Wanting a burger is an itch that just needs to get scratched. I like to keep a mental list of all the island’s burger joints, just for those times when I suffer an all-beef patty attack.
I just added Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Lahaina to that queue.
A burger at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers starts with beef, 100 percent ground chuck measured out into a five, seven or a whopping nine ounce size, hand-patted into shape and cooked medium unless you indicate otherwise (you can also double the patties). From there it’s all about the toppings – special sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickle, cheddar, American, Swiss, pepperjack, barbecue, blue cheese, mushrooms, onion, grilled onions, jalapeño, onion ring, Teriyaki sauce, avocado and bacon. Their menu boast seven specialty burgers, and there are another couple on the daily specials board, or you can create your own. In fact, they are currently taking suggestions for a new specialty burger, the Lahaina. Everything is made to order, so their emphasis is on quality, not speed, (they still seem to knock out the orders pretty fast).
The first time I went to Teddy’s I ordered the Bacado, whereby the patty is topped with half an avocado and bacon. Owner Henry Telles says his current favorite burger is the King of the Dojo, which includes Cajun seasoning, teriyaki sauce, pepperjack cheese, bacon and a crispy hash brown patty, but some of his most popular burgers are the Kailua Style, which has Teriyaki sauce, Swiss cheese, mushrooms and grilled onions, the Western burger (cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings and BBQ sauce) and the Bacon Me Crazy burger, which we can only surmise contains enough bacon to supply a diner for a week’s worth of breakfasts.
The menu is simple at first glance: sandwiches, salads, fries, sides, drinks and shakes. There are six kinds of spuds here: spiced tater tots, natural cut, garlic, extra crispy, cheesy and spicy. The extra thick, extra generous shakes are made with Roselani Ice Cream and come in a I-can’t-finish-it size, in seven flavors. Those not suffering a burger craving can opt for the chicken breast, fish, pastrami, veggie or turkey sandwiches. Even the salads have a bevy of additions, and you build your own. It’s like a salad bar where you don’t have to make it yourself. The bottom line is they welcome your creativity, and are happy to build you whatever you want out of their kitchen. Not even my grandmother is that gracious.
Some cool amenities in their clean and brightly-colored, mural-painted, kid-friendly dining room include free refills and wi-fi. They offer a 10 percent kamaaina discount on all combo meals. They also offer an early and midday happy hour that cuts $1 off all combos from 10am-11am & 3pm-6pm.
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers first opened on Oahu, in Kaimuki on Monssarat, by Ted Tsakiris and Richard Stula. Now they have five stores located in Aiea, Kailua, Hawaii Kai, University of Hawaii and Waikiki. The first of their stores to venture off Oahu landed in Washington. Another soon opened in Japan, followed by the newest in Lahaina, located in the Lahaina Gateway Center next to Genki Sushi and Lahaina Farms. Owners Henry and Lisa Telles are usually behind the counter where you order, frying up patties, taking order and helping customers.
The best part of running Teddy’s, according to Henry, is “seeing the change in the customer’s face and overall demeanor when they come in and when they leave. From hungry and sometimes grumpy to happy and satisfied. I could be having a really tough and challenging day but when a customer goes out of their way and makes a point of telling you that was the best burger they have ever had, it makes it all worth it.”
Henry was originally a software developer background, but that bubble burst after 9/11 and he moved to Hawaii for something different. Believing that if you work hard good things come to you, he took a humble counter position at Teddy’s in Kaimuki. In 2002 he met Teddy and became a part of the food and beverage industry. Good food, a clean restaurant and great customer service became tenets of what Telles believes makes a good restaurant, and he helped the Teddy’s team open new outlets, and eventually franchised his own store here on Maui.
“I always emphasize to our staff to simply treat the customers as they would want to be treated if they were out spending their own money,” Henry said. “The Golden Rule, really – do unto others. Of course keeping a clean and well-kept establishment is very important as well, as no one wants to eat in a dirty restaurant. Consistency of food quality is extremely important as well. We have a saying that is simple: ‘Protect The Burger!’ You are only as good as your last burger.”