I saw the new location of Homestyle Hawaiian back in April. But I just kind of took my time heading on over. These days, I need to space out those plate lunch visits....especially since Homestyle Hawaiian's portion sizes were usually pretty generous. Plus, I'd been visiting HH since beginning at the Mesa College Branch, back in September of 2009. Since then, I've done a ton of posts on HH and had visited their other locations in Chula Vista and Midway. So, not anticipating a very different menu, I just took my time until last month.
I liked the interior; very local kine "gastro-pub-ish". There are about 20 pulls; with everything from Cal Creamin, to Kona Brewing....to Bud Light. Things seemed a bit confused as I didn't quite know what the drill was while waiting for a table. It seems at first the young lady was going to take my order....so perhaps this was fast-casual? But when I said this was for "here"....I was directed to a table. I saw this happen a couple of more times during my two visits.
I really enjoy a "chicken cutlet" when I'm back home. In local terms; katsu comes with local kine (usually ketchup based) katsu sauce, while cutlet means topped with gravy. Try that here in San Diego and you'll get blank stares. I did want to add a bit of gravy to my diet, so I went with the "Make your own Loco Moco" with Chicken Katsu as my base. The gravy a bit gluey, but went well (with some Tabasco...you can take the boy off the island, but....you know) with the nicely fried katsu. The egg was a bit over cooked. There was at least a scoop of rice under the proteins to go with what was topped with furikake. The rice was decent. The item that surprised me the most was the mac salad. I'd never been a fan of HH's mac salad, but it seems to have gotten better over the years. Today it was nicely chilled and decently salted and not overdressed with mayo.
The young lady who served me was very nice, if a bit disorganized and "spacy".....she brought me my plate and then forgot my utensils having to bring me some, same with the Tabasco. Still, this was a nice enough meal.
So I returned with my coworkers Daniel and Calvin. Same really nice young lady, same forgetfulness. She almost brought us another table's food. Then Daniel's Lava Chicken arrived without any "sauce" on it.
I got the combination Korean Chicken and Katsu with (of course) gravy on it.
The Katsu was bit over fried this time around and on the dry side......thank goodness for the gravy which was nicely flavored. That Korean Chicken wasn't quite as good as I recalled; fairly low on flavor, a bit over fried with some burnt bits and on the dry side.
Perhaps they are still settling in, but things seem to be a hit and miss. I'll return in a couple of months to check back in. The location is prime for this type of concept, even with Island Style Café nearby.
Homestyle Hawaiian Pub & Eatery 10601 Tierrasanta Boulevard San Diego, CA 92124 Hours: Monday 5pm - 9pm Tues - Sat 1130am - 9pm Closed Sunday
A few weeks ago; I was in National City and decided to check out what was going on with Point Point Joint. When I drove into the parking lot I was shocked to see PPJ was gone! Wow, first Conching's and now Point Point Joint! I guess I really don't get down here near enough these days. The other thing I was surprised to see; though I probably shouldn't have been, was a place name Poke Etc had taken PPJ's place.
I was just going to get into my car and as we say back home; "hele" to somewhere else. But I decided to take a peek inside; which was kind of interesting. The lay-out seemed very much PPJ; in spite of the freshening up, it still looked a bit worn.
I really wasn't interested in the poke....more interested in the "etc".....stuff like Shoyu Chicken, Lau Lau, Kalua Pork, Teriyaki Chicken....I'm not sure when I last had Ilocano Longanisa. My friends growing up were Ilocano, so I was kind of used to the vinegary; garlicky longanisa. The first time I had Longsilog in San Diego I was rather shocked at how sweet it was. But over the years I've come to enjoy it.
There a collection of "stuffs", an almost random collection most of which you can get from Marukai, and a reach in fridge with Hawaiian Sun, haupia, mac salad, Portuguese sausage (sorry not "my" brand")...you know, etc....
I'd had enough "Mainland poke" for a while so just went with the Lau Lau Combo ($9.95)......not really expecting much.
