Where’s the Best Plate Lunch Spot in L.A.? (Because I’m Guessing it’s Not Ono)
Sometimes I feel like the only person who lives in this city who hasn’t been to Hawaii. I know it’s not true, but there are a lot of people on the west coast who make Hawaii feel as mundane as going to, say, Pittsburgh. Well, not this Jew from Miami. Growing up a Hawaiian vacation seemed as exotic to me as going on an African safari. And the food? Well, let’s just say my only encounter with Hawaiian food as a kid was watching Howie From Maui as a 13 year old (“Eat the fucking poi!!!”)
My first real taste of Hawaiian food came in NYC at a place called Hawaiian Island Grill, which for a plate lunch deprived soul like myself seemed awesome! Korean style beef? Hamburger steak covered in gravy? Rotisserie chicken and pork chops? All served with rice and macaroni salad? Bring it on! Maybe it wasn’t the most authentic Hawaiian food in the world, but it taught me something very important: plate lunches are my friend.
So, you can’t really blame me for finally succumbing to the siren sounds of Ono Hawaiian Grill. (Insert your predictable groans here.)
I will admit to having a love/hate relationship with fast food. The whole point of Midtown Lunch, when it first began, was to find an alternative to fast food. Of course in New York, this just meant giving up McDonald’s, BK, Wendy’s, and crappy generic delis. Not too difficult for anybody who has ever read Fast Food Nation (I have.) Here in L.A., though, it’s a different story. 6 years ago, during my first L.A. stint, I practically lived off of In N Out Burger, baja chicken burritos from Baja Fresh, and orange chicken from Panda Express. I also will admit to having my share of late night visits to Del Taco, gyro platters from Daphne’s, and, tortilla wrapped chicken covered in cole slaw and watery avocado sauce from El Pollo Loco. There is no denying that Los Angeles has some kick ass fast food. And yet the mission of Midtown Lunch is still clear… help people find interesting lunch for under $10. Do you really need to read a write up of Panda Express’s Thai Cashew Chicken. (Okay, maybe that’s a bad example.)
Anyway, none of this kept me away from trying Ono Hawaiian BBQ yesterday.
I went with the pretty standard “Hawaiian BBQ Mix” for $7.89 (how could I not?) which gives you Korean style short ribs, thinly sliced bbq beef, and their signature
teriyaki Hawaiian BBQ chicken. Although, I’m embarrassed to admit it took me a shockingly long amount of time to come to this decision- mostly because I was trying to find a way to get beef, chicken *and* something fried (shrimp or katsu) for under $10. Sadly, despite their seemingly infinite number of combo permutations, the one I was looking for didn’t exist.
A more critical eater might complain about the teriyaki sauce being too sweet, or the beef not being charred enough, or the chicken being of low quality. That is, I might have said those things if I hadn’t been busy stuffing my face. I pretty much finished all of it, but the feeling when it was over was more of regret than elation. (What did I expect, right?)
The truth is, I’ll probably be back. But it did get me thinking… there must be an awesome plate lunch place in Los Angeles. How could there not be?! Lunch’er Betty recommended Aloha Cafe downtown, and it’s high on my list- but are there any others? Because clearly Ono is not a Midtown Lunch (any more than Panda Express, anyway!)
Ono Hawaiian BBQ, Multiple Locations across California
- West LA: 12115 Santa Monica Blvd, 310-571-2388
- Hollywood: 5539 Susnet Blvd, 323-461-3688
- Hollywood: 7077 Sunset Blvd, 323-462-3988
- Culver City: 10814 Jefferson Blvd, 310-202-8688
- Culver city: 6000 Sepulveda Blvd, 310-390-6888