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Jan 13, 2013 06:42 PM

How Hard Can It Be To Serve a Decent Hamburger Steak

Here in Hawaii, a hamburger steak plate is about as basic a dish as you can get. Usually 2 hamburger patties, 2 scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and brown gravy. When done right it is comfort food 101 and any local drive in or restaurant worth anything should be able to execute this fairly well.

The last few times I've ordered it over the last year have been disappointing to say the least. Tanaka Saimin and the the Asahi Grill are examples of how far down it has gone.

The first red flag at both places was the dish coming out of the kitchen in a matter of minutes. Now a raw hamburger patty on a hot grill will take what, 4-5 minutes per side for that nice crust while still juicy inside? The second red flag was no aroma of hot food from the plate. What was served were precooked, barely warmed over patties with lukewarm gravy, the white rice hotter than the main dish itself.

Totally unacceptable and the sign of a lazy kitchen, I can cook a better dish than that. So if anyone has a recommendation for a great hamburger steak plate, I'm all ears. Thanks.

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  1. l&l has a decent one, but the gravy isn't brown gravy enough. i wouldn't hesitate to order it, espeically if you add runny fried eggs on top (at home, because if you moco-ize it there, you get one less patty).

    zippy's has started to use bleh patties, like premade and rubbery, although that may be only for takeout. in the past, the way past, i have had decent hamburger steaks from inside.

    egg's n things, aside from being too expensive, has an artificial grill taste, although the quality of the meat was good. don't order it if you're here.

    liliha bakery is a safe bet for a good one.

    for me, though, the best place to have it is at home so i can make it as rare as i like, and add all the eggs i want.

    8 Replies
    1. re: indelibledotink

      That's right Liliha Bakery! Sit at the counter and watch the cook work the grill, no shortcuts there. Pick up some coco puffs too, thanks.

      1. re: curiousgeo

        Liliha bakery is a good one. I wouldn't say that Rainbow or Grace's are fantastic, but they haven't changed. I like the hamburger steak at Big City Diner, a real burger cooked to order, white (or brown) rice, and real gravy. You can even get it over fried rice, overkill to me, but some love it. They will also do a loco-moco over fried rice (regular or kim-chee.) I don't share indelibledotink's appreciation of L&L, but I can't dispute it's popularity. I've heard Kaimuki Grill does well too, but haven't tried one there, another friend swears by Ethel's Grill in Kalihi, and both Diamond Head Market and South Shore Grill over on Monsarrat are good. If you are more on the Pearl Harbor area, Shiro's used to do a good job, and Aiea Bowl has a great reputation, although I've never tried their hamburger steak. Mixed reviews on 49er Fountain. A couple of months ago I had one from Byron's by the airport. Classic. Enough rice and gravy to feed an army and a good sized hamburger patty (soon to go out of business due to the land lease.)

        1. re: KaimukiMan

          Hey KM, although I've never had the hamburger steak at Ethel's, it should be good since everything else I've had there has been nicely prepared. I'll need to try Big City Diner one of these days since it's right up the street in Kaimuki.

          Dot's in Waipahu serves a sizzling hamburger steak platter, the closest I've found to the one at the old Seaview Inn in Haleiwa. The St. Louis L&L isn't bad, homemade patties cooked to order, although a bit salty for my taste at times.

          1. re: curiousgeo

            coming from a family with high blood pressure issues i find I'm more sensitive than most to salt, I just don't use a lot of it in my own cooking. To me most everything at L&L seems to be over salted and much of it seems to be heavy in MSG as well. I know that others don't experience their food that way.

            Wow, is Dot's still there? Haven't been to Dot's in years and years. I still remember their old Kiku commercials. They have a pic of hamburger steak on their website, looks ono.

            1. re: curiousgeo

              Did I actually say Waipahu? Of course Dot's is in Wahiawa!

            2. re: KaimukiMan

              i forgot about BCD. for awhile i didn't go there because i was disappointed with their kim chi fried rice, but after a later visit, i found i like their other dishes a lot. they will make rare hamburgers there too (see my other thread on this). portions are generous. i like the hamburger steak here w/regular rice, as kman said the fried rice is overkill.

            3. re: curiousgeo

              i just polished off a liliha bakery hamburger steak with help from my dog.

              it was something beautiful.

              it could have been beautifuller, though. i would have preferred rarer, but i neglected to mention that when i phoned in my order. the patty was still nice and moist, but there was only one. i saw the cook put two on the grill next to a take out box and thus expected more. the brown gravy was perfect.

              mac salad has been improved with some kind of green onion or ???. i didn't have time to study it. it's less greasy too.

              substitute brown rice @ $0.30 a scoop.

              also, they forgot to give me the butter roll and jelly, which i didn't notice until later.

              cost was about $10.50, a little steep.

              the remodel is elegant, but it was fine before too.

              1. re: indelibledotink

                I was at Fairwood Drive-In (Kaimuki), I got the Honey Garlic Chicken, but I saw someone eating hamburger steak, it looked good to me. $8.25.

                Rainbow drive-in $6.75 (two thin patties) Big City Diner $10.99.