What makes our burgers so good? It is more than the way we make them. It all starts with the best beef you can find. Grass fed, never frozen and Big Island fresh. In our little town of Kawaihae we are close to an abundance of cattle, an industry that began here in the mid 1800s and has influenced this area like nothing else.
Kawaihae has played an important role in Hawaiian history since the early ages. Its natural harbor has always set it apart from other settlements along the Kohala Coast and still has great significance today. The name Kawaihae means “water of wrath” referring to ancient battles over the natural spring waters once found there. The spring was eventually lost with the development of the harbor.
Kawaihae became a major hub for merchants and voyagers in the early 1800s and was crucial for the importation of foreign goods and the distribution of local products. Sea-salt was a big industry for many years, which was produced in large salt pans along the shoreline. Hawaiian sea salt was one of the first items that were exchanged between the native and the foreign merchants. Sandalwood was another high in demand product of the area and exported through Kawaihae harbor. Once the forests were depleted and the whaling era came to an end, Kawaihae began to decline, but a new industry began to bloom. The cattle industry.
The first cattle were brought here by Captain Vancouver as a gift to King Kamehameha I in 1793. They were allowed to roam free and quickly expanded in population. To thin the herds King Kamehameha asked John Palmer Parker to shoot the feral bulls and gave him land in exchange. This was the beginning of the famous Parker Ranch, which today covers 250,000 acres in and around Waimea. The export of cattle and cattle products became Kawaihae's main activity.
What does cattle need most besides fresh grass and room to roam? Cowboys! This is why Hawaii Island has a strong cowboy culture and even songs about them. The early cowboys were brought in from California and were direct descendants of the Vaquero, the original Mexican cowboys, who had the best skills in handling the bovine expansion. They were first called “Espanola", which the Hawaiian pronunciation quickly turned into “Paniolo”, the name we still give them today.
We pay homage to these hard working riders with our Paniolo Burger. One of the many reasons to come by and enjoy some feel good food in an old fashioned ambiance.
Chef Cary Peterson opened Kohala Burger and Taco opened in 2010. With all that history what better location could there be for a burger and taco restaurant? “I wanted to create a restaurant that would provide, top quality food, great value, accurate and speedy service,” says Chef Cary. “ Kohala Burger & Taco is the juncture where my years of Mexican food and hamburger experience meet. Right here at the Kawaihae Harbor where it ALL began. Please enjoy and be reassured that the food prepared here is of the highest quality; Hormone- and antibiotic-free grass fed beef, line Caught sustainable fresh fish, fresh bread and island made tortillas.”