You know; the lau lau wasn't bad....I mean, it wasn't "really" lau lau if you know what I mean; it was missing the very important salted butterfish, which adds an awesome salty-savory touch to lau lau and is all important. The difference between this and what I typically get here on the mainland is; and it pretty much holds true for most frozen lau lau, is that it was moist, not too salty, it had quite a bit of luau leaf, but I love the steamed taro leaves, which have a smoky, flavor. Again, not really lau lau, but the pork shoulder was moist, tender, and not too stringy. What really put a damper on things is the lack of "chili pepper water"....bummer. The rice was on the dry side foe my taste; especially when eating local kine food.....
I hadn't read the menu very closely; instead of the usual mac salad, this came with a scoop of poke. Oh-oh....... There's basically 8 different poke, already made; over ice, just like home. I'm a purist, so I decided on the Ahi Limu and was pleasantly surprised.
First off, the fish was decent quality; think basically Safeway or Foodland on Oahu. The limu was actually the fine Limu Kohu.......not the hard branches. Some not so great pieces, but mixed and coated evenly, not too salty; a bit of shoyu; this wasn't bad at all.
So I returned and decided to see how the loco moco ($8.95) was. I should have probably just gone with maybe some poke and rice.....
This wasn't good eats, from the very gluey, tasteless gravy; which had the same viscosity as the egg yolk. They just kind of oozed into one another. To the burger which was pretty darn tough, to the rice which was again on the dry side. I just didn't care for this.
The onions might have added to the dish; in this state they added some flavor; but just think if they'd been caramelized a bit more; it would have added some depth.
So, I decided to come in and just get a poke bowl......I got the "Create your own bowl" which was reasonably priced at $8.95. Of course I hot the Ahi Limu and this time added the Kimchi Poke.
On this day the Ahi Limu wasn't right; the fish wasn't coated well, there were too many pieces with tough connective tissue; and in spite of the Limu Kohu, this seemed off. The fish in the Kimchi Poke was slightly better, but not by much. Not a big fan of the flavors which was more salty than spicy. It just wasn't very interesting. To make matters worse, the rice was even more dry than before.
I mean, it's ok to have some pieces with "sugi" in them; but not so many......
Poke Etc was starting to be a bit of enigma; I just couldn't put my finger on what this place did consistently well. I decided to pay one more visit. I was going to order the Shoyu Chicken; but it didn't come with poke and I wanted to give that one more shot. So I decided on the Island Bento ($11.95) to go. The menu states Teriyaki Chicken, Tonkatsu, and Poke. This is what I got.
I have no idea what this was supposed to be, but I don't think it's what I ordered. That tonkatsu was pounded very thin, breaded, then fried to a dry, stringy place that can only be described as death. What's up with the bland sautéed onions and the frozen peas and carrots? Kind of sad because the Ginger Ahi was nicely flavored, not too much ginger, good soy, not too salty, the fish was nicely mixed and coated well, and there were only a few pieces with too much connective tissue. I'd easily have that again.
After this....four visits in the can; I decided that I need to give the place a rest. I'm still not quite sure if they can put out a consistent product; though I do like the "old school" style poke....when it's on. If one of those "Chi-Poke" places (i.e. San Diego Poke Company, etc....) could get it right, it would be great. The woman who works here is really nice and friendly....and heck, I saw boiled peanuts for sale; I need to bring my own chili pepper water though, and there's still that Ilocano Longanisa I have to try one of these days........one of these days.
Interesting to note that Poke Etc is a chain of (currently) four shops, two in Long Beach and one in Carson. I'm sure we'll see more pop-up here in San Diego.
