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"West Side Ono Grindz" by Karen Rose, Jan. 1, 2014 in Big Island Weekly


Annie's burgers raise an old standard to new levelsby Carolyn LucasWest Hawaii TodayThursday, April 1, 2010 9:56 AM HSTRekindle your love affair with the burger at Annie's in Kainaliu.The Mango Court restaurant, owned by 24-year-old Annie Roesler and 25-year-old Josh Levenson, offers burgers, sandwiches, salads and desserts made primarily from locally grown, raised and produced products.Among the mouth-watering creations are the Steakhouse Burger ($10.95), a half-pound beef patty with fresh sauteed Hamakua mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese, arugula and parsley caper relish on a ciabatta roll; the Poke Cake Burger (market price), a pan fried panko-coated patty made from fresh sesame shoyu fish poke served on a ciabatta roll with sliced avocado and cucumber aioli; and the Good Karma Burger ($10.95), a grilled portobello mushroom stuffed with bulgur and parmesan, dressed with lime tahini mayonnaise and served on a ciabatta roll.All burgers come with Roesler's homemade pickles, local vine-ripened tomatoes, organic lettuce and sweet onions. Add a side of sweet potato chips, tempura onion rings or French fries for $3.95. And you may wash the meal down with freshly made lemonade, beer, wine, soda or another beverage.Roesler's childhood food experiences run deep and her passion for cooking is ever-present. Growing up, she was constantly in the kitchen, helping her mom bake and her father prepare meals. He taught her how to use knives properly -- a skill for which she's still grateful. Roesler, a Food Network fan, always dreamed of becoming a restaurant owner and possibly attending culinary school. Instead she went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison's business school and met Levenson, who gladly became the taste tester for her recipes.The couple decided to return nine months ago to Levenson's roots. He was born in Kealakekua and raised in Waimea until age 14, when his family relocated to California. With guidance from mentor and family friend David Palmer, who owns Cafe Pesto, in January they opened Annie's, their first restaurant. The best part, said Levenson, is making Roesler's dream come true."I never worried about whether people were going to like the food," he said. "She got my dad to like Brussels sprouts. Her food is awesome and now I get to see the happy faces of people enjoying it."The couple takes into great consideration where food comes from, as well as the environment, unnatural additives and sustainable agriculture. Levenson said Annie's left-over food scraps are given to farmers to feed pigs and chickens, while used fryer oil is given to people making biodiesel. Roesler is determined to show "local, fresh, organic, good ingredients are accessible everyday and it doesn't have to be expensive."Much of the produce is from Adaptations, a local vegetable farm and small-scale distributor, as well as from farmers markets and Hamakua Heritage Farm. Sometimes, burgers are traded for items grown by residents like avocados or lemons. Hawaii Beef Producers in Paauilo delivers the beef twice a week. Hand-formed patties, simply seasoned with salt and pepper and charbroiled to your cooking specification make for tastier, juicer burgers, Levenson said.Ka'u resident Debbie Molcilio, who visited Annie's for the first time Tuesday after raving reviews from a friend, agreed. In between bites of her Bacon Swiss Burger, Molcilio voiced delight: "Very fresh. Yum. And juicy. Mmm. When something tastes this good, you know it came off the cow."Annie's, open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., isn't a typical burger joint. Sure, customers can just drop in or order ahead, pick up their food and go. But they can also sit, eat and view artwork by local artists in the warm, cozy atmosphere inside the restaurant or on the breezy lanai, which was built around two palm trees. Annie's design has many green building features, thanks to Levenson, who specialized in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
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8/11/2012

BEST MEAL ON THE BIG ISLAND!
Annie's isn't the easiest restaurant to find if you're staying in Kailua-Kona, but it's the best you'll find. We love this place - we had to go back two days in a row. All four of us got burgers - some of the best burgers we've ever had, anywhere. On the first day, I got the garlic-basil fries - holy moly, I'd fly another 5 hours just to have those again! Absolutely amazing. The second day, I got the side salad instead, and their garlic-basil dressing was fantastic. Even my 6 year old pounded her food down, it was that good. And make sure you save room for Annie's chocolate pudding. It's so, so good - more like the filling of a really tasty chocolate cream pie than a pudding. We split it four ways, and we all had plenty, it's that rich.

We had great, if laid back, service both nights. They were careful to explain that organic meat cooks differently, and made sure our burgers were cooked to exactly the amount of doneness we prefer. The restaurant is larger than it looks, extending back farther than you'd think. We liked sitting under the indoor tree. The bathrooms were very clean, which I always appreciate with two little girls. The food was expensive, but not by island standards - and it's a good deal better than most of the restaurants you'll find in Kona. Beware that it's only open until 8pm, so don't plan on a late dinner at Annie's.

