Hula Burger with Cheddar
This hasn’t been an easy post for me to write. Not because I am at all conflicted in my opinions about the Hula Burger, but because I tried to be sure I was talking about the sandwich itself, and not my estimation of how good this burger is compared to all the rest I’ve eaten. Admittedly, I have a bit of a bias to overcome as the Hula Burger is one of the few that has remained at the top of my list for years (alongside the Delux Burger), and I’m extra proud to have such a good sandwich available to us in Midtown Phoenix.
You may remember the picture for this post from my pre-season rankings (where the Hula Burger ranked second overall). That should say that I consider this to be an iconic Phoenix sandwich, and certainly worth a try when you’re hungry for something different.
The beef in a Hula Burger is illogically good. I say this because the burger itself often seems to be barely holding together, probably from an over-abundance of flavor packed in the patty and layered over by the grilled onions and hula sauce. With the ideal level of juiciness apparent from the first bite, this is absolutely a sandwich you don’t eat on a white shirt day. The beef is uniquely seasoned for the overall flavor profile of the Hula Burger, and I’m still baffled how they’re able to get a healthy amount of char without losing any natural juices; I’m going to presume some sort of voodoo/island magic is involved.
Which leads us to the ciabatta bun. I’m not usually into oversized, super textured breads for sandwiches, but in this case, it just might be the ideal packaging that saves the day, and elevates the Hula Burger to such an enjoyable experience. Between the incredibly juicy beef and the toppings, there’s a lot of flavor love that needs to be captured, which means it’s finally a perfect use of the nooks and crannies in a ciabatta bun. The chewy bite of a ciabatta bread is also an important part here, because of how fragile the beef patty is; it provides the satisfying full-mouth feeling to partner with the impactful flavors of the meat and toppings.
The grilled maui onions and “hula sauce” definitely play their part in elevating this from a well-made burger to a Top 3 contender. When you’ve got an exceptional meat element going on, the last thing you want to do is ruin it with overbearing toppings, and that could be easy to do with a substantial sauce and onions combo, but the Hula Burger dodges that bullet like it’s the Neo of my mouth matrix. I have a tough time describing the exact contribution of the grilled maui onions, but I know the time I ordered one without it, I was mad at myself for putting things off balance.
Also, c’mon, just take a look at that cheese melt in the picture up top. That’s a burger that was treated well, brought to me at just the right time to enjoy a peak performance. Kudos* Hula.
All in all, it may not be fair to compare the Hula Burger to other well-made burgers around town, because Hula isn’t at all going for the fast-casual burger stand vibe. Theirs is clearly a sandwich with purpose and strength of flavor that requires you to be seated and dedicate some time to it. There’s no wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am with this beauty. We will have to see how that impacts the rankings at the end of burger season, but for now, I give the Hula Burger my whole-hearted endorsement.
* I wanted to say “cowabunga” but it felt too awkward in a sentence.