A few weeks back, I had to head on up to the City of Industry to take care of some business. Because of the Missus work schedule, this was a rare solo trip....in fact, we haven't found much time to head back up to the LA or even the OC very much in the last couple of years as things have been quite busy for us. After taking care of business, I needed to grab a bite to eat. My first thought was the rather new location of Chengdu Taste in Hong Kong Plaza....but man, there was a line outside the place. So I thought about doing what had been brewing in "mi cabeza" for several years. While we lived in the Rowland/Hacienda Heights area for several years, I had never really taken to the place, that is, I never felt that "this is my home". Honolulu is where I'm from and will always be "home". I now feel that San Diego is my home. For some reason, I never felt "at home" in LA, though I have some fond memories of the place, it's where I met the Missus, (well, not really as it was on a flight, She on Her way back to LA, me headed to Fort Smith Arkansas) where we got married and initially settled down.
Anyway, I decided to head to Puente Hills Mall.
Yes, strange, I know. One of the really funny things was; the first time I passed Puente Hills Mall was at night and I instantly recognized it....it was Lone Pine Mall in Back to the Future...that Robinson's May was still there back then. These days, the mall seems even more run down and seedy than it did then. Especially the Food Court.
The Missus sent me a text asking me where I was eating. When I told Her She replied "WHAT! You can do better than that!" Which is totally true. And yet, there's a story behind this. You see, the first L&L Hawaiian Barbecue outside of Hawaii opened in this mall. No big deal now....but for an ex-pat Kama'aina back in 1999-2000 it meant a lot. Back then, L&L served up a decent plate lunch....... And for a homesick local boy, it was just down the street. So now, all these years later, I decided to see what was going on here.
Back when they first opened here, I knew the owners....I wish I could remember their names, but they really worked hard to keep up the quality. I don't think they own the place anymore. It looks a bit run down....but so does the entire food court. I decided to go with a mini locomoco. This was actually the first one of the year!
There were two things positive about this loco; the egg which was nicely sunny-side up and the mac salad, which wasn't messed with too much; had the perfect amount of mayo and was ice cold. Other than that, this wasn't very good. The gravy was pasty and had no flavor, the rice was dry, some of which was hard. Worse of all was the train wreck called a hamburger patty, which was some leathery substance that I took a bite of, then put to the side. Also....no Tabasco.....
If I recall, in his spiel; Eddie Flores talks about franchisees having to come to Hawaii to learn about food prep and the "Aloha Spirit". Maybe they do....but it looks like it's forgotten about fairly quickly. I don't think there's any quality control, nor standards of service as I was treated like that hamburger patty. In some ways this was good. I now have closure and have no reason ever to return.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue 1600 S Azusa Avenue City of Industry, CA 91748
This visit had me wondering, what happened to some of those places we always used to visit when we lived here. We know about places like Chicken Box, Hong Kong Fishball House, Donut King, Yi Mei Deli, Shau Mei, and TS Emporium. But there were others I had in mind, so I decided to take a trip to some of the more obscure places. I did notice that the old Albertson's is now 168 Market.....which means that there isn't a "western" supermarket in this strip of Colima Road! Taiwan Deli is still there, but it looks like the menu is some pseudo Taiwanese-Sichuan mash-up?
It was nice to see Hacienda Village Meats is still there....we used to stop by for various meats and the Missus loved the variety of Italian drinks/sodas. In the same strip mall is what used to be the Missus favorite dried beef stop, which is still there.
It's winter in April! At least that's what it felt like last night. A couple more revisits for your consideration.
777 Noodle House:
Another weekend, another list to take of. And another stop for a noodle soup breakfast. It seems like I drop by here every couple of months. And while Ly Heng surely tops this place in terms of Pho/Hu Tieu Nam Vang, I still like the folks working here. They are so nice and friendly.....they still call me "sir" after all these years. Looking at the dining room it struck me that 777 is just one of those places that looked worn since the day they opened.
On this day, I had my sights set on the Pork Intestine Egg Noodle Soup. Strange, but I think it's gotten better over the years, at least I believe better than the first time I had it. Or perhaps my tastes have changed. The noodles were perfect on this day a wonderful counter point to the blanched bean sprouts. The broth wasn't too salty, slightly porky, and had taken on some of the flavor from the intestine.
