Here's one that I heard about a while back, but just didn't have a chance to visit until recently.
The location can be a bit challenging; off of Mission Gorge Road, head east on Mission Gorge Place in sort of a business park area. Once you go down Mission Gorge Place a bit you can't miss the sign....unless it's not out. Then it just looks like one of hundreds of business strewn around the area.
The interior is interesting, though kind of cold, looking more like an Hawaiian themed bar serving food, than an actual restaurant. Here's where I noticed some interesting things. A decent beer selection, but nothing on tap.
The really nice gal told me to sit anywhere I wanted. Menus are simple take-out type pamphlets. Here's the next observation, I couldn't find anything fried on the menu, which might not be a bad thing, so I'm thinking this place doesn't have a fryer. Lot's of fusion-hip type of things like sliders, guava BBQ wings, "street" tacos, and nachos, along with tuna melts, BLTs, and smattering of plate lunch type items under "entrees".
I went straight for the artery and ordered the Loco Moco ($9.49), to add to my loco moco collection.
Though it doesn't look it, this was a good amount of food.
Let's start with the eggs, which were over-cooked....I do love my runny yolk. I fully understand how folks can be with runny yolks, but places who serve eggs that way will usually ask me how I want my eggs. Which is over easy, with a little char on the edges.
The burger looked real good, but noticing how it had been grilled, I could tell it was going to be pretty tough, which it was. The flavor was decent though.
I thought the gravy was kind of odd. First, it was runny and thin, almost like a bisque. Second, a flavoring, like French onion soup mix over-powered the whole thing and there was a bit of a metallic-sour finish to it.
The one saving grace and a big one at that was the mac salad. It was very simple, but mac salad should be simple. It wasn't over-dressed, the macaroni was cooked to perfection, there was just enough other flavors to keep me interested, and most importantly, it was seasoned well and nicely chilled. This might be my favorite mac salad in San Diego.
So the mac salad and the really nice young lady was enough to get me to return. I looked over the menu when I got home. There was another interesting item on the menu; Huli Huli Chicken. Huli-huli means to "turn-turn". Ernest Morgado, head of Pacific Poultry is credited with creating the "king of fundraisers", at least when I was growing up. You can read more about it in Mr Morgado's obit here. Let me just say, I loved this stuff when I was growing up.....so I was interested in what Chris' Ono Grinds Huli Huli Chicken ($9.49) was like:
Most Huli Huli Chicken recipes I've seen use a good amount of ketchup. Funny thing is; I don't recall it tasting strongly of it.
The sauce on this version was more like a barbecue, not as in "Hawaiian BBQ", but BBQ sauce. It was more of a sticky glaze than a nicely charred huli huli chicken grilled over Kiawe. That doesn't mean it wasn't good. This was pretty decent, perhaps a bit too fruity and sweet, but other than the piece of bone, in the supposedly boneless pile that nearly cracked my teeth, this was decent. The chicken was decently moist and fairly tender. Not bad.
The best thing was, the mac salad was the same as before.
I may not been chasing down this place like I did fund raisers back in the old days, but I think Chris's Ono Grinds has some potential and will probably return one of these days. Mainly because I used to make Guava BBQ Chicken (Hawaiian style BBQ) and he has chicken wings with Guava BBQ sauce.
Even though the feel of the place (and some of the menu) is rather "Mainland - local themed", don't want to use the "H" word, it looks like they are trying to make good food here. This is not another shibai Hawaiian BBQ money grab. That and the nice folks here are enough for another visit.
Chris' Ono Grinds Island Grill
4651 Mission Gorge Place
San Diego, CA 92120
Mon - Sat 11am - 9pm