Paia has a new little burger joint. It’s located at the south end of town, and it’s called Johnny B’s. The renovation of the spot was so well done that I couldn’t remember exactly how that old building looked, but it was one of those places that had been a yoga studio, head shop, clothing store and surf shop (most recently, it was a Thai restaurant). Now Johnny B’s is breathing new life into the space with great local food.
Owners Tom and Pam Leary took over the property a few years ago with the idea of creating a wedding destination. After quickly figuring out that building and planning their dream wedding business would take a while, they opened Johnny B’s. After two years of renovating and permitting, they opened on Jan. 26.
Sitting under their canopy ceiling with the breeze blowing, Johnny B’s architecture fits right in with Paia’s informal North Shore vibe. The restaurant is casual; there’s a walk-up order window and shaded patio with tables and chairs for sitting (there’s also a gorgeous ocean front lawn with picnic tables). The menu is painted on the wall, with a specials board off to the side.
They mostly feature burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes but they’ve been dabbling with fish tacos and other dishes, so check the specials. They also offer a pulled pork sandwich and veggie burger. The Learys said they were influenced by the Five Guys burger chain that’s incredibly popular from Maine to Florida.
The Learys took a lot of time to plan their burgers, from the Komoda bakery buns to the local Kula onions and tomatoes, and the Big Island Cattle beef that makes up their hand-pounded patty. You can taste the aloha in every bite. Komoda’s buns are great for their sandwiches, you order your fillings any way you like, with as many toppings as you like. I was partial to the fish burger, fresh caught by local fisherman Jeff Johnson.
“We asked Komodas if we could get our buns from them,” says Pam. “They said no. I wouldn’t give up. It took two months but they did say yes.”
Tom showed me the gorgeous, just-caught Mahi that goes into the fish burgers and tacos. It’s lightly seasoned and grilled, then dressed to order. Their cholesterol-free fries are hand-cut Burbank russet potatoes fried in peanut oil (they’re so good I admit to eating two orders). The shakes are also big sellers, and are made with Roselani Ice Cream.
“We wanted to keep with the vision of Paia and the architecture,” says Tom. “We use everything local. Even the Maui Volcano spice on the volcano fries is made here. We wanted to create a place locals will love.”
Tom and Pam are at Johnny B’s everyday. In a town notorious for non-existent parking, it’s nice to know you can park your car right at the restaurant.
65 Hana Hwy, Paia