The best — or at least the most Hawaiian — poke in San Diego is made by Chris' Ono Grinds.
It figures given the year we’ve been having that fate, and/or the state of California, picked the coldest, windiest time of the year to re-institute outdoor dining in San Diego. I’m sure there are plenty of pent-up diners rushing out to meet at restaurants again. Probably more than a few restaurateurs grateful they can re-open. And another few who flouted the ban who are relieved to no longer serve food with the threat of fines or other enforcement hanging over their heads.
4506 30th Street, San Diego
I’ll be getting back out there to check on how outdoor dining goes through the rest of the season — and I hope not to find it as wintery as this week has been. But in the meantime, I’ll take a moment to point out that not every restaurant has re-opened to diners. In most cases, restaurants sticking to take-out and delivery only do so with good reason: they don’t have outdoor dining space. So I’ll probably continue to write about take-out meals.
Some take-out I’ve been particularly enjoying recently comes out of North Park. Maybe it’s because the cooler weather has been making me think about Hawaii more often than usual, but I’ve been heading over to Chris’ Ono Grinds.
Huli huli chicken musubi from Chris' Ono Grinds
More so because, for my money, Ono Grinds makes the best poke bowls in town. And by that I mean, rather than the overblown, custom bowls made by now ubiquitous poke counter shops, Ono Grinds makes something closer to what you find in the islands. Yes, you may order it over a rice bowl ($13), which includes diced veggies, crumbled macadamia nuts, and a drizzle of wasabi aioli, which makes a nice meal. But I tend to prefer the simpler appetizer ($12), where it’s made primarily with sesame oil, seaweed, and both white and green onions.
To balance this out, I like to grab a $5 musubi. Kind of like sushi rolls, musubi is a handheld food of rice wrapped in nori seaweed. Except rather than raw fish, it typically features Spam.
The take-out setup is still in effect, despite the end of San Diego's outdoor dining ban.
All of y’all Spam haters can sit down, though. Those who like the classic musubi rendition can get it, but for the rest, Ono Grinds makes versions with its kalua pork and huli huli chicken. I happen to be okay with Spam musubi, but I do admit the pork and chicken versions taste better. Truly, the five-dollar snacks are all the excuse you need to stop by the shop on 30th.
Chris’ Ono Grinds has done an admirable job setting up its patio as a take-out operation, with a small table set up out front where online orders may be picked up, without transaction, or walk-up orders may be paid for under the shade of patio umbrellas.
And though outdoor dining may resume, this shop will continue take-out and delivery only for the near future. The patio can’t seat many tables as it is, but the real reason is the Hawaiian restaurant and caterer is in the process of expanding. I’m not talking about its Liberty Public Market stall, but an in-place North Park expansion. It’s taken over the shop next door (the original Nomad Donuts location) and employees tell me it will increase the size of its kitchen and interior dining, possibly expanding further to add additional outdoor seating down the line.