Friday, January 06, 2006

Hawaii's Just On The Other Side Of The Tracks: Shakas, Monterey Park

Man, I really need some color on me. Because of this new job--in Commerce, CA, of all places--I do not get out very much. Not because I don't have the time or because I'm not allowed to, but just because of the fact that my office is in the middle of industrial-ville and that, compared to my last job, there's not as many good eats within a five mile radius. Give it a few more weeks of being enclosed in an office for eight or nine hours a day and I guarantee you that I'll be pasty as hell.

Anyways, a couple days ago, I decided to venture out of the office for lunch for the first time since I've been here. According to my Thomas Guide, if I keep driving east on Garfield for a few miles, I will end up in Monterey Park. And I know there's good food there.

For my first eat-outside-the-office-adventure, I chose Shakas, a Hawaiian joint in Monterey Park near the 60 freeway. I can't tell you how many train tracks I crossed to get here; fortunately, no actual trains crossed my path, otherwise what normally would have been a 10 minute drive would have turned into 30, and I really don't need that much color on me.

I've actually been to Shakas several times; it's become a regular snack stop for us to go and pick up some Spam musubis to snack on while fobbing it up in Monterey Park. It's fast and convenient--just pull into one of the mini mall's parking spaces, walk through the door past the Spam shadowbox, place your order at the tiki hut looking counter and go sit down. One of Shakas' people will bring you your food, whether you're taking it to go or not, in a to-go container.

Now this is artwork

Oh, what I'd give to be in Hawaii...

You can go Hawaiian plate-lunch traditional and order yourself a loco moco, the gravy topped hamburger steak and eggs with rice that San Diego food blogger
Kirk loves so much. Not feeling very loco? Then perhaps some slow cooked kalua pork or taro leaf wrapped pork lau lau will make you wish you were away from the mainland. There is the honey and soy glazed sesame chicken, Shaka's sweeter, Hawaiianized version of Korean kalbi, and deep fried chicken katsu...with or without curry. And if that doesn't work, just go with the always reliable fallback: Spam or Portuguese sausage and eggs.

Sesame? Sesa-you!

I like them, Pam I am

This time, I wanted to try something new, and I went for the House Special Mochiko Chicken, described as "an island favorite that has been served for many generations. Always found at your Auntie's Sunday picnic. Marinated in sweet Hawaiian batter then deep fried to lock in the flavor." OK, I didn't know what they were talking about, 'cause well, first of all, my aunties never had Sunday picnics. And second of all, if they did, they'd serve wintermelon soup or something like that. Anyways, this Mochiko Chicken sounded good.

Not more than five minutes of waiting and my styrofoam to-go container was ready. Back in the car, back across the tracks and back to my anti-paradise.

Granted, I've never had Mochiko Chicken before so I have nothing to compare this one to, but I think it would have been better had I eaten it fresh at Shakas. (No, I was not too chicken to
eat there alone...I had to get back to do some work) I think the ten to fifteen minutes it spent cooped-up in a covered styrofoam box collecting steam may have made it lose its crispness. But it was not a waste. So I didn't get to savor the delicate crunch of rice-flour batter, but at least the chicken tasted good. The chunks of boneless dark meat chicken were tender and had nice touches of sugar, soy, and ginger. As with all Hawaiian plate lunches, my meat sat over (what was supposed to be) two scoops of rice and came with a creamy mac(aroni) salad on the side. Shakas' mac salad has always been a bit on the bland side, in my opinion, but give it a few shakes of salt and you'd never know. I do love the funky tartness of the pickled cabbage that comes with all of Shakas plates. The meal also came with a small cup of what looked like a sweet teriyaki glaze, which I ended up not using for fear that the whole thing would get too goopy.

Nothing my aunties have ever cooked

Of course no trip to Shakas is complete without one or more of their Spam musubis, little bundles of nori-wrapped Spam and rice. Forget the sandwich--these are the ultimate take-with-you-when-you're-on-the-go food. They're comforting, and somehow, always manage to put a smile on my face. Shakas wraps theirs in cute red and white checkered paper, with the musubi in the middle and the paper gathered on both ends like a piece of candy. A treat indeed.

Work ain't no picnic, but this is.

Shakas is not brain surgery. It's not grand gourmet, it's just simple Hawaiian comfort food...a cheap and easy way go out to get some sun and deal with the bullshit of making a living in Commerce, CA. Man, I should have stayed and ordered a shave ice.

2300 Garfield Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(323) 888-2695


Kirk said...

Hi Pam - LOL! Shaka's was one of the first "plate lunch" places I "hit" when I moved to LA. I thought it was ok. The laulau and stuff is terrible. The mochiko chicken is not really what I call mochiko chicken...I'll need to make it one day soon, I guess. But hey, how can you screw up a Spam Musubi, right? I hope you're able to visit Hawaii soon, and get a real taste!

Daily Gluttony said...

Hey Kirk,

Oooh yes, I'll be waiting for that Mochiko chicken post! =)

I actually can't wait to go to Hawaii...last time I've been was when I was a wee adolescent, so the only taste of Hawaii I've had since has been thru places like this in LA or at friend's houses! I'm going this September, so for sure we'll all see some posts then!!! WOO-HOO!!!

Passionate Eater said...

Nice post and good move--you gotta prep your taste buds on Hawaiian food in anticipation of your trip to Hawaii!

