Sheiks: $3 Hamburgers Do Exist

January 25, 2013, 1:59 PM HST · Updated January 27, 1:20 PM
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Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. She offers her blunt assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.

By Vanessa Wolf

The legendary - or should be - Hamburger Deluxe. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The legendary – or should be – Cheeseburger Deluxe. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

If you have ever lamented to a friend, “Why isn’t there a restaurant where I can plop down at the table of my choice, be greeted in a friendly manner, and receive a $3 hamburger five minutes later?” then you are not alone.

If you thought that $3 full-service restaurant hamburger fantasy was just a fairytale, we hope you’re seated, because the dream is real…and ready to be seized at Sheiks in Kahului.

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Okay, it’s $3 (and five cents to be exact), but what does it taste like? Actually – believe it or not – pretty good really; somehow reminiscent of Wendy’s, which is to say they taste like real beef.

We sampled the deluxe with cheese version ($3.90), which buys you lettuce, tomato, and cheese for a mere $.90 up-charge.

The bun was basic, but suited the situation well. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and crisp. The meat was suitably juicy and there was American cheese on top. All in all, a simple but satisfying burger for crazy cheap.

The roast pork. Trust us and skip the mashed potatoes. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The roast pork. Trust us and skip the mashed potatoes. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

We also tried the fried rice ($9). This is a cardiologist’s worst nightmare with eggs, green onion, lots of sausage and even bacon. You read that right: Sheiks makes their fried rice with bacon.

It’s not exactly what you’d find in Chinatown and the bacon leads to fairly greasy consequences, but hey, it’s a huge portion (four scoops) and – again – it’s got bacon in it. There really isn’t much more that needs to be said.

We also sampled the roast pork ($9.75), which is cut in a kalbi style. The flavor was decent, but the overall preparation was quite dry.

The pork was accompanied by some painfully watery mashed potatoes (but lots of ‘em!) that should be avoided. The salad was also very odd in that it had about three tablespoons of black pepper on it, but subsequent salad orders came out normal, so we’re guessing that was just a loose shaker lid accident.

“Salad,” by the way, means romaine lettuce. No carrots, tomatoes, nor a single crouton make the cut, but the lettuce is crisp and fresh anyway.

The fried chicken. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The fried chicken. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

The standout at Sheiks – good enough to warrant a return visit just to get more – is the fried chicken. It’s lightly battered and super crisp with great flavor. It’s so good you kind of wonder what they did to make that happen. Wild guesses would include cornstarch or tempura in the batter and a skilled hand at the fryer.

Speaking of which, the fries are the crinkle cut kind and were well prepared. Can’t go too wrong there.

Granted, on one visit the chicken itself was cut into odd shapes setting off a brief “what animal was this made from?” panic, but ultimately we’re pretty sure it was part of a breast…of a chicken.

Sheiks also receives great buzz for their pancakes at breakfast, but seeing as the person typing to you right now abhors the mere smell – let alone taste – of maple, that is not something that could be (or was. Or will be.) successfully investigated.

There is one small but critical disclaimer you probably need to know before you rush over to Sheiks for your $3.05 burger. It has to do with a little something called ambience.

It's not exactly what you'd call "fancy." Photo by Vanessa Wolf

It is what it is. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Allow us to paint the picture: imagine you’re walking into Sheiks in its (imagined) heyday.

It’s the early 1980s and the place is abuzz with locals. Everywhere you look there are new carpets and shiny vinyl. A delicious aroma lingers in the air and envelops you like a hug.

You adjust your Members Only jacket and scan the room for an empty table, spotting one near the back. As you head toward it, every patron turns to watch, a lit cigarette dangling from his or her lips.

The Sheiks of 2013 hasn’t changed much, and by that we mean the original decor – carpet, chairs, table, light fixtures – has not changed: in use and decidedly abused by the ravages of time.

There’s also an emphatically stale musty smell, almost as if a team of chain smokers repaired recent flood damage.

It is what it is.

Enter with the ambience bar adjusted to meet what you just read, and Sheiks just might pleasantly surprise you.

We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)

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