It's sort of up the hill from a really cool traditional Hawaiian playground, so if you're traveling with kids, you might make time to find that, too. I'm sorry I don't remember what it's called - we just stumbled on it. Keep an eye out for it! It's on the ocean-side of the ride.

    Visited August 2012

Itoneill
Pleasanton, CA



4/20/2012

I ate here 3x in one week and had the Fresh Catch Wasabi Sandwich each time (each time the fish was Ono seared at medium). It's really that good and well worth the price. I would go as far as saying that Annie's makes the best fish sandwich that I've ever eaten which puts the seared Ahi burger at The Fish Market Maui now in second.

Annie's fish sandwich contains a very generous portion of fish, a nice hit of wasabi sauce topped with sliced cucumbers and a tempura battered onion ring. The sourdough bread is not too sour and the crunchiness of the toast really enhances the experience of the sandwich. There is a leaf of lettuce, sliced tomato and rings of raw red onion served to the side of the sandwich - I let the wasabi sauce and juices drip on the lettuce and tomato as I was eating the sandwich and ate these items at the end.

Harold P.
San Mateo, CA



2/26/2012

A MUST stop if visiting Kona!

Best Burger in a long time - and in the running for best burger EVER (and I consider myself a burger snob - I basically lived off In N Out during my college days - and the last time I ate a McDonald's burger, we had an actor as President).

Fantastic service, great views, reasonable prices (hey, it's the Big Island - what do you expect?).

I had the BBQ "Southpoint" Burger - unbelievable, with 2 golden crispy onion rings between grass fed beef and melting cheese.  Tangy sweet BBQ sauce, and 3 huge slices of avocado.

Oh, and please order the Fries AND purple potato salad - you will not be disappointed in either.  You can thank me later.

Josh V.
Truckee, CA



3/6/2010

I recently went to Annie's for the first time. When I walked in I was immediately drawn to the lanai in back. I sat at a table next to the huge opened window and enjoyed a fresh pint of Big Wave beer and the Maui Taro burger while watching the sunset. It was such a relaxing experience and my burger was to die for! I also had a side of onion rings, which were amazing, lightly battered with the perfect combination of crunch and salt. I could spend hour after hour at Annie's. I will definitely be back on my next trip over to the Big Island!



Siera

Davis, California



3/21/2010 

In my life, I have eaten a lot of hamburgers--arguably, more hamburgers than has been prudent. Most are decent; some are very good; a small handful are exceptional.  Annie's is easily in the top five.  I ordered the steakhouse burger with goat cheese.  Even for Hawaii, the $12.95 price seemed a little steep.  It was worth every penny.  The burger was half a pound of lean, juicy organic beef (locally raised) on a ciabatta roll and topped with arugula, dill, and some kind of wonderful cucumbery relish--in addition to the excellent (again, local) chevre. Impressive.  

The rest of the menu was tempting as well.  There's a pan-fried poke sandwich that looks good, a taro burger, and several other options--not to mention, a nice little selection of sides and desserts.  

The ambiance is great, too.  The enclosed, screened patio has ample seating, nice art, plants, and even a few comfy couches.  It's a burger place but would work equally well as a coffee shop or funky breakfast cafe.  The servers are nice, don't bug you a lot, and didn't mind that I sat there for a couple hours enjoying their 100% Kona coffee (which they generously refilled and topped off several times--not every place around here does this--Kona coffee isn't cheap).  

Annie's curb appeal is terrible, and I'm hoping they'll improve their branding (right now it's a yellow and brown logo that looks like a chain--which it isn't).  When I asked, the guy said they'd only been open a month. I sure hope they stick around.



Katie Y

Woodside, CA



4/6/2010

These are quality burgers topped with delicious combinations of cheese, greens, unique relishes. Our family of teens agreed they were of the best we've eaten. The non-beef options sounded great; for example bulgar-Parmesan stuffed Portobello and chicken with mango.  Friendly, casual, not a bad price for what you get.  Feels like a place that cares about what it feeds you.



