Beloved saimin spot takes its tasty ‘burgas’ to another levelA La Carte
August 19, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
By all measures, 1969 was an extraordinary year in American history.
In that magical year, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin rode Apollo 11 to the moon. Woodstock drew 400,000 rock fans to Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York. The earliest version of the Internet connected UCLA and a research lab at Stanford University, 350 miles away.
Also that year, a hardworking Nisei entrepreneur named Franz Shiro Matsuo, the son of Japanese immigrants, opened a humble noodle restaurant in a busy shopping center in Waimalu. Over the years, Matsuo would serve increasingly elaborate versions of the comfort food, earning himself the nickname “Mistah Saimin.” His legendary menu would eventually feature 60 distinctly different presentations of Hawaii’s beloved noodle soup bowl.
The fact that Shiro’s Saimin Haven has been around for almost 50 years is deliciously undeniable evidence of the magical fare here. And the menu is as whimsical as Shiro’s “Dear Hearts” poems that still adorn the walls of his restaurant, and as charming as the late founder himself. With items like Yaki Yaki Yakitori, Local Boy Stew, and Chop Along Steak (Faster than Hop Along), Shiro’s has become renowned for its non-saimin offerings, too.
2018 might be The Year of the Burga for this wonderful little restaurant. Though hamburgers — here called “burgas” — have been on the menu for decades, Shiro’s Saimin Haven recently has upgraded its beef and the results are mouthwatering.
“It’s actually 100 percent local ground beef from Parker Ranch,” says manager Sheena Arca-Gonzales. “All top cuts of pasture-raised and grass-fed Angus beef. When you eat it, you’ll see the difference!”
Try Hawaii’s favorite beef in Shiro’s Loko Moko ($9.25), a classic hunger-buster, which includes one hamburger patty, two eggs, rice and, of course, gravy. “It’s good!” says Arca-Gonzales. “It’s improved because of our new ground beef, and all our burgas are freshly prepped every day.”
“Homemade” Hamburga Steak with Gravy ($11.35), a steak patty that features Parker Ranch beef and freshly ground onions, is topped with gravy and grilled onions, and served with corn and two scoops of rice.
Hula Burga ($7.35), a 3-ounce classic island beef burger dressed with lettuce and Shiro’s “Hula sauce,” is served with crunchy, golden crinkle fries — the perfect partner for a “burga” as unforgettable as the man who created it.