Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: The Daley

Restaurant Insider

August 22, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee |

ANNE LEE speaks with The Daley owner DANNY KAAIALII

What is a smashburger, and why is it so popular? The Daley’s smashburger concept was created by restaurateur Danny Kaaialii and partner Jonny Vasquez. Opening its doors in September 2019, The Daley grew and expanded, as it was equipped to handle takeout orders, while providing a delicious comfort food experience. It has consistently been able to offer these decadent grass-fed Kauai beef burgers — juicy with crispy edges — to the business and neighborhood lunch crowd week after week.

As I learned more about The Daley, Danny and I had a shot of Fernet-Branca to start (as it is supposed to whet your appetite). And, to my surprise, I was able to eat an entire Daley burger, crinkle-cut fries, and the whole Ho Farms pickle.

Crinkle Cut Fries ($4) and The Daley Burger ($7.50)

AL: Tell me about your background and how you got to where you are today.

DK: I was born in Hawaii. When I was 6, I moved to Texas with my mother and grandparents. During the summers, I would always come back to visit with my dad and his family on the homestead in Nanakuli.

Growing up in Texas, I learned how to love Mexican food, as it’s a huge part of the culture. My good friend, Quentin, and I met while living there and he ended up coming to Hawaii to be a chef at our first concept, which was Salt Bar & Kitchen.

Ho Farms Pickle ($2)

From there, we started at Mark Noguchi’s concept, Taste, and called it Cocina, which grew to a brick-and-mortar. This led to the opportunity to open three establishments in the Encore building, which included The Daley.

AL: How did you come up with the name The Daley?

DK: Jonny and I took a road trip and realized that every hometown has their favorite daily neighborhood hangout, whether a bar or restaurant.

Crinkle Cut Fries ($4) and Beyond Burger ($13)

AL: What does The Daley provide to the Hawaii dining scene?

DK: We wanted the concept to be a neighborhood burger bar that offered a quick shot and a beer with your burger.

People ask, what is a smashburger? It’s when a burger is cooked on a flattop and literally smashed with a spatula. This creates a burger that’s crispy but still moist. It’s not gourmet or fancy; quite the opposite of that — greasy and sloppy — the way a burger is supposed to be.

AL: Walk me through the process on how to place an order.

DK: It’s a little different now, due to the pandemic. The idea was to come in and order off our straightforward menu. There aren’t many choices, as our burger is done one way. We offer a few things, and everything we offer, we love.

AL: What items are we featuring today?

DK: We have our flagship, The Daley Burger ($7.50), which is a Kauai grass-fed smash patty with house sauce, American cheese and diced grilled onions on a La Tour potato bun.

You can Double Down with another patty and slice of cheese ($3.50 per patty) to make it a double, triple or quad. One of our customers recently ordered a 10 stack, which is crazy.

For the health-conscious, we offer a Beyond Burger ($13) plant-based smash patty with house sauce, cheese and grilled onions on a La Tour potato bun.

You can order a generous side of Crinkle Cut Fries ($4), as they are nostalgic and hold up well to sauces you dip them in.

Last but not least is the Ho Farms Pickle ($2). Our friends at Ho Farms make dill pickles for us, and we go through these pretty fast when we can get them.

We also have soft drinks ($2.50), local drafts from Aloha Brew Co. ($6), Tecate ($4) or Sierra Nevada ($5) in cans, and shots ($5).

AL: Tell me about the dining area options.

DK: With limited inside dining available, during the day until 4 p.m., guests can order food from The Daley to enjoy outside in the Encore Saloon courtyard. On Mondays, we offer an industry night, during which we have bar specials at Encore only and close our kitchen. This allows our guests to order food from our sister restaurants, Pizza Mamo and The Daley, and enjoy them in the Encore courtyard.

AL: What is your favorite item to eat?

DK: Most of my meals I order from Encore, as it’s a little bit healthier, as I love my beans and rice.

But I do have to get my burger fix at least once a week, and varies from a Daley to a Double; if I do a Double, I forgo the fries.

I definitely have to squeeze in a pizza or two.

AL: Anything else you want our readers to know?

DK: I have framed artwork of famous people eating a burger along the main wall. Everyone loves a burger. There are people that come here from all over the island to get their Daley fix.

We are looking for another location to expand in the Honolulu area. These concepts were created based on where we personally like to frequent and eat, so location is really important.

Potentially, depending on the space, the next Daley would offer a full bar.

1110 Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96817

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best