Gail K

Bellingham, WA



5/4/2010

If you're starved for some red meat after all the great fish and fruit/vegetable options that abound on the island, Annie's is a great place to get that burger you've been craving.  The menu has your standard burger-boutique variations, along with a few fish options and even an option for your vegan friend that tagged along.  Oh, convert them by the way - this is as good a place as any! It’s location is "tucked" away, but visible from the highway, and that's a not a horrible thing.  The ambiance is relaxed, and beer and/or family friendly.  Once inside, the view out the back is nice and you'll probably appreciate a meal without a feral cat begging at your table for once. 
Enjoy, and enjoy often.  It was easily one of our top meals on the island during our stay.



Ian M

Somerville, MA



5/6/2010

The hubby and I dined here twice while on our honeymoon, the first time we visited was after our hike to South Point and Green Sand Beach, when we passed the sign for  "Annie's - Burgers and Beer" heading S-11, we land-marked the place for our dinner on the way back. The second time was because we wanted another good burger! Good beer on tap: Stella, Longboard Lager (fave), Fire Rock, and PBR for $2 during Happy Hour. We tried the South Point, the Poke Cake, and the Taro burgers (2 visits remember).  I agree with the other Yelpers' descriptions of the food, in four words - it is damn tasty.    Everything is homemade: the pickles (Annie - please jar these and send to the mainland), BBQ sauce (also amazing), and the cucumber aioli.  So good. The fries and onion rings, as you would expect, are a must order.  

The food is really fresh and tasty, the beer is good, and the patio dining area is a great place to enjoy a great Hawaiian sunset.  We will be back on our next visit to the Big Island.



Anna T

San Diego, CA



5/6/2010

This is one of the few places that we just had to visit twice while in the islands of Hawaii, specifically for the poke (pronounced "poke-ay") cake sandwich. The taro burger was wonderful, though they weren't sure if they'd have it much longer due to supplier issues. The beef burgers were also really good, though the burgers my in-laws got on visit 1 were a little overcooked, and the burger I got on visit 2 was a little undercooked. Still, both were really juice and really tasty. There were a few signs that this is a new place, like the first time we didn't get our Annie's pickles, and the 2nd time the food took a long time to get out. But the quality was very good, and the service was prompt and friendly. They also have wonderful local beers, good wine, good mojitos, good purple potato chips, and a very modern relaxed atmosphere. If I lived there, I'd be a regular. The seating is not technically outdoor, but there are large windows that are opened to the Hawaiian climate when it is pleasant, closed when it's not. At that altitude, it's good to have that option.



Jeanettera 

Cincinnati, OH



5/14/2010

My wife and I were on our 5th day of 7 during our vacation and were traveling throughout the Kailua Kona and Holualoa area for the second time and had to stop at Annie's because of rave reviews by locals. I am so glad we did. The food was amazing. My wife is a fan of onion rings and she proclaimed these to be the best she has ever had. My Purple Okinawan sweet potatoes chips were crisp and wonderful. We ordered a Steakhouse burger and Fresh catch Wasabi sandwich to split. The Burger was a half-pound of deliciousness and the Ahi (Fresh Catch) was done to perfection. If you are anywhere close to the area, make this a "must stop" and you will not be disappointed. Great Views from the Lania like solarium are wonderful and the service was spot-on.
Grade A+.



Dakotawiner

Sioux Falls, SD



5/29/2010

What a great find!   I'm visiting from the SF Bay Area.  Had heard about Annie's there and stopped for lunch yesterday.  Terrific food for locals or visitors.  Annie takes a lot of care in choosing local producers and cooking it all skillfully. Her homemade pickles are a must.  Lot's of choices to fit everyone from beef to Portobello mushroom sandwiches to fresh off the farm produce.  Nifty looking, relaxing decor, open windows in the back. Annie's welcoming as is the friendly and attentive wait staff. What's not to like? Check it out...



F P

San Francisco, CA



6/1/2010

Just happened to find this place while driving south on 11. Nice little place, with a lot of natural light. The staff and service was very friendly and alert. They had 2 vegetarian options - a Portobello mushroom burger and taro burger (vegan). All burgers ran about $11 without sides (extra $2.50), but food was worth it! A great spot to grab lunch as you're exploring the island.



Marc P

Modesto, CA



6/15/2010

I would never classify this as a "Burger Joint" This place has it all, good food, atmosphere with a view and wonderful service. We did not find this until our last day and were so disappointed. It was probably the best food that we had during our 12 day stay. Everything they serve is produced on the island, fresh fish, fresh beef, garden vegetables...just a great experience. I had the Ahi Tuna Steak sandwich. absolutely amazing and fresh. It was a huge tuna steak, lightly seared. i can't say enough good about this restaurant. For a real island experience.



Tempting Travel

Fairfield, OH