This small hamburger shack, located in Anahola on the eastside of Kaua’i, has been an institution for both locals and tourists alike for more than a quarter of a century. Locals stop by all day to get their fix, and pretty much anyone who visits Kaua’i makes a stop here as well. The ‘Ono Char’ is the first place Meiling has to go whenever she comes home to Kaua’i, and it was our first Kaua’i dining experience on the island on our visit in 2012. Everyone who either lives on Kaua’i or has visited is always more than happy to tell you about their favorite Ono burger or make a recommendation.
Duane’s Ono Char-Burger opened in 1975 (Ono means ‘delicious’ in Hawaiian), and has been run by family ever since. They serve fourteen different types of burgers, as well as other items, like sandwiches, fish and chips or chicken strips. Burgers start at $5.15 and go as high as $8.00 for one of ‘Duane’s Specials,’ and bacon can be added to any burger for $1.50. Their milkshakes are delicious (marionberry is reputed to be the best), but I love the ‘Aloha Special,’ a smoothie made with fresh papaya, mango, banana and pineapple juice. I tried the fish and chips (their fries are amazing!) on our last visit and they were very tasty – and hot! Several locals had also recommended I try the teriyaki mayonnaise with my fries – so good!
Making a good burger takes time, and appearances aside the Ono Char is not a fast food joint. Each order is cooked individually, in order. That means that you have to wait for the orders ahead of you to be done before they’ll even start on yours, so be prepared to wait. I’ve heard of people having to wait 30 minutes, but we’ve personally never had to wait that long – 10 minutes is about our average. If you don’t want to wait, or have a large order, you can call ahead and they will have it ready to go for you. The wait is worth it in my opinion though because when you finally get your burgers they are hot, and the lettuce, onions and tomatoes are still fresh and crispy. The beef patties used in the burgers are locally prepared, and seasoned with a special blend of Hawaiian salt made just for Ono Char.
All seating is outdoors, in a nice shaded area. Besides other diners you will most likely share the space with a few chickens and roosters who hope you will accidentally drop something for them. Just like the Ono Char, the chickens are a Kaua’i institution and aren’t going anywhere, so we just deal with them.
Duane’s Ono Char-Burger is located in Anahola, right next to the Anahola post office and a small Whaler’s grocery store. Heading north on the Kuhio highway from Kapaa it will be on the right (makai) side of the highway. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily except for Sunday, when it opens at 11:00.