Hina is said to command your obedience with an undetectable whisper. So if on that day you find yourself at Island Style Hawaii BBQ not knowing how you got there, she’s probably behind it. You could do a lot worse. Hawaiian food has a flavor and panache all its own, exotic enough to evoke the South Pacific but pithy in its appeal to domestic tastes.
Anna Ami Kai, BulGoGi, Pulehu Short Ribs, Kalua Pig: They’re all at this eatery in spades, fueling the dining experience with too many Chinese, Korean and Japanese taste combinations, and too many satisfied customers, to count.
One in particular – the Loco Moco (I dare not translate it, because it’s kinda gross) – comes to mind. If you get one here, you’d better come hungry. Fried eggs, brown gravy, white rice, a hamburger patty and whatever condiments you like await.
All that delicious fare represents Hawaii’s place as a melting pot of oceanic and American cultures; one Japanese chef thinks so highly of the dish that he created a record-setter in 2014, all 1,100 pounds of it. The Loco Moco isn’t so much cuisine as a state of being, especially with tabasco. Or mayo. Or onions. Or ...
For the less headstrong, there’s the SPAM musubi, as in honest-to-God SPAM. SPAM, acronym for Shoulder of Pork and hAM, gets a bad rap as a heart attack in a can, but it’s not as though everybody sticks their necks out by eating it every day. This is a perfectly harmless block of meat atop a square of white rice, wrapped in seaweed. The rice acts as a condiment, fusing the meat and seafood into a delectable little meal. It’s also portable in Hawaii; it’s sold at checkout counters the way we sell candy and gum.
There’s something relatively new to wash all this down with, and it features something you probably haven’t seen since the 1970s – sugar, versus the fructose corn syrup that fires the flavors in Pepsi and Coke. It’s the featured ingredient in Stubborn Soda, which Pepsi makes in five flavors (try the lemon berry acai!). This “crafted” concoction is much lighter going down than you’d expect from a sugared drink. If you chanced on the Loco Moco for your meal, you won’t have room for much else.
Island Style Hawaii doesn’t open until 11 a.m. on Eclipse Day, meaning you’ll get about 45 minutes to enjoy the event and your meal at the same time (San Diego is expected to experience about 60 percent totality). The least you can do out of respect for Hina is to set the time aside. She’ll have flown about 500,000 miles on your behalf that day, secure in the knowledge that your meal is as authentic as the filtered sun that adorns it.
WHAT: Island Style Hawaii BBQ
WHERE: 4508 Cass St., Ste. D
WHEN: Mondays, Sundays 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
HOW: (858) 230-7724, islandstylehawaiibbq.com