Categorized | Featured, Food

A cross-country burger journey

Joe and Doris Lindner, surrounded by family and some new Hawaii friends. (Photo by Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Joe and Doris Lindner know great burgers. And they’ve tasted them all.

The Lindners have spent the better part of three years on a cross-country quest to visit each of the “51 Great Burger Joints” listed in an October 2010 USA Today article. The list included one place for each state, plus the District of Columbia, each recommended by a local foodie.

The Hilton Head Island, S.C. couple had ticked the boxes on 50 joints by July 2012, but there was one more — Village Burger Kamuela.

On a sunny April morning, the couple of retired doctors finally crossed that last one off the list and, in something of a full circle, enjoyed the meal with the same members of the family who started the journey in Denver back in October 2010.

“What a wonderful way to end our journey,” Joe said, after sampling a Village Burger slider. “I’ve always said the burger is the last one I ate. But I’ll be absolutely honest with you, that WAS the best one ever.”

Doris explains just how the adventure started.

“We were in Denver when the article came out, so we said let’s try it,” she said, recalling a visit with their daughters in Colorado.

“Then on the drive home we were able to check off Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee,” she said. “When we got home and realized we’d already done four, we said ‘why not?'”

Since then, they tried burgers with egg and fried bologna, with french fried green beans, and even a kangaroo burger.

“All I can say is … usual, but good,” Doris said of some of the more exotic creations they’ve tasted.

Technically, they haven’t completed the list, as two restaurants closed since the list first appeared. “So we didn’t get to eat the burgers, but we got photos of the outside, so we have actually been there,” Doris said.

Joe said he’ll remember more than just the burgers.

“It’s really the people along the way that made it so much fun and a few who weren’t that charming,” he said. “But our country is so wonderful, whether it’s North Dakota or downtown Los Angeles, they all have their own flavor. It’s been a great time.”

Doris and Joe Lindner, burger experts. (Photo by Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

With them on the Hawaii trip were one daughter, son-in-law and several grandchildren, including 14-year-Logan.

Tasting her first Village Burger, Logan decided, “Wow. That is good.”

Logan has inspected the three huge binders that document her grandparents’ journey – including photos, receipts and Grandpa’s reviews – and said she might be inspired to start her own food journey.

“It’s kind of funny to remember that it started when they ate that first one and then went to four other places on the way home,” she said. “I guess you gotta have something to do. It’s bette than stamp collecting. Maybe I’ll start my own adventure. Maybe I’ll do shakes.”

Restaurant owner Chef Edwin Goto was thrilled to welcome the Lindners, especially as it coincided with the restaurant’s third anniversary.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “I thought they’d never make it to Hawaii, so I was excited that they could bring the whole family with them. It’s a great day for us.”

Goto said it was extra special to celebrate the anniversary with the Lindners.

The family was welcomed with a presentation by Kahu Danny Akaka, a hula performance by Akaka’s wife Anna, and proclamations from Mayor Billy Kenoi, Sen. Malama Solomon and the Big Island Visitors Bureau. The couple also helped untie the giant maile lei at the restaurant entrance.

Also on hand were some of the restaurant’s local vendors — farmers, bakers, ranchers and other food providers.

Doris was touched by the welcome.

“We’ve been all over the country and no-one has done anything like this for us,” she said, ducking her head to smell the lei draped around her neck. “This is wonderful, very special. I won’t forget this.”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty great day for us, too” Goto said.

Goto also had a good day when his restaurant was included on the USA Today list. Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong described Village Burger Kamuela as “a locavore’s delight, with a grass-fed, pasture-raised, ground-fresh-daily Big Island beef burger, thick and grilled to order, topped with just-picked, Waimea-grown veggies in a brioche bun from nearby Hawi town.”

After a Hawaii vacation and a Village Burger, the couple is ready for the next quest.

“Oh, knowing me,” Joe said, “I’ll find something else …”

— Find out more:

Executive Assistance Bobby Command reads a proclamation from Mayor Billy Kenoi before the Lindners can sample their 51st burger. (Photo by Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

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