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chris’ ono grinds island grill / mission valley – san diego, ca

Jake, T and I came here shortly after I got back from Boston. I got an Entertainment Book a couple of months ago for only $5 (on tax day!) so I figured it’s about time we start using the sucker for deals! Chris’ Ono Grinds Island Grill was one of the places – but only for the location in Mission Valley (they also have a location in North Park). 

chris-ono-grinds-cafe-jake

They have a couple of seats outside. One is a glass table and the other one (behind Jake) is one of those giant spool wood tables. I opted for the “real” table, hah! This location is kind of in a weird spot off Mission Gorge Place. As you drive down, you just see a bunch of different offices and you think, “Is there really a place to eat down here?” and then you stumble right upon it. I imagine this is a great spot for anyone who works around here though!  

chris-ono-grinds-cafe-menu-side-1

Menu – side one. 

chris-ono-grinds-cafe-menu-side-2

Menu – side two. 

huli-huli-chicken-wings

[waimea wings / $5.99]

Since there were three of us and we would be sharing two plates, we decided to also spring for a Pupu (or appetizer).  There are four different sauces to choose from: Guava BBQ, Huli Huli, Buffalo or Lava. Our waiter told us the Guava BBQ is more on the sweet side, maybe even a touch too sweet and that the lava is actually spicy. We decided to go with the Huli Huli which is a Hawaiian style teriyaki sauce.

The wings are grilled and smothered in Huli Huli sauce which is a little sweet and very reminiscent of teriyaki sauce – similar flavors and spices. It came with a side of sauce (which I believe is Blue Cheese sauce but it might have also been Ranch – sorry, I don’t recall). The wings were tender and the outside skin has a good char from the grilling. The wings are also quite large – not dinky little wings – with plenty of juicy meat. Very yummy!  

huli-huli-chicken-kahula-pork-plate

[plate combo with huli huli chicken and kalua pork / $10.49]

Our Entertainment Book coupon was a “Buy One Get One Free” up to $10 and we decided to spring for combination plates to try as much of the Hawaiian BBQ as possible. Maximization! Must try all the things! 

Our first plate had the huli huli chicken again (but this time in chicken thigh form instead of wings) and the kalua pork with a side of sweet potato medallions. The sweet potatoes looked like a large stack of gold coins to me – but instead of all shiny and bright it was grilled and slightly charred on the outside. The sweet potatoes were soft and moist and that touch of outer caramelization from the grilling amped up the flavor of the sweet potato just a touch more. 

The huli huli chicken was one of my favorite items here – I loved the tender thigh meat and the huli huli sauce penetrated and really got into the meat to give a ton of flavor. Very moist and juicy and cooked nicely on the grill. 

The kalua pork was also good – not too salty (which has been the case with other kalua pork I’ve tried) and the meat was still tender and not dry – always a plus! 

kalbi-ribs-plate

[plate combo – kalbi ribs and teriyaki steak / $12.99]

We went all beef for the second plate getting a combination with the kalbi ribs and the teriyaki steak. The steak also has the same Huli Huli sauce that’s featured on the wings and chicken but is instead on sliced top sirloin. I didn’t seem to like it has much on the steak and found the steak was a little too dry for me – the meat wasn’t quite as tender as the chicken. The kalbi ribs were also just kind of ho-hum for me. They had a sweet-sour sauce on them unlike the other items we had and the meat was slightly tough to chew through. I liked it more than the teriyaki steak but overall I much prefer the chicken here.

We also got the classic macaroni salad on the side here which was really good – it wasn’t overloaded with mayonnaise but rather just had a touch – nay, even just a hint – of mayo in the salad. The noodles were nice and still firm (al dente!) and it just had a few herbs/veggies mixed in to give it flavor. A very good version of macaroni salad if you ask me.

Chris’ Ono Grinds Island Grill is a welcome addition to the Hawaiian BBQ scene – good huli huli sauce and excellent side dishes. It all tastes fresh and housemade – including all of the sauces – which is a nice change from that other chain restaurant (which I do still frequent from time to time – I guess I’m not that picky about Hawaiian BBQ). 