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Island Style Café:
So I got in my loco moco fix. It kind of happened by accident. I was going to lunch with Calvin and Deanna.....due to the rainy weather, pho sounded like a good choice....but they wanted "something different". It really doesn't get much different, even in terms of loco moco's, than the Kaloko Moco.
I thought this was better than the one I had last time, though the easy over eggs were style a bit over cooked. The crepe is such an oddity, but it just goes well with this loco....... The burger was better than what I had before and the gravy wasn't too salty...and heck; there's even some veggies! Check out the carrots! Ha!
Deanna, who is from the Midwest really wasn't ready for this, so she got the teri beef and Korean chicken....she loved the mac salad here, so maybe there's hope for her.
Island Style Cafe 5950 Santo Road San Diego, CA 92124
When I started putting together The Big List, there were quite a few instances where I wondered what was going on with places that were still around all these years later. I first posted on L&L in the College area back in May of 2005 and a second with the "Are You Loco" comparison that September. So I thought, ten years is a good long time....and even though L&L is not my first choice for Plate Lunch (let's not go into that Hawaiian BBQ versus Plate Lunch stuff....plate lunch came first....Hawaiian Barbecue is a branding/marketing strategy), I thought it was about time. Also for this one, I broke out the "Rubio Scale", created by James Rubio of Big Island Grinds, who measures each item on the loco moco and assigns an aggregate based on this....so no, this won't be like one of those ramen things on that "Four lettered site" that says, "the noodles were fantastic, but the soup was just okay so I give it one star...." Which will always lead to the question; "does that mean if the broth was fantastic and the noodles fantastic, the best this place could do is two stars on a four star scale?"
So, it's been over a decade. Can you imagine how many starving students this location of L&L has served? On the downside; can you imagine how many folks think that this is the best that Hawaii has to offer on a plate?
If my recent visit is any indication, they'll be serving many more classes of SDSU students.
The tables are a bit more sticky than I recalled and as to be expected, the folks here....both in the front and the kitchen can't really pronounce the dishes correctly....stuff like musubi and katsu sounds kind of odd...and to be honest, a bit painful.
But lets get down to the Loco Moco - which is now $8.99, over 9 bucks with tax. Yikes, that's over 40% more than what it used to be. It has now reached the level of, "this better be good".
And let's get it on with the Rubio scale shall we?
#1 - Burger:
Good lord, preformed and cooked to death. Lacking in seasoning. Like eating gritty bits of shoe leather....still, it was barely edible. Thank god for the gravy...well, maybe not.
Not a good sign.
This actually saved the loco as it was easy-over. I know, everyone is afraid of eating eggs out nowadays. But this one was right. There could have been crisp edges and some browning, but this was ok.
Seems like it was undercooked and sitting for a while. Average.
Good lord, we sent Old Betsy to the glue factory. The texture was not to my liking...too gooey/gluey, no beefy flavor, glue like texture. It was nothing without Tabasco.....
Of course we have to attend to the Mac Salad. This one was put together fine....all the minimum requirements and it was nice and cold. Lack of salt was an issue, but it was ok.
So we have a 10 out of 25....perhaps this is the state of Hawaiian Barbecue loco mocos these days. After all, I think they "jumped the shark" years ago.
Still, it had been quite a few years and I had to find out for myself.
A small part of me wonders how the location in Puente Hills Mall fares. It was the first location on the mainland and was just a couple of miles from where we lived way back when. It was pretty good...they brought in a bunch of cooks from HNL to get them started and the folks there were really nice.......maybe it's better that I not know.....
L&L's Hawaiian BBQ Campus Plaza 6083 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite 5B-1 San Diego, CA 92115
Man, they've really spruced up the place since I'd last been here. When I visited the place did mainly snacks and smoothies. Now it's a proper restaurant......
Let me first say that the folks here are wonderful. I had really nice Servers on all my visits, very friendly, efficient, just great kids.
An acquaintance of mine recommended the Kalua Pork, something I grew up eating, and of course I make a version for parties and friends. And so, I ordered it.
So let's start with the good....the rice was nice. The salad with the Maguro was a nice touch, even though it was "saku" fish and the whole salad was quite large, larger than the portion of pork. The dressing was way too mild.
