Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Sampling the Pacific at JJ’s Island Grindz

A stand-out grilled menu, from kelaguen to huli huli

Chicken kelaguen served over scoops of both red and white rice
Chicken kelaguen served over scoops of both red and white rice

We’re driving south on Broadway when we spot it: a simple, boxy storefront with a banner sign and cartoon graphic depicting a spiky haired toddler in an aloha shirt. Usually, when I’m in this part of Chula Vista, I’m out for killer Mexican food, either Tacos El Gordo or Aqui Es Texcoco. But this time we’re hunting down JJ’s Island Grindz, a homey restaurant promising poke bowls, sushi, and island BBQ.

Place

JJ’s Island Grindz

836 Broadway, Chula Vista

We’re particularly interested in that Pacific islander BBQ. I’ve found a growing number of restaurants serving it, scattered around the county, and in seeking them out, I’ve acquired quite the taste for its distinctive combinations of salty, sweet, and sour flavors and the macaroni salad that usually accompanies it.

Huli huli chicken, a Hawaiian grilled classic

JJ’s menu shows well in both regards, assembling a large, scratch menu bolstered by a sort of pan-oceanic inclusivity. The guys behind the restaurant are ethnically Chommoran, specifically Guamanian, so as expected, we find chicken kelaguen, and beef sirloin and shrimp versions. But JJ and co. supplement these offerings with Filipino fare (lumpia), Hawaiian dishes (kalua pork and loco moco), and Japanese staples (katsudon and karaage). We’re even offered a table sauce credited to the Mariana Islands: finadene, a condiment blend of soy sauce, vinegar, chili spice, and onions, in this case green onions.

Beef lumpia, served with a purple orchid

That sauce seems to go well with everything, beginning with an appetizer of beef lumpia (six for $7), served with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce on a plate dressed with a purple orchid.

The flower pretties up the chicken kelaguen ($9) as well. When I order, our server checks to make sure we understand that it’s a dish served cold — apparently a few customers unfamiliar with Guam’s signature dish are caught by surprise. The grilled chicken dish verges on ceviche: served chilled and finely chopped, flavored with lemon juice, grated coconut, and crushed chili flakes. All at once, it’s smoky, salty, and sour. Served here with a choice of white or red rice (or a scoop of each), it’s not nearly as challenging a flavor profile as it sounds, though if you haven’t tried it you probably haven’t tried anything like it.

This distinctive chicken alone makes a visit to JJ’s, though we weren’t done exploring. A no-brainer was the Hawaiian combo plate. For one we needed a macaroni salad fix, and JJ’s is built to satisfy, with the right amount of mayo. But it’s just tough to walk out of a place that serves kalua pork without trying it. The succulent pulled pork is right on the money, smoky and salty, with that hit of tang that gives BBQ pork allure regardless which cultural interpretation you try.

The combo ($17) features huli huli chicken, another Hawaiian dish that takes its cues from teriyaki chicken. Somehow, the grilled leg and thigh pieces on our shared plate were finished before the pork. Something about the sweet marinade made them irresistible. Especially given a little added bite thanks to that finadene sauce.

A pleasant crew and a spacious enclosed dining patio contribute to the quality of JJ’s Island Grindz, but when I go back, it’ll be for the grindz most of all. It’s some of the most enjoyable islander food this haole has found in San Diego.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Building paradise in San Diego

Mission Valley, Tijuana gardens, Otay Mesa, downtown skyscrapers, One Paseo, Rancho Santa Fe mansion
Next Article

Building paradise in San Diego

Mission Valley, Tijuana gardens, Otay Mesa, downtown skyscrapers, One Paseo, Rancho Santa Fe mansion
Chicken kelaguen served over scoops of both red and white rice
Chicken kelaguen served over scoops of both red and white rice

We’re driving south on Broadway when we spot it: a simple, boxy storefront with a banner sign and cartoon graphic depicting a spiky haired toddler in an aloha shirt. Usually, when I’m in this part of Chula Vista, I’m out for killer Mexican food, either Tacos El Gordo or Aqui Es Texcoco. But this time we’re hunting down JJ’s Island Grindz, a homey restaurant promising poke bowls, sushi, and island BBQ.

Place

JJ’s Island Grindz

836 Broadway, Chula Vista

We’re particularly interested in that Pacific islander BBQ. I’ve found a growing number of restaurants serving it, scattered around the county, and in seeking them out, I’ve acquired quite the taste for its distinctive combinations of salty, sweet, and sour flavors and the macaroni salad that usually accompanies it.

Huli huli chicken, a Hawaiian grilled classic

JJ’s menu shows well in both regards, assembling a large, scratch menu bolstered by a sort of pan-oceanic inclusivity. The guys behind the restaurant are ethnically Chommoran, specifically Guamanian, so as expected, we find chicken kelaguen, and beef sirloin and shrimp versions. But JJ and co. supplement these offerings with Filipino fare (lumpia), Hawaiian dishes (kalua pork and loco moco), and Japanese staples (katsudon and karaage). We’re even offered a table sauce credited to the Mariana Islands: finadene, a condiment blend of soy sauce, vinegar, chili spice, and onions, in this case green onions.

Beef lumpia, served with a purple orchid

That sauce seems to go well with everything, beginning with an appetizer of beef lumpia (six for $7), served with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce on a plate dressed with a purple orchid.

The flower pretties up the chicken kelaguen ($9) as well. When I order, our server checks to make sure we understand that it’s a dish served cold — apparently a few customers unfamiliar with Guam’s signature dish are caught by surprise. The grilled chicken dish verges on ceviche: served chilled and finely chopped, flavored with lemon juice, grated coconut, and crushed chili flakes. All at once, it’s smoky, salty, and sour. Served here with a choice of white or red rice (or a scoop of each), it’s not nearly as challenging a flavor profile as it sounds, though if you haven’t tried it you probably haven’t tried anything like it.

This distinctive chicken alone makes a visit to JJ’s, though we weren’t done exploring. A no-brainer was the Hawaiian combo plate. For one we needed a macaroni salad fix, and JJ’s is built to satisfy, with the right amount of mayo. But it’s just tough to walk out of a place that serves kalua pork without trying it. The succulent pulled pork is right on the money, smoky and salty, with that hit of tang that gives BBQ pork allure regardless which cultural interpretation you try.

The combo ($17) features huli huli chicken, another Hawaiian dish that takes its cues from teriyaki chicken. Somehow, the grilled leg and thigh pieces on our shared plate were finished before the pork. Something about the sweet marinade made them irresistible. Especially given a little added bite thanks to that finadene sauce.

A pleasant crew and a spacious enclosed dining patio contribute to the quality of JJ’s Island Grindz, but when I go back, it’ll be for the grindz most of all. It’s some of the most enjoyable islander food this haole has found in San Diego.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Unemployment leads to Ocean Beach baking

The bread man
Next Article

When it's too hot for soup at Pho Ca Dao

Summery dishes fit for outdoor dining on a summer day in Mission Valley
Comments
1

Would have been nice if the author mentioned beverage selection. That’s always a key for me in deciding where to eat out.

Oct. 8, 2019

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close