Jimmy Buffett might have sang about cheeseburgers in paradise, but on Guam you can literally eat one, or five different kinds, depending on your view.
That's especially true at Yigo's new Uptown Pub and Grill, a cozy spot tucked along Route 1 behind the Bank of Guam on the island's north end. The bar and restaurant that also has a sizable dance floor, DJ and band space opened in early June and is starting to build a little name for itself.
The reason for the hype?
The handcrafted and homemade, half-pound hamburger patties, each one molded by employees that give it the proper tender, loving care so to refer to it as a "craft burger."
Matter of fact, the patties are so big and thick; so juicy, they sizzled loudly when they cooked for The Guam Daily Post in the little kitchen space and outdoor patio behind the bar.
As it turns out, the burgers tasted so good they just might just make your mouth water with envy while you're waiting for one. But you don't even have to wait.
With the popularity growing, the staff has even started taking reservations on the burgers, a truly made-to-order experience. On the afternoon the Post visited, a 15-top was expected later after they left work.
"We've got regulars who come in most every day," says LyneMarie Breton, kitchen manager and head burger chef.
She even has created an off-the-menu Uptown Dip, also becoming quite popular with the locals.
As you wait, you can enjoy a drink from the bar, and that's when you'll notice the smells you're catching off the grill.
Those pleasant whiffs would be the special seasonings used in those sizzling patties, of course. When grilled after being hand-mixed in the burger, the spices will create an aroma and scent that will leave you playing guessing games as you're chewing. Red pepper? Cayenne? Your guess is as good as mine.
Each patty, when cooked to perfection, then comes served on an onion roll – "for the little extra kick," owner Rob De La Cruz says, with french fries or onion rings on the side, all for a price of $13.
Pay-Less Supermarket provides the buns now, but De La Cruz says they are having a hard time keeping up with Uptown's demand and the idea soon is to have Joann's Bakery down the street start exclusively making them.
"Nobody will be able to say, 'I know where you get your buns,'" De La Cruz says. "The buns will only be made for here and will be fresh, every day."
A fistful of burgers
Available at the $13 price as of this writing are five unique burgers.
The first is the Uptown Blues burger, which comes with Swiss cheese, blue cheese, lettuce and Uptown Sauce, which is an orange-colored combination of condiments and spices.
The second burger is the Uptown Special, which comes stuffed with cheddar cheese and is topped by grilled mushrooms, lettuce and Uptown Sauce.
The third and fourth burger options involve bacon, with the Bacon Swiss burger coming with the meat and cheese on it. The Bacon "Stuffed Up" Swiss burger comes with the same, just with lots more Swiss cheese, stuffed inside it and on top of it.
The fifth and final burger is the Cheese It Up, because its creator loves cheese, and it comes stuffed and topped with Velveeta, while also being smothered with caramelized onions and bacon.
Killing two birds with one stone
According to De La Cruz, the reason for the restaurant's existence and its menu's simplicity is because of how close it is to Andersen Air Force Base, and because of how few spots to eat and drink exist near Yigo.
"A lot of military personnel love burgers, love wings and just love a place where they can eat and drink at the same time," De La Cruz says. "We thought, 'Why not just kill two birds with one stone?'"
De La Cruz says military members have told him it's the best burger they've tried on island, too.
While the chicken wings and additional menu items are coming soon, the burgers have become so popular in the meantime that personnel for Simon Sanchez High School were coming in for them to pick up, as well as patrons of the nearby VFW bar. That led Uptown to begin offering burger delivery, and also to start taking the reservations mentioned prior.
'Yigo has always been uptown'
Unlike its predecessor, Uptown Pub and Grill wants to be more than just a bar, but rather more what their name implies – a spot fit for anyone.
With the start of the school year and Simon Sanchez High so close, there's even hope that students might want to visit after school to enjoy a burger or play some pool or darts.
Just don't go for a burger on Sundays – "Family Day," as De La Cruz calls it – as that is when Uptown is closed. That notion alone should give patrons an idea of the type of establishment Uptown Pub and Grill wants to be as it continues gaining popularity.
"We're family-friendly until like 7, 8 p.m.," De La Cruz says. "We're also coming out with a kids menu soon."
Yigo has a place all its own, now, too, and like De La Cruz says, "Yigo has always been uptown."