I didn't care for the kalua pork prep. That teriyaki sauce was cloyingly sweet and just masked any flavor from the pork. I did taste the pork and felt it was under seasoned and a bit too greasy.
Still, the folks were so very nice that I decided to come back during happy hour.
Looking over the happy hour menu; one item was a no-brainer....the Spam Musubi, which was actually some kind of Spam Roll.
Much like the kalua pork, this was a bit too much. I would have been fine without the sauce which kind of blurred the entire dish. I thought the spam could have been seared a bit, which would have added that nice crisp texture. The rice was a bit too mushy for my tastes.
Sadly, the Chicken Karaage was even worse. Just look at the color!
The temp of the oil obviously wasn't hot enough; the batter was gummy and this wasn't very pleasant to eat. Unlike the other items I had, this was also very mild in flavor. Not good eats.
And yet, the service was so very nice....so I decided to give them another try. This time I ordered a favorite of mine; Chicken Katsu.
This came with some miso soup, which didn't have enough miso in it. It was quite weak and watery.
When the chicken katsu arrived, I noticed a problem right off. A pet peeve of mine....the breading was peeling off.
And while this can happen to the best of them, there really is no excuse for it. Also, I quickly noticed how thin the chicken had been pounded. Too bad because the breading was nice and crunchy, the Asian slaw went well with the dish, and the rice was cooked nicely.
So, what to say....I love the folks who work here, but the food? Well, call me picky, but each dish on my visits seemed to have one, or more issues. Too bad, because I really like the staff and the vibe of the place.
I had a chance to check them out recently. It's in one of the numerous strip malls on Midway. This used to be the location of Jin's Grill.
This place is a fairly good sized space; the menu is basically the same as well.
I went with what I'd normally order; the Korean Chicken and Katsu with Gravy. Back home, Katsu is with Katsu sauce and Chicken Cutlet is Katsu served with gravy. I'm pretty sure I would have gotten a blank look if I ordered a combo Korean Chicken - Chicken Cutlet.
The Korean Chicken flavor was a bit on the weak side and perhaps was not marinated long enough? The katsu and gravy was nice, notice no breading falling off? It was also moist and the gravy (plus a dash of Tabasco) added layers of texture and flavor. I had one spoon of the mac salad which tasted a bit off.....a bit sour, so I decided to 86 that.
The portion size looked smaller than the CV and LV locations, but was still more than enough food for me.
I'm glad HH is doing well. Unlike many of the local "Hawaiian Barbecue" places, this isn't just a money grab. I'll probably return once I recover from all that rice and fried food.
Homestyle Hawaiian 3445 Midway Dr San Diego, CA 92110 Hours: Tues - Sat 11am - 8pm
The place looked pretty much the same and I ordered the same thing I ordered on my last visit. The combination plate; Korean chicken - chicken katsu. I am a creature of habit I guess.
Was there ever a time when I could have actually finished all this food? Hard to believe. Instead of going "all rice", I'd never been a fan of Mo's mac salad, but today it was passable...more flavor than usual. The Korean chicken, with the teriyaki and mild spice, deep fried to add texture has always been a favorite. The katsu looked quite light in color, but was nice and crisp, and to be totally honest, I've been missing the ketchup based "local kine" katsu sauce too. I barely put a dent in the plate, taking most of it to go. I brought it home and the Missus whacked it. I guess She'd been missing this too.
I didn't see Mo. But I did see a sign announcing the opening of their third shop; on Midway. So I'll probably be getting another plate lunch fix in fairly short order.
Homestyle Hawaiian 1558 E H St Chula Vista, CA 91913
While Leilani's might be a bit more spiffed up from what I recall; it's still that tiny shop....truly a café. I'd attempted visiting one time before, but the place seems to be doing a nice amount of business. However, on this rainy weekend morning. One in which I sorely missed a loco, there was room for me....and my Hilo Loco:
For some reason; I think the Hilo Loco is better than I recalled. Perhaps time has made the heart grow fonder....but having time between these will make sure my heart doesn't stop mid-beat.
