Jan 21, 2018
Rollin' On Chubs
It's a little past 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon and a burger craving hits you. Big time. Melty cheese sizzling over a seasoned patty, topped with a plump tomato and crowned with a toasty roll—how can you not just devour this for lunch?
With this kind o burger, not just any burger will do. To feed a craving like this, we suggest one of our favorite food trucks, Chubbies, in search of their famous smash burger. Located on Ward Gateway Center, Jeff Nedry, owner and founder of Chubbies, has developed a substantial following of burger connoisseurs who rave over his old-school approach. To be blunt, the phrase, "best burger in the city" is routinely tossed around. To get the backstory on his sizzling success, we caught up with Nedry to discuss the ins and outs of the smash-burger business.
Let's start by talking a little bit about your background. How'd you end up in Honolulu?
I came to Honolulu nearly six years ago after growing up in Costa Mesa, California. I've always worked in restaurants, and have always loved being around food. It's such an exciting time in the dining world, and there's so many cool things happening in food and beverage. I've been interested in starting a small business and being involved in the community for a while. I actually don't have a lot of background training, but I'm really passionate about what I do and I'm willing to go through a lot of trial and error to make things work.
So what compelled you to start Chubbies?
Years ago, I saw the need for a quality burger joint on the island. I wanted to eat awesome burgers and found out I wasn't the only one! I've dreamed of having a restaurant since I was a kid. I already had a burger concept in mind and the food-truck model was a great way for us to start with the little money I had.
Can you breakdown what exactly constitutes a "smash burger"?
It's an old-school way of cooking burgers; it's one of the details that we're proud of. Cold beef is pressed down into a patty shape on an extra hot griddle. This cooks the burger super quickly and creates a nice crust on one side. That way, less juice renders out and the beef stays tender. Think of it like searing a steak.
What's your favorite part of owning a food truck?
It's a great way to be close with your customers and talk with them directly. Each team member on the truck, from the person cooking your burger to the one taking your order, sees your face and is part of the experience with you. It's personal; you're more than just a number to us.
We understand that you use a lot of local ingredients. How hard was it forging those relationships with vendors to get the quality you need for your burgers?
At the start, when you have nothing but a name and a concept, it's really difficult. There's a growing need for local options for both consumers and restaurants, and I love that. I hope to see more investment and more competition in local products. I feel that in Hawai'i it's extra important that we keep our dollars within the state and shop local. It's a shame we're sometimes priced out or limited in that choice.
Let's say someone is coming to eat for the first time and want the full experience. What should they order?
Great question. We have a really simple menu with just a few choices. Get a '50s Burger with one add-on like homemade pickles or bacon. For fries, get a Chub Fries, which is our signature cheese fries with cheddar, grilled onion, and fry sauce.
How do you like your new location at Ward Village?
The goal has always been for us to have a permanent location for the truck, in order to test the feasibility of having a brick- and-mortar restaurant. We're now open more often, which is great! We can also be much more consistent with our products. That makes me happy and that makes our customers happy. Ward is a great area and we love being a part of the energy.
Where do you see Chubbies Burgers in five years?
My plan is to grow Chubbies Burgers into a restaurant space. When that does eventually happen, the goal after is for our company to expand and introduce new concepts. I'm sure my vision will evolve, as the demand for different types of restaurants change. I'm excited to add people to our team that will help make this happen. My hope is to offer more as an employer, as the company grows. I've been lucky to see or be a part of some highly effective businesses with happy employees. Too often, restaurant businesses are the last to care about this element of their company.
960 Auahi Street