With places like Umami Burger in Los Angeles changing the landscape in which we consume hot meaty sandwiches, it’s no coincidence that Josiah Citrin of LA’s Melisse bounced over to Maui to developed his own burger wonder. His Sure Thing Burger (he’s co-owner and head chef) opened quietly on Front Street in January.
The latest trend in burgers is attention to detail: bun-to-meat ratios, quality hormone- and antibiotic-free proteins, special creation of the meat patty, local organic produce, gourmet cheese and the most interesting add-ons available. Sure Thing Burger grabs these concepts and takes them to a new level.
Citrin’s Melisse in Santa Monica is a top-rated LA restaurant with a long list of accolades and star ratings. He classifies his French cuisine as fine dining with a casual approach that aims to break down the stifling barriers of more uptight formal restaurants. The average bill there is $180, according to the Nation Restaurant News.
Sure Thing Burger is a 180-degree change. There, Citrin says he’s not attempting a gourmet burger so much as rewriting the fast food handbook.
Sure Thing is strictly a burger joint, with a menu consisting of four burgers (Maui Cattle Company beef, ground free-range turkey, ground organic pork and veggie), hand-made sauces to accompany each burger, extras like fried eggs and bacon, fries and canned drinks. But their simplicity is their success–each burger is hand-patted and seasoned.
They buy whole turkeys, then debone and grind the meat there. They do the same with pork shoulders and butts, and the veggie burger borrows from a particular vegetarian dish at Melisse by using a house-made lentil bean and brown rice grain patty. The details mean every bite counts. Citrin also developed a distinct bun recipe, a hybrid between brioche, Hawaiian sweet bread and soft roll.
“It’s a humble hamburger, but behind the scenes, it’s a Michelin enterprise,” says Scott Pickard, Citrin’s partner. “People here are crazy about the fried eggs and bacon. They are ordering those like crazy.”
I’ve tried all four burgers and each hold their own. The turkey has caramelized onion and apple basil sauce that makes it incredible. The spiced pork is topped in coleslaw and house barbecue sauce, while the beef burger has its STB special sauce. As for the veggie burger, the bean and grain patty is dredged in panko and deep-fried. Its brown croquette look is gorgeous next to the Launiupoko produce it accompanies. The gluten and carb weary can order any patty with no bun, as well.
The fries are spectacular, though one of the items that STB laments is that they cannot obtain the potatoes locally. After I asked Pickard where he did get the potatoes, and he joked that he’d have to kill me if I found out, I wisely dropped the matter.
Pickard did take me through a tour of the exhibition kitchen in the 325 square-foot restaurant that Chef de Cuisine Josh Blain runs. Easy-going classic rock from the Beatles and Cat Stevens played inside. They have a system of efficiency installed, and everything is spotless and Citrin-approved. “It looks great and tastes better,” Pickard likes to say. Everything is cooked within a specific time, from fries to burgers, setting the model for new fast but delicious food, with farm-to-table quality.
Their spot in the Lahaina Marketplace is low brow. You order at the window, then sit at the tables in the courtyard. Drinks come in a can and your order is served on paper.
Sure Thing moved into the old Kahuna Kabobs spot that closed a few years ago. They gave the entire place a facelift, from the kitchen to the outside walls. Birch trim now decks out the facade, and their clean and simple signage and menus are inviting. If you’re from Maui let them know because they have special pricing (burgers go from $8 to $6.70) and the menu is half-off for students.
Customers are encouraged to sit and eat the burgers in the courtyard, and the amazing ocean view doesn’t hurt. Parking is easy, with a lot in the back of the Lahaina Marketplace accessible from Luakini.
“We want the 15 minutes that you spend eating our burger here to be 15 minutes of total delight,” says Pickard. “Nurturing the mentality, setting in place our burger culture of less is more.”
SURE THING BURGER
790 Front St., Lahaina
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