Cheese Burger

Grille & Tap Room at The Shops at Wailea sizzles with beefy wonders, cold island brews, ‘NFL Ticket’ and kamaaina deals

Cheeseburger Grille & Tap Room General Manager Kristopher Galon (standing) takes care of Cheyenne Walker and Raul Arellano, visitors from Mt. Vernon, Wash., as they sip a Mai Tai and a cold beer over a big lunch in Wailea recently. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photos

How many napkins does it take to eat a big and juicy cheeseburger topped with three strips of bacon, sauteed mushrooms, gooey melted Swiss cheese and a scoop of guacamole?

At Cheeseburger Grille & Tap Room in The Shops at Wailea, it takes five, count ’em, napkins to get through the 100-percent Black Angus beef flown in fresh from Harris Cattle Ranch in California, pressed into half-pound burgers, flipped from the grill sizzling to a medium doneness, and topped with tangy Thousand Island dressing, onion, lettuce and tomato.

While the burgers there are legendary, the story behind the ever-growing franchise is even more so.

Former Orange County picture framers Laren Gartner and Edna Bayliff vacationed on Maui in the ’80s and complained of high prices on fresh fish at restaurants here. They just craved a messy burger in a casual setting at affordable prices.

With no restaurant experience, Gartner and Bayliff returned with investment money borrowed from family and friends — and opened Cheeseburger in Paradise on Front Street in Lahaina in 1989, now serving 1,400 diners daily.

Longtime Cheeseburger server Jessica Cambonga brings an “It’s All Good” patty to a hungry diner in the expansive eatery.

Their concept rocked, and they’ve since expanded their franchise to include two more restaurants on Maui: Cheeseburger Grille & Tap Room and Ka’anapali Grille & Tap Room; and three more Cheeseburgers on Oahu along with two Waikiki Brewing Co. locations there.

So now all of the Cheeseburgers offer the exclusive brews on tap.

“When we opened at The Shops at Wailea in 2001, we were the anchor tenant,” says General Manager Kristopher Galon. “We have changed our name slightly to highlight the Waikiki Brewing Company tap room, and one of the beers won a Silver Medal at the Great American Brewfest in Denver. We even offer pairings.”

For instance, Galon recommends the WBC Jalapeno Mouth beer with the island- style cheeseburger topped with kalua pork, grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce. And for the cheeseburger with crumbled blue cheese, banana peppers and guacamole, the perfect pairing is Eee Pah IPA.

“It’s funny: July 27 is when we opened here 16 years ago. July 27 is when I was first promoted to GM. And July 27 is also my birthday,” says Galon.

“Laren and Edna just wanted to serve a burger in a restaurant that anyone would feel comfortable in, welcomed. That’s our goal. To provide aloha.”

Galon also says that the Cheeseburger franchise “appreciates that families have kids coming in here and the louder they are, the more fun it is. It’s all about relationships and dishing up aloha.”

As for breakfast, besides items such as the Cheeseburger scramble with eggs and pico de gallo that one would expect, you may savor a king crab and asparagus Benedict with fresh Hollandaise and choice of hash browns, rice or grilled tomatoes. Hawaiian fruit bowls and papaya with lime-vanilla yogurt add a healthful twist.

At lunch and dinner, fresh salads such as Cobb; Caesar; kale, bacon and chickpeas; watermelon, arugula, avocado and tomato; and sesame-crusted ahi on mixed greens with veggies all entice; as do entrees such as kalua pork and grilled fish plate lunches “local-style,” piled high with two scoops rice and mac salad.

“Our happy hour runs daily from 2 to 5 p.m., appetizers range from onion rings to nachos; and we are the only place in Wailea with an NFL Ticket and you can watch it on 18 flat screens,” adds Galon.

Cheeseburger at a glance:

• Hours: Open for breakfast from 7:30 to 11 a.m. daily; and for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

• Where: Located on the ground level of The Shops at Wailea at 3750 Wailea Alanui Dr. Get four hours of validated parking when you dine there.

• Breakfast special: Get two eggs any style with hash browns, choice of toast and a cup of coffee for $5.99.

• Happy hour: From 2 to 5 p.m. daily, sip house craft beers, well drinks and tropical for $5; and get discounted pupu.

• Kamaaina specials: Hawaii residents get 10 percent off food.

• For more details: Or to book private parties, call 874-8990 or visit www.cheeseburgernation.com.