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Homestyle Korean Hawaiian

Yumbo! Crackling! Spicy! Jumping around in your mouth like a cat on a hot tin roof.

USD’s rowing crew bulks up on Korean chicken. (From left) Noah, Anthony, Andrew, Trainer, John.
USD’s rowing crew bulks up on Korean chicken. (From left) Noah, Anthony, Andrew, Trainer, John.

Oh mama. I was counting on these guys. Just hopped off the 44 where Linda Vista Road meets Mesa College Drive. ’Cause I know a couple of über-cheap places where I can pick up a meal to keep me going through the night. Sushi Diner and Homestyle Hawaiian. Both are usually filled with students from Mesa College.

Place

Homestyle Hawaiian

7524 Mesa College Drive, San Diego

The Sushi Diner is in this li’l old building which it splits with Mien Thong, a Vietnamese place. A pizza joint’s right next to that, so we’re pretty-well covered.

Sushi Diner is open. Only trouble is, they don’t have dine-in yet. So I go for Homestyle Hawaiian around the corner, because they do.

There’s a line. While I’m waiting, I google “Hawaiian diet.”

Big mistake.

I mean, I know they say how the “Hawaiian” food we get here (and in Hawaii) ain’t really Hawaiian, and ain’t no way healthy. The traditional island food was poi (taro root), fish, birds, breadfruit, pigs, yams, shellfish, seaweed. Sound unfamiliar? Familiar is Spam, rice, mac’n cheese, burgers and the like. Or put it another way: ancient diet, 18 percent fat, 12 percent protein, 70 percent carbs; modern diet, 40 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 45 percent carbs. Plus the way modern life everywhere is more about a lot of sitting and less about fishing and farming. (And, turns out, back in the day, it was the Hawaiian women who were hunter-gatherers and men who were the cooks. Both worked hard. Lots of physical labor. And that burned up the carbs and starch they ate. Also, traditional foods were high in fiber and low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

Nowadays, you think Hawaii, you think Spam and rice. Still, as I come up to Khristine and Rose, standing here ready to take my order, I think of Grandma. “A little of what you fancy does you good,” she’d say.

And yes. I confess! I do like Spam. And I like how the Hawaiians roll it with rice in a wrap of black seaweed, and then season it with a sweetish teriyaki. Spam musubi. (The good news? Here that roll only costs $2.75, heh heh.)

So now, I’m seriously checking the menu. First good news: breakfast is served all day. And it has tempting items like - of course - Spam and eggs ($7.95, with two scoops of steamed white rice, and macaroni or home fries, and pan-fried Spam). Or, hey, Portuguese sausage and eggs. When it comes to Hawaii, the Portuguese are interesting on two counts: for starters, they were great navigators but horrible colonizers. Those who migrated to Hawaii were more like desperate workers looking for a new life, but they brought with them two things: Portuguese sausage (smoked in banana leaves, which leave their own flavor) and the ukulele. (The word ranslates as “jumping flea” in Hawaiian. King Kalakua was a great supporter.)

I almost go for the Portuguese, except I’m hearing everybody around asking for “Korean chicken.” Say what? “Marinated chicken coated in a crunchy batter,” it says, “deep fried, then doused with Homestyle Hawaiian’s signature lava sauce.” Costs $9.95. So not exactly the cheapest, and not exactly health food. Also not fantastically spicy hot, but when it comes to flavor and crunchiness, this dish has potential.

So I start off with the nori-wrapped musubi, with Spam as the foundation, as simple a dish as you could ask for, but, as they say, surprisingly flavorful, once you drip some teri into the rice. And did I say $2.75?

As for the Korean chicken, yumbo! Crackling! Spicy! Jumping around in your mouth like a cat on a hot tin roof. It has a beautiful light crunchy kick, and no naked chicken taste. And garlic. And did I say tender? Sweetish, crunchy, with mac ‘n cheese which gives you your pasta fix, and maybe a splash of soy sauce to tang up the flavor. It is just delicious, and the rice plumps it out nicely. Honestly, I’m not sure how different the actual chicken meat is from, say, KFC, in the marination, but with the teri - the teriyaki sauce, garlic, - and the crunchies, it is wickedly satisfying. And they give you so much.

