Before COVID-19 isolation became law, I had six restaurant reviews in the works — all were put on hold with the mandatory closing of restaurant dining rooms. With only a takeout option available to them, at least two of the restaurants had to close within a few weeks of opening.
But over at the casual Betty’s Burgers in Moiliili, it almost seems like business as usual for the shop that opened in late January. In fact, co-owner Douglas “Moe” Morrison said the burgers are also supporting Study Hall, a bar he also co-owns with Jed Roa, which is temporarily closed because of the new laws.
They’ve managed to retain all 15 of Betty’s Burgers’ employees, including two cooks who also worked at Study Hall. All based on the power of a comfort food favorite.
Morrison, who served as food and beverage manager for the Seattle Seahawks between 2009 and 2014, said he was inspired by the popularity of burgers served at Century Link Field, and began tasting his way through about 25 of the best burgers available here and on the West Coast. Favorites included San Diego’s Hodad’s and Seattle’s Red Mill Burgers.
Betty’s uses an 80/20 ratio of lean-to-fat Big Island Angus chuck to arrive at a juicy and flavorful, quarter-pound smash burger, starting at $4.99. The quick-cooking smash method is the secret to the burger patty’s crispy edges and juicy center.
This is what an all-American burger may have been like in the run-up to the mid-1950s, before McDonald’s began standardizing and processing the soul out of the hamburger.
Morrison, who grew up in Washington state,always retained a fondness for his high school days and in the spirit of fun named Betty’s after his study hall teacher, “because she never made me study.”
The dining room is done up in 1950s style, with a sense of place offered in a mural combining local surf and such retro details as a Pan Am Clipper.
Where most artisan burgers in town are priced well into the double digits, Betty’s prices were set low, with the neighborhood’s college population in mind.
“We wanted to make it a place where people could get a really good burger and not feel broke afterward,” Morrison said.
Eleven beef burgers are on a menu rounded out by fish ($7.25), teriyaki chicken ($6.99), BBQ chicken ($6.99) and veggie Beyond Burger ($7.99) sandwiches.
In addition to such necessities as a bacon deluxe with cheese ($7.75) and local-style teriyaki burger ($6.99), some of my favorites are the jacked-up mushroom and guacamole ($7.75) burger, and a spicy burger ($6.99) with pepper jack cheese, Sriracha mayo and chopped jalapenos that spread the fire evenly throughout. (Note: It won’t seem spicy at all to true fire eaters.)
Add-ons are available for any sandwich, with cheese options, jalapenos, grilled onions and grilled pineapple running 89 cents, and bacon, mushroom, blue cheese and avocado available for $1.69.
Combine your sandwich with thick-cut fries ($2.89/$3.25) or a salad, including two — a Cobb ($8.99) and Caesar ($7.99) —topped with fresh shredded roast chicken.
Puck’s Alley, 1025 University Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; delivery via Bite Squad and Door Dash
Prices: About $10 to $15 per person
Ratings compare similar restaurants:
**** – excellent
*** – very good
** – average
* – below average
Nadine Kam’s restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Advertiser. Reach her at email@example.com.