The rice was nice (how's that for a rhyme), nice pieces of Portuguese Sausage give it enough spice and mild heart, making it even more hearty. The gravy is by the book; no complaints here. The hamburger patty is still a bit overworked, too lean, and tough for me.
The eggs....well, while I'd have loved some crisp edges....I'm not going to complain when oozy yolk is staring me in the face.
Leilani has carved out a nice little niche for herself. She even has a shop next door to this cozy little cafe. It's good to know that the Hilo Loco....well...is still a Hilo Loco.
Leilani's Cafe 5109 Cass St San Diego, CA 92109 Open Daily 7am-3pm
The Missus and I have a pretty nice routine for our "easy" days when we visit "home".
Things start with breakfast. The Missus can never get enough papaya.......there's nothing even remotely close to this stuff on the mainland. And I love good pineapple. What do you expect from the grandchild/child of Maui Pine plantation workers?
We then head off to the Missus's favorite swim spot; of all places, Ala Moana Beach.
We head out right after the morning rush hour....it's a week day so it's all the old timers, students, and Japanese tourists taking wedding photos.
I've always been amazed at how they seem so easy going, wearing wedding gowns and tuxedos in humid, 85 degree weather. But after chatting with folks like Kat, I understand.
On this morning it wasn't one, but two sets of couples taking photos.
While the Missus swims, I usually do a complete lap of Ala Moana Park and sometimes even head off toward Ward Avenue. On days like this one, I can't help but think, "man, to believe that I used to take all of this for granted".
Once out and dry, the Missus and I will head off across the street to Honolulu Coffee Company for a Kona V60 pour over for the coffee snob.
And while it doesn't wow Her like it used to. It's still a good cup of coffee.
Honolulu Coffee Co (in Ala Moana Center) 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Ste 3066 Honolulu, HI 96814
We then head off and do our various errands. On this day, we decided to head off to Kahala Mall; Whole Foods and the Apple Store were calling. I decided on stopping off at another of my old favorites, in my 'hood, Gina's Bar-B-Q, still going strong 23 years later.
You know, I remembered when this place first opened. It's typical Local style Korean, our version of a Meat and Three. You order your entrée(s) and get three of what we call "vegetables", basically panchan, and the proteins are cooked to order.
It's a very popular style, the most popular is probably a chain called Yummy Korean BBQ. Every one has their neighborhood favorites when it comes to the local kine Korean BBQ places. I used to like Kim Chi II, though I haven't been there in maybe 20 years. My mom liked Choi's Family Restaurant, many of my friends love Soon's in Salt Lake (Oahu, not Utah....).
I'm old enough to remember when Foodland, which is now on the other side of the parking lot used to be in this spot. My good friend's second job was with Foodland. I also remember when there was a very popular video game place here called....if I recall, "The Space"???? I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong. I remember once going to use the restroom and finding two huge bags of pakalolo right on the washbasin!
Anyway wanting to check out the state of the food at Gina's, I ordered a "special", still a bargain at eleven bucks or so. It comes with bulgogi, kalbi, and the item I used to really enjoy (second best - the spicy chicken was #1), the BBQ Chicken.
Anyway, we took it to go, got a small salad at WF in Kahala and proceeded to dig in. The bulgogi wasn't up to snuff, dry, bland, and tough. The kalbi was typical local style, nice flavor, but not the best. That chicken was still a winnah! Nice shoyu flavor, slight sweetness, chewy, but in a good way. There was of course, the equivalent of three scoops of rice under all of this, soaking up the juices and drippings. The "vegetables" were passable....I'd say, even better than what I get here at some of the rather pricey Korean places.
Even though it's more about a good value, the chicken is not bad.
I'm hoping to head back to Gina's for the spicy chicken next time. Hopefully, I won't have to wait another decade.
Gina’s Bar-B-Q 2919 Kapiolani Blvd Honolulu, HI 96826