I love the names of Southern California cities. Hearing newscasters say: "the city of Commerce" and "the city of Industry" always makes me smile. If they would've named the city a regular name, they wouldn't need to preface it with "the city of..." Man, I wish we worked in a city called "Place for Great Tastin' Food."

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Pam, is that really a shot of Spam from Shakas or your computer desktop? haha.

I've been to Shaka's once and that was good enough. It was a few year's back and I was certainly surprised that a restaurant actually featured canned meat as a popular menu item. I think places like L&L and Ono taste better than Shaka's.

Keep going east on Garfield -- there are great places to eat on Garvey and Atlantic.

Daily Gluttony said...


If I had a Spam Musubi on my desktop, I'd be hungry all day!

You no like da Spam? Anyways, I've never been to L&L or Ono (Ono's opening up in Alhambra soon though!) I have been to the Ohana chain before and I thought it sucked. Personally I like the places in Gardena better (e.g Bruddahs), and I can't wait to actually go to Hawaii this year!!!

Can you recommend any good places in MP that are closer to the 60? I don't have that much time, otherwise I'd go to Dumpling Master on Atlantic!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

No No, i meant that the Spam wallpaper was on your MONITOR.

Correction, i DO like spam, but i was pretty surprised Spam was featured on a menu. Shaka's was my first Hawaiian food experience and I didn't know what to expect.

You're going to Hawaii? Lucky. I still dream about that place everyday. Make sure you use MY blog as a guide for what-not-to-eat since I pretty much ate ramen all day haha.

Ok places to eat on Garvey.

Har Lam Kee
150 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755-2906

This place has your typical Hong Kong cafe fare. I l usually go for their beef brisket noodles (ngau nam fun or mien). I prefer the thick white fun noodles. You can also get the rice crepes (cheung fun) with any filling as well as the fried donut wrapped with noodles. You can't go wrong with beef chow fun and seafood chow mien. But i haven't been here in like a year so don't get mad at me if it sucks ass haha.

Heavy Noodling
153 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 307-9583

This place is across the street from Har Lam Kee and is known for their chewy-textured, hand-pulled noodles. I've never eaten here but you can give it a try. The safest bet in any mainland Chinese restaurant is Chinese Beef Noodle soup (Nu Ro Mian).

Yungui Garden (formerly Yunnan Garden)
301 N. Garfield Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Oh this Szechuan place is so good and SO SPICY. checkout lowend's review on it.

I always go for the "Across the bridge" Noodles which is the first noodle dish listed on the menu. In mandarin it's "Yunnan Guo Chiao Mi Shen". It's a beautifully flavored bowl of chicken broth with white noodles. The waitress comes by and adds chicken, pork slices, pea sprouts, pickled vegetable and bean curd sheets into the hot broth. This bowl is HUGE. Also, you can pick from the chinese "deli" section - I always go for the spicy seaweed and pig ears. So good. If you like spicy, i think this is the best place i've listed because it's different.

Hope this helps.

Daily Gluttony said...

Uh Dylan, duh. I know you meant my desktop don't think that'd make me hungry too? LOL!

Thanks for all the recs! Don't know if I'll have time to sit down at these places to eat, but certainly I can do take out & bring back to the office. Hopefully nothing will 'stank' too much & I won't get into any fights. ha ha!

Daily Gluttony said...


Sorry, I hate it when I reply to comments and then I don't scroll all the way up. Which is why I missed you on my last reply.

Anyways, I totally hear you on those city names...sounds so strange doesn't it? But amen on the "City Of Great Tasting Food"...can I move there?

Kirk said...

Dyln - Great call on Heavy Noodling - make sure you get the Niu Rou Mein with Knife Cut Noodles - also the version with tendon is really good. Also at 206 S. Garfield was our favorite Sichuan Restaurant; Chungking - we used to drive all the way to LA to eat there. But, as luck would have it, the Chef moved to San Diego and opened a restaurant here. I don't know about going back to work after eating the chili and garlic heavy food, though.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Pam/Kirk, what i meant was knife-shaved noodles from Heavy Noodling. Pam, if you haven't tried them, you're into some nice al-denteness. It almost feels like you're eating something alive mmmmmm. Wait, that's supposed to be a good thing.

Daily Gluttony said...

Thanks Kirk/Dylan,

I'm definitely gonna try to make a trip out there one of these days when there ain't too much on my plate at work. (When that is? I dunno!)

BoLA said...

Mmm...Spaaaammmm! ;) Can't get enough of my musubis! Haven't been to Shaka's since college days. I'm partial to the Hawaiian eats in the South Bay though.

Daily Gluttony said...


Doesn't Spam rock??? Yes, I agree, I am partial to the places in the SB too (e.g. Bruddah's in Gardena) but this satisfied a Spam Musubi craving on the eastside!

djjewelz said...

Stopped by Shaka's tonight on my way home and I felt like I was in an episode of Saved By the Bell: Asian American Style.

The food was decent...

Daily Gluttony said...


LOL! Did you see the Asian Screech?

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pedro velasquez said...

The last time sportsbook I went to Musha, it was at their Santa Monica location and there was too much food for the size of our teeny tiny table. This time, Isaac and I went to their Torrance location and were almost in danger of not having enough food on our gigantic table. Huh?
The bet nfl only way I can halfway decently explain this is that the two Mushas must, in fact, be Bizarro twins. What are those, you ask? Well, it's all related to a man in blue tights.