Chris’ Ono Grinds Island Grill
4651 Mission Gorge Pl.
San Diego, CA
(619) 794-2060

Chris' Ono Grinds Island Grill on Urbanspoon

'12 Responses to “chris’ ono grinds island grill / mission valley – san diego, ca”'
  1. Jinxi says:

    Oooh I’ve been wanting to try this place after having a taste of their kalua pork at a tasting event! The grilled sweet potatoes sound so yummy, as do the wings! I’d definitely wanna try the lava sauce :P

    • mary says:

      Hi Jinxi! I wasn’t sure if the lava sauce would be too much for me, haha. I might try buffalo since there was a cool, creamy sauce to dip it into! We’ll definitely have to come back and try out other things out.

  2. I love sitting outside, especially on nice days. I want some of that macaroni salad. This kind of reminds me of the time I was looking for this one sandwich shop that I had read so many great reviews on. I drove around and didn’t see any restaurant type places in sight. But the GPS led me to an office building…and there it was. Sometimes, I guess they can be good finds, not just for those that work in the nearby buildings. I wonder what you typically have for lunch on work days?! At one of these type of places in or near your office building?

    • mary says:

      Hi Miss Kim – Sitting outside is pretty nice. I’m not sitting outside today though, it’s too hot! Looks can totally be deceiving sometimes!

      Sometimes I make my lunch, or have leftovers from previous dinner or night out, and sometimes I frequent the little shops around me (like this yummy sandwich spot, or the ravioli factory that also has a deli, or go for Vietnamese. I try to go to new places but I’ve about exhausted the local supply, haha. There’s always new places to try though, or favorite repeats :)

  3. Cool! I have to find that coupon now! there are still so many others I want to explore before they expire!

    That’s right – get combo’s to maximize the coupon deal!!!!

    • mary says:

      Yay, CC – you’re my Entertainment Book coupon buddy, haha. Yeah, we need to get on it with the coupons too since we missed a good chunk of the year, but at least I have already gotten my money back from buying the book. Totally worth it!

  4. Faye says:

    Where did you get the entertainment book? My mom used to buy those books but we never ended up using any of the coupons. So was this restaurant more in an industrial location (kinda like my favorite sandwich place you intro’d me in Mira Mesa – dang it, can’t remember the name). I rarely sit outside at a table because I need cold a/c sooo bad (like ALL the time). This place has a/c no?

    The wings look super glossy and yummy. Was the skin crispy at all or was it mostly soggy from the sauce?

    I’ve never liked L&L either. They overfry or over cook things IMO. I can’t believe that review was from 2006! Holy schmokes.

    • mary says:

      Hi Faye – I bought the Entertainment book online. They were running a special for Tax Day – just $5. You could probably score a book for cheap right now since the the coupons expire in November.
      This place is more in an industrial area – it’s in Mission Gorge area but it’s not really next to any other restaurants. I think they do have a/c inside but we weren’t inside long enough so I don’t remember, haha. The sandwich place is Wich Addiction! I go there a lot :) They added a yummy catfish po’ boy sandwich to the menu!
      The wings had crispy skin, I don’t think I would have liked them otherwise. They stayed crisp for a while the sauce didn’t kill it. It’s more of a “grilled crisp” then a “fried skin” so it is slightly chewy with that nice char taste.
      Haha, I know, I can’t believe that review is from 2006 either! Crazy pants. It was one of my first ones!

  5. Kirk says:

    Hi Mary – I liked the vibe of this place, but the food fell a little bit short for me….. I dunno, maybe because I was born and raised in Hawaii?

    • mary says:

      Hi Kirk – Haha, yeah, I can see that. I’m sure you’re a bit pickier, er wiser, than me when it comes to Hawaiian food. :)

  6. Cathy says:

    People have to eat…and there is always a someplace close to work and close to home…I enjoy seeking those out and sometimes a hidden gem is the prize. I do drive in this area to the Post Office at the end of the road, but missed seeing this place. Nice report-the spindle tables are just recycling…from the 70’s…

    • mary says:

      Hi Cathy – I try to seek out hidden gems but you know… sometimes they are hidden pretty well :) I am inspired by you and you seek out those hidden little “doesn’t look like much” places. You just never know what you’re going to find! I didn’t know those spindle tables would be from the 70’s. They look like they would have held giant rolls of cable or something.

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