Cari Taylor-Carlson

Bringing Hawaiian Food to Milwaukee

And Hawaiian culture. Ono Kine Grindz in Wauwatosa is simple yet delicious.

By - Nov 24th, 2023 03:39 pm
Ono Kine Grindz. Photo taken Sept. 12, 2023 by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Ono Kine Grindz. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

If “eat dessert first” is your mantra, then when you visit Ono Kine Grindz, the triple chocolate cake is a good first choice. This moist rich cake is frosted with chocolate mousse and topped with chocolate ganache. It landed in front of me because our server said, “It just came out of the oven this morning.” How could I resist?

This restaurant at 7215 W. North Ave. is easy to miss if you are not looking for it. An unobtrusive storefront hides a wealth of Hawaiian groceries, jewelry, art, boldly colored Hawaiian shirts, and a tempting list of dine-in and take-out specialties. Because the restaurant is small, they do more take-out, as I observed while waiting to purchase some groceries.

Owners Guy Roeseler and David Lau came to Milwaukee via Hawaii and Seattle. Roeseler told my friend and I that when they decided to bring Hawaiian culture to Milwaukee, they wanted to open more than just a restaurant. This explained the diverse selection of groceries and gift items packed into the front of the restaurant. Beyond the shirts and sauces and up several steps are three communal tables with seating for a couple dozen customers.

It was soon apparent to us why this restaurant has earned its reputation for delicious food. The Garlic Shrimp Bento Box had a generous number of tender medium-size shrimp that tasted of garlic and ginger, a combination that said umami in every bite. The Macaroni-Potato Salad was