Best Burger in the Far East? Malone’s Made in China


 

Malone's Pub-Like Storefront

Malone’s Pub-Like Storefront

There’s a problem with finding a good hamburger in Asian. They just don’t get it here. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t have ‘Merican beef, or they are just philosophically opposed to ‘Merican mimicry. What is served as a burger is really just, well, meatloaf, referred to as “hamburg” throughout Japan. Read McDonald’s Can Kiss My Ass for more concerning this particular affliction for which there seems to be no inoculation. Until finding Café Captain Kangaroo this past weekend in the northern reaches of Okinawa with their fabulous array of deliciously hand-crafted burgers, the best beef patty with the usual accoutrements we had the pleasure of devouring was…

Made in China.

tongren2

At Malone’s, in Shanghai, to be exact. Described as an “American Café,” Malone’s is home to one of the most extensive burger menus in that far-eastern Asian metropolis. Located conveniently close to a few Western embassies and consulates right in the middle of the Tongren Lu district of Shanghai just around the corner from the Shanghai Center, Malone’s has been described – note the past tense – as “packed with expats and the out-of-town business crowd.” The three-story establishment used to offer differing venues, where a Filipino cover band used to play on the 2nd floor most nights, and the 3rd floor “Loft” offered a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. The extensive bar and the outdoor seating areas hinted at quite a maximum occupancy, but on the cold fall evening we visited, no one was sitting outside, and only about ¼ of the indoor seats were taken.

tongren3

These characterizations all share one important similarity: their tenses are all in the past. It seems that although Malone’s was at one time the place to be for Westerners visiting Shanghai, complete with an award-winning burger, today the bar/eatery is a mere shadow of its former self.

Past Awards Quite Dated

Past Awards Quite Dated

However, having arrived very late in Shanghai after traveling all afternoon and evening, Jody and I were hungry for a late dinner before bed. Our local Chinese guide, asking if we were interested in a good burger, recommended this particular place, which happened to be within walking distance from our hotel. Normally we both shy away from American food and chains traveling in Asia, but the lure and lore of a REAL burger was too much to pass up. Fifteen minutes later we were walking into Malone’s, and within another 15 and after a round of cold Chinese Tiger beers, a truly wonderful burger did arrive. It certainly didn’t take 15 to devour.

While the Atmosphere is Lacking, the Burgers are NOT!

While the Atmosphere is Lacking, the Burgers are NOT!

Malone’s opened its doors about 20 years ago as an international extension of a Vancouver, Canada-based chain of the same name. As the first western-owned and run restaurant outside of high-end hotels in the city, it was originally managed by a group of Canadian expats who wanted to bring western-style dining in a neighborhood-pub setting to Shanghai. It appears that the change in management from foreigners to locals has been a change for the worse. The bar is rather dirty, with the 2nd and 3rd floors closed during our visit. We were seated on the 2nd floor, but only after we asked about alternative seating since there were so many smokers and smoke on the first floor. The area clearly hadn’t been used, clean, or refurbished in I would guess at least a year or two. The service was okay, the beer was cold, and the food actually well above par. And all for a reasonable price. It’s unfortunately that this place has taken such a nose-dive.

Burgermondayflyer

I can still recommend the burgers at Malone’s for those that are craving a western-style meal after spending a fair amount of time flirting with mere “hamburg” in the Far East. But I wouldn’t visit the pub looking for atmosphere, music, or any type of night-life…. Read some recent thoroughly trashing reviews at SmartShanghai.com and Trip Advisor.

Map

Address:  255 Tongren Road, near Nanjing Xi Lu; 铜仁路255号, 近南京西路, Shanghai, China

Phone:  86 21 6247 2400

Website:  www.malones.com.cn

Email:  malones@malones.com.cn

METRO:  Jing’an Temple, 15 mins. walk

Hours:  Daily, 10am-2am

Kiss My Ass McDonald’s! Better Burgers at Café Captain Kangaroo


There are MUCH better burger options....

There are MUCH better burger options….

Oh, the shame. Not finishing the best burger found on Okinawa. Especially when my wife and all the rather petite Japanese women surrounding me devoured theirs without issue….

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, storefront hamburger island cafe captina kangaroo

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, no pickles on our burgers!In and Out isn’t part of the in-crowd on Okinawa…mainly since it doesn’t exist here. Apparently there aren’t enough meaty guys on the island to have a Fives Guys. You can get steaks and shakes on Okinawa, but not coincidently enough to have a Steak and Shake. There is an Applebee’s, but it’s on base, overpriced and full of loud and usually overly boisterous Americans watching some inane sporting event. And while they do serve a pretty good burger, at twice the cost and half the taste, it “udderly” fails in comparison to those award-winning beefy concoctions at Captain Kangaroo’s!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, award-winning burgers

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, opening hours artNow, Jody and I debated whether the burgers there are alone worth the long drive to Nago, and while the outcome is close, we agree there probably needs to be another reason to make the trek. Even if it’s just for the scenic drive up Highway 58. On an island full of “hamburg” joints that serve what amounts to really good meatloaf, a REAL hamburg-ER is a rare and treasured culinary find.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, comfy and casual seating

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, iconic logo in pastels“‘Roo’s” is minimally furnished with an eclectic assortment of comfy chairs and lounging couches. The quick-order counter, at an unusual height that’s not high enough for bar stools and too low for the dining chairs provided, is a great option if you are either in danger of dehydration from uncontrolled salivation or simply on the move and don’t want to wait the 20 minutes we did during high time from 1300-1500.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, counter service bar none

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, street-side signDiners will find themselves surrounded by surfer-themed movie posters and random knickknacks, from an empty SPAM tin repurposed as a napkin holder, to our table’s hamburger warps held in place by an old Kraft Cheese cylinder…. A large selection of Japanese comics are easily selected from a wall of simple bookshelves, and randomly interesting magazines are for the borrowing in the small waiting area.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, waiting area and cashier's counter

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, comfy and casual seating 2Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, anniversary smilesWe were seated in two easy chairs alongside a classic low coffee table of just the right size, an arrangement both casual and comfy at the same time. To top off the café’s relaxed experience, soft reggae and world music plays softly in the background, and for those lucky enough of eating in the back raised corner of the small shop, there is an incomparable view of the East China Sea certainly not found at any burger joint found back home.

