Food That Shapes Up

Features Order of the Day

April 5, 2015

Story By: Jaimie Kim Farinas | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

Burgers and beer — ask anyone at Square Barrels to explain the restaurant’s concept and that’s the answer you’ll get.

It’s a new restaurant that owner Hideo Simon unveiled about a month ago in Bishop Square. So new, that its grand opening has yet to take place (scheduled April 11).

Simon, executive chef Noah Blair and the rest of the Square Barrels team are setting out to accomplish a few things. First, by showing professionals, students and residents in the bustling downtown area just how nuanced a great beer pairing can affect food.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that there’s always subtle notes in the beer that you can enhance with the food, which will change the flavor of it,” explains executive sous chef Tracey Nakashima.

On tap, Square Barrels offers 24 craft beers. And the restaurant staff is knowledgeable in providing pairing suggestions.

The second thing Square Barrels set out to do is offer what Simon describes as simple, grown-up versions of burgers.

“There’s that old-school train of thought that everything you serve should have five ingredients or less, and that keeping it simple is the best way to go about that,” says Blair. “I think we’ve done pretty well with that so far.”

But it’s an almost deceptively simple menu Square Barrels offers. Sure, each burger is served with the usual accompaniments of lettuce, tomato, pickled onion and cheese (the restaurant offers quite a selection of cheese to choose from). Where Square Barrels exceeds, though, is in its inventive sauces.

Venison Burger ($14), for instance, features a blackberry and raspberry mustard. Then there’s Drive-Thru Burger ($9) with its fried caper mayo. Or CB Burger $14), which is the restaurant’s take on a Reuben. CB Burger is topped with house-made McGrath sauce.

The burgers are executed perfectly. But even more so, each bite is a winning amalgamation of ground fresh-daily Molokai beef and whatever sauce Blair has crafted.

“Every sauce we chose for each dish is just there to complement the meat in every way it can,” says Nakashima.

For now, at least until its grand opening, expect Square Barrels’ menu to stay small with four burgers to choose from, and a few pasta, salad and dessert options as well — all utilizing fresh and locally sourced ingredients.

“We’re just trying to keep everything really fresh,” says Blair. “I think that’s the key to the whole concept.”

Oh, and the significance behind Square Barrels’ rather quirky name? It’s really quite simple. Barrels, asserts Simon, bring out the most robust flavors in anything — wine, whiskey, cheese. And if they were square instead of round, well, it would just be a more efficient use of space.

P.S. Don’t forget about Square Barrels’ fries. Request to have your fries cooked in either pig fat (aka lard aka the best thing ever) or rice bran oil. Pig fat will give it that classic drive-thru flavor, while the rice bran oil preserves the true flavor of potato — or, you know, order it both ways.

Square Barrels

1001 Bishop St.
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96813

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