First look: Hawaii-based Teddy's Bigger Burgers now in PH

Posted at 08/19/2014 6:48 PM | Updated as of 08/20/2014 3:36 PM
The first Philippine branch of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers is located at the third floor of Greenbelt 3 mall in Makati. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA – Taking a break from their homegrown Japanese concepts, the people behind the Sumo Sam group of restaurants are trying their hand at the burger business.

Raymund Magdaluyo, Marvin Agustin and Ricky Laudico have partnered with owners Ted Tsakiris and Richard Stula to bring the Hawaii-based burger chain Teddy’s Bigger Burgers to Manila, with its first branch at Greenbelt 3 mall in Makati City set to open on Saturday, August 23.

Noting the “onslaught of ramen and tonkatsu restaurants in the city,” Magdaluyo said he and his partners wanted “something different.”

An illustration shows the “anatomy of a bigger burger.” Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

“We stumbled upon this burger joint [more than three years ago],” he said, referring to Teddy’s, during the restaurant’s media preview on Tuesday. “Actually, I was biking in Oahu and I got wet, I got drenched, and my wife chanced upon Teddy’s in the Kailua branch [and we took shelter there]. And the rest was history.”

“We’re happy that Sumo Sam is now in the burger business,” he added.

Magdaluyo and his partners are looking at opening eight to nine more Teddy’s branches in the country in the next four years. Two are already under construction – expect to see one at Shangri-La Plaza mall in Mandaluyong in October, and another one at Eastwood Mall in Quezon City a month later.

“We promised them not too many stores, just the right number of stores… so that we can give the proper quality burgers,” Magdaluyo said.

The menu

Teddy’s, which first opened in Hawaii in 1998, has a pretty straightforward menu containing four main types of burgers, a selection of toppings and sauces, a few side dishes, some “specials,” and drinks and milkshakes.

Customers can have the burgers made according to their specifications, with Teddy’s giving them the freedom to choose the size of the patty (“big” or 5 oz., “bigger” or 7 oz., or “biggest” at 9 oz.), its doneness (rare to well done), and everything else that goes with it.

Customers can choose from three patty sizes. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

The most basic burger is Teddy’s Original, which is cooked medium and contains lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and a tangy “special sauce.” If you’re not a fan of, say, pickles and onions, you can have them removed upon request.

The Cheese Burger, as the name implies, is Teddy’s Original with any of the following cheeses – cheddar, American, Swiss and pepper jack. Teri Burger has the patty with a sweet teriyaki sauce, while the Monster Double Burger is Teddy’s Original with double patties totaling 10 oz to 18 oz.

Part of Teddy’s menu. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

The “extra special” variants at Teddy’s include the Cajun Burger which has Cajun seasoning and pepper jack cheese; Bacado Burger with avocado, cheddar cheese and bacon; Hawaiian Style with teriyaki sauce and grilled pineapple; and the bestselling Kailua Burger with teriyaki sauce, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and Swiss cheese.

Those who want to take it a step further can add even more toppings such as jalapeño peppers or peanut butter, and sauces like buffalo, gravy or the spicy Fire Sauce.

Side dishes at Teddy’s are limited to four – thick-cut potato fries, flavored fries, potato tots and onion rings.

The Philippine branch is the only one with a “specials” section containing alternatives such as Chicken Tenders (chicken breast strips served with fries), Loco Moco (burger patty with steamed rice, gravy and egg – think of a burger steak meal), Fish and Chips (Pollock with fries and sauce) and Tiki Wings (chicken wings tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce).

Drinks here include the usual soda, juice, iced tea, lemonade and float, and shakes in six flavors (strawberry, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, banana and peanut butter).

The food

Teddy’s founders – Tsakiris and Stula – flew all the way from Hawaii to see to it that food served in the second international branch of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers (the first is located in Tokyo, Japan) will be consistent with what they have back home.

When asked what they believe makes Teddy’s burgers stand out, Tsakiris said: “We only use 100% ground chuck. There’s a difference between ground beef and ground chuck. We do not use binders. There’s no soy in our product. There are no fillers, we don’t stretch it out.”

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers owners Ted Tsakiris and Richard Stula. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

“We made it the hard way. When we were starting, we hardly had any margin,” he added, noting their dedication to serving good quality burgers. “It’s not ground meat that’s injected with flavor.”

True enough, the burgers are the stars of the show at Teddy’s. The patties are delightfully moist, juicy and well-seasoned, all while maintaining their integrity and shape. They do not fall apart easily and are not too greasy, unlike their other burger counterparts in the city.

Teddy’s Original Burger with Swiss cheese and fries. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Also noteworthy is Teddy’s potato buns which are soft yet tight, providing the right case for the lean yet flavorful patties.

The add-ons are there for the sake of customization, but it is best to enjoy Teddy’s burgers with only the base toppings and a slice of Swiss cheese so as not to steal the spotlight from the very delicious patty. An example of this is the Kailua Burger – while it is fun to eat, the sweetness of the teriyaki sauce and grilled onions tend to overpower the layers of spice in the burger.

Teddy’s Kailua Burger. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

There is not much to say about the side dishes, however. The thick-cut fries are a lot like what is served in other casual joints. The onion rings are slightly tastier than usual, and the Tiki Wings hit the spot but are not out of the ordinary.

Teddy’s Onion Rings. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

The milkshakes are worth a try if you like them very, very thick and creamy. Teddy’s Philippine executive chef Kirsten Habawel claimed that theirs do not contain water or ice – it’s just 90% ice cream and 10% milk.

Teddy’s Chocolate Milkshake. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Ambience, price

There is little room to move in Teddy’s first Philippine branch, which can seat around 35 to 40 people inside and a few more outside the surfboard-dotted restaurant.

Expect to bump into a few people as you make your way to the counter to place your order as it is only a few steps away from some of the tables.

Inside Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

After ordering, you will be given a receipt with a number and this will be called when your meal is ready. No need to stand up – just raise your hand and a server will approach you and give you what you ordered.

It may look like it, but Teddy’s is far from being fast-food when it comes to price. A basic 5 oz. burger costs P265 without the fries and drink, which require an additional P100.

But unlike its predecessors here in Manila – California’s CaliBurger and Canada’s Triple O’s – Teddy’s will not make you feel shortchanged as you get what you pay for in terms of taste and quality.

Burgers are only cooked upon order so service may be a bit slow, but the flavors more than make up for it.