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, Jody ready for lunch

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, heart-shaped ketchupCafé Captain Kangaroo came to Nago, Okinawa, in 2007, purposed specifically to become an iconic burger shop. The Captain’s family tree is traced all the way back to Osaka, Japan, on Honshu, where the surname was established in 1997 as only a bar; no explanation is given for the rather odd moniker. The staff are all very friendly and cheerful, and good English is widely spoken. During our visit on a lazy almost-Spring Sunday afternoon were about a half and half mix of Japanese and gaijin, all enjoying their beefy meals. There were about five people working during our visit, and their smiles combined with the fun, casual attitude of the place certainly helped to make the burgers even more delicious. Oddly enough, we witnessed one of the staffers eating a late lunch. Their pick off the menu: TACO RICE!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, no pickles on our burgers!

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, menu masterpiecesOkinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, all decisions involve hamburgersYes, that Okinawan ubiquitous meal is indeed offered, but as one of only eleven mains on the menu – one key to the café’s massive success. The focus is on quality and taste, and with only a few items to master, both are promises made and delivered upon. The menu is offered bilingually in Japanese and English, with most items costing about 1,000 yen or less. Combos can be made by adding in a potato set offering a choice of hashbrowns, wedges with skin, or traditional fries. Drinks can also be added at a “set” price to complete your combination platter.

The Amazing "Sparky" Burger

The Amazing “Sparky” Burger

Jody and I both ordered the “Sparky” burger, and within about 10 minutes, were served a veritable skyscraper of a burger! A home-baked sesame-covered bun grilled crispy and served hot off the griddle, slathered with BBQ sauce (not overdone), a beef patty, cheese (Swiss we believe), tons of fresh, crispy lettuce and juicy tomato, and finally topped with our favorite: an impossibly large serving of crispy deep-fried delicious shoestring onions. The tower was held against toppling by a long bamboo spear, and multiple triangular sandwich holders are provided – and required!

Notice the "Heartfelt" Ketchup!

Notice the “Heartfelt” Ketchup!

Ketchup is served on the plate, but placed there with great care. The Japanese couple next to us had their sauce in the shaped of animated musical notes, while ours came in the shape of blood-red beating hearts – very fitting since this was our first date and outing on our own in many weeks! On the table are salt, pepper, chili spice, and garlic salt, the last of which I *forgot* to use. Oh well, a great excuse to return. And SOON.

Shirts Sold at Café Roo's

Shirts Sold at Café Roo’s

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, sorry cash onlyCaptain Kangaroo’s rates 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor, where it is also ranked the #1 restaurant in all of Nago (out of something like 348 establishments). Given some of the styles and qualities of foods that can be found in this corner of the Far East in a large city, this standing is quite an accomplishment. I have been hearing the hype about this place for over a year now, and generally don’t give into such popularity contests: seldom does anything live up to such impossibly high expectations. Hamburger Island Café Captain Kangaroo’s does, on all accounts. And all our deliciousness for 2,600 yen, or about $23.50.

Jody mocks my last uneaten bit in silent contempt.....

Jody mocks my last uneaten bit in silent contempt…..

Oh, and about that shame of not finishing my burger? In my defense, I did have a large portion of chocolate ice cream for lunch.

At least I have my priorities in the right order….

Okinawa Mar 2015, Captain Kangaroo, a plate of burger heavan

Ambiance:  Eclectically furnished and casual burger joint of the highest caliber. Furniture groupings provide comfy and casual seating for couples and large groups of up to eight.

Service:  A small establishment which prides itself on quality and perfection. Food is all cooked fresh order, and the joint can be crowded during lunch and in the afternoons. While the wait to get a spot inside may be 20 or 30 minutes, your order is taken promptly and the food appears quicker than you might think possible. The staff is overly laid-back and friendly, and English is widely and easily spoken.

Food Quality:  Excellent without question. Ranked on Trip Advisor as the #1 restaurant in Nago.

Features:  Quaint eatery with conditioned indoor seating.  Easy-going atmosphere which is beachwear and kid-friendly.

Cuisine:  Burgers, burgers, and burgers. Plus eight more types of burgers. Plus taco rice.

Price/Value:  Excellent.

Address: 183 Umusa, Nago City

Phone: 098-054-3698

Opening Times: Every day except Holidays and Wednesdays, 11:00~20:00 (last order 19:40)

Directions: Take 58 north to Nago (or the Expressway until it ends and joins 58), then a slight left onto 449 once passing the seaside Nago baseball stadium. Captain Kangaroo, a small shop that’s easy to miss, is about 0.9 kilometers down the road on the left. Additional parking is found just before the storefront, and also to the rear of the burger joint.

Website: http://www.roo-bar.jp