“Teri?” I’ve started calling it that because the bunch of guys at the table next door are singing the “teri’s” praises. Turns out they’re the rowing team for nearby USD. Eight in a boat. They’re off to a national contest in New Jersey. Have to bulk up, so most of them have got Korean Chicken plus a separate order of Lava Chicken (which looks so like Korean Chicken, I can’t tell the difference).

“We came up from USD for this,” says one of them, Andrew. I notice they’re kind of wolfing this down. (I know how that rowing takes everything out of you, because it once took everything out of me.)

We’re talking, but mostly there’s a concentrated atmosphere of chowing down and getting on with it. The line outside is as long as it ever has been, so I see I’m going to have to vacate this seat. But yes, they do have healthy items here. Salads, like the Chinese chicken salad, which comes with teri chicken, mandarin oranges, and wonton crisps, for $11.95. Chicken Caesar salad and popcorn chicken salad are also $11.95. The Chinese chicken salad sounds mildly interesting.

Khristine says the place has been open since 2005. They’ve since expanded, a lot. They’re now a bona fide local chain, with six branches around San Diego.

Which tells you, even if this is no way the taro root, yam and breadfruit paradise of the “real” Hawaii, it does give you the vibe of life back there where the living is easy. As long as you like Spam, rice and Kalua pig.

  • The Place: Homestyle Hawaiian, 7524 Mesa College Drive, 858-571-LUAU
  • Hours: 11am-8pm, daily
  • Prices: Spam musubi, one roll, $2.75; breakfast spam and eggs (with two scoops of steamed white rice, macaroni or home fries, pan-fried spam), $7.95; Portuguese sausage and eggs, $9.95; Kalua wontons, $4; Chinese chicken salad, $11.95; Homestyle burger, $9.95; Northshore Kalua pig Sandwich, $10; stir-fired noodles, $9.95; Teri chicken, $8.95; lava chicken, $8.95; Korean chicken in crunchy batter, $9.95; roast pork in gravy, $10.95; Loco Moco (beef patty under gravy), $10.95; mahi with lemon capers, $14.95; chili and rice, $8.95
  • Bus: 44
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Mesa College Drive at Ashford Street (northbound); Linda Vista Road and Mesa College Drive (southbound)
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USD’s rowing crew bulks up on Korean chicken. (From left) Noah, Anthony, Andrew, Trainer, John.
USD’s rowing crew bulks up on Korean chicken. (From left) Noah, Anthony, Andrew, Trainer, John.

Oh mama. I was counting on these guys. Just hopped off the 44 where Linda Vista Road meets Mesa College Drive. ’Cause I know a couple of über-cheap places where I can pick up a meal to keep me going through the night. Sushi Diner and Homestyle Hawaiian. Both are usually filled with students from Mesa College.

Place

Homestyle Hawaiian

7524 Mesa College Drive, San Diego

The Sushi Diner is in this li’l old building which it splits with Mien Thong, a Vietnamese place. A pizza joint’s right next to that, so we’re pretty-well covered.

Sushi Diner is open. Only trouble is, they don’t have dine-in yet. So I go for Homestyle Hawaiian around the corner, because they do.

There’s a line. While I’m waiting, I google “Hawaiian diet.”

Big mistake.

I mean, I know they say how the “Hawaiian” food we get here (and in Hawaii) ain’t really Hawaiian, and ain’t no way healthy. The traditional island food was poi (taro root), fish, birds, breadfruit, pigs, yams, shellfish, seaweed. Sound unfamiliar? Familiar is Spam, rice, mac’n cheese, burgers and the like. Or put it another way: ancient diet, 18 percent fat, 12 percent protein, 70 percent carbs; modern diet, 40 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 45 percent carbs. Plus the way modern life everywhere is more about a lot of sitting and less about fishing and farming. (And, turns out, back in the day, it was the Hawaiian women who were hunter-gatherers and men who were the cooks. Both worked hard. Lots of physical labor. And that burned up the carbs and starch they ate. Also, traditional foods were high in fiber and low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

Nowadays, you think Hawaii, you think Spam and rice. Still, as I come up to Khristine and Rose, standing here ready to take my order, I think of Grandma. “A little of what you fancy does you good,” she’d say.

And yes. I confess! I do like Spam. And I like how the Hawaiians roll it with rice in a wrap of black seaweed, and then season it with a sweetish teriyaki. Spam musubi. (The good news? Here that roll only costs $2.75, heh heh.)

So now, I’m seriously checking the menu. First good news: breakfast is served all day. And it has tempting items like - of course - Spam and eggs ($7.95, with two scoops of steamed white rice, and macaroni or home fries, and pan-fried Spam). Or, hey, Portuguese sausage and eggs. When it comes to Hawaii, the Portuguese are interesting on two counts: for starters, they were great navigators but horrible colonizers. Those who migrated to Hawaii were more like desperate workers looking for a new life, but they brought with them two things: Portuguese sausage (smoked in banana leaves, which leave their own flavor) and the ukulele. (The word ranslates as “jumping flea” in Hawaiian. King Kalakua was a great supporter.)

I almost go for the Portuguese, except I’m hearing everybody around asking for “Korean chicken.” Say what? “Marinated chicken coated in a crunchy batter,” it says, “deep fried, then doused with Homestyle Hawaiian’s signature lava sauce.” Costs $9.95. So not exactly the cheapest, and not exactly health food. Also not fantastically spicy hot, but when it comes to flavor and crunchiness, this dish has potential.

So I start off with the nori-wrapped musubi, with Spam as the foundation, as simple a dish as you could ask for, but, as they say, surprisingly flavorful, once you drip some teri into the rice. And did I say $2.75?

As for the Korean chicken, yumbo! Crackling! Spicy! Jumping around in your mouth like a cat on a hot tin roof. It has a beautiful light crunchy kick, and no naked chicken taste. And garlic. And did I say tender? Sweetish, crunchy, with mac ‘n cheese which gives you your pasta fix, and maybe a splash of soy sauce to tang up the flavor. It is just delicious, and the rice plumps it out nicely. Honestly, I’m not sure how different the actual chicken meat is from, say, KFC, in the marination, but with the teri - the teriyaki sauce, garlic, - and the crunchies, it is wickedly satisfying. And they give you so much.

“Teri?” I’ve started calling it that because the bunch of guys at the table next door are singing the “teri’s” praises. Turns out they’re the rowing team for nearby USD. Eight in a boat. They’re off to a national contest in New Jersey. Have to bulk up, so most of them have got Korean Chicken plus a separate order of Lava Chicken (which looks so like Korean Chicken, I can’t tell the difference).

“We came up from USD for this,” says one of them, Andrew. I notice they’re kind of wolfing this down. (I know how that rowing takes everything out of you, because it once took everything out of me.)

We’re talking, but mostly there’s a concentrated atmosphere of chowing down and getting on with it. The line outside is as long as it ever has been, so I see I’m going to have to vacate this seat. But yes, they do have healthy items here. Salads, like the Chinese chicken salad, which comes with teri chicken, mandarin oranges, and wonton crisps, for $11.95. Chicken Caesar salad and popcorn chicken salad are also $11.95. The Chinese chicken salad sounds mildly interesting.

Khristine says the place has been open since 2005. They’ve since expanded, a lot. They’re now a bona fide local chain, with six branches around San Diego.

Which tells you, even if this is no way the taro root, yam and breadfruit paradise of the “real” Hawaii, it does give you the vibe of life back there where the living is easy. As long as you like Spam, rice and Kalua pig.

  • The Place: Homestyle Hawaiian, 7524 Mesa College Drive, 858-571-LUAU
  • Hours: 11am-8pm, daily
  • Prices: Spam musubi, one roll, $2.75; breakfast spam and eggs (with two scoops of steamed white rice, macaroni or home fries, pan-fried spam), $7.95; Portuguese sausage and eggs, $9.95; Kalua wontons, $4; Chinese chicken salad, $11.95; Homestyle burger, $9.95; Northshore Kalua pig Sandwich, $10; stir-fired noodles, $9.95; Teri chicken, $8.95; lava chicken, $8.95; Korean chicken in crunchy batter, $9.95; roast pork in gravy, $10.95; Loco Moco (beef patty under gravy), $10.95; mahi with lemon capers, $14.95; chili and rice, $8.95
  • Bus: 44
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Mesa College Drive at Ashford Street (northbound); Linda Vista Road and Mesa College Drive (southbound)
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