010)
Hawaii News Now (2011)

(The 1960s location)

The place is still pretty good, and I'm very happy that the burger flavor and prep haven't changed over the years. It'd be damn cool to take the next generation here one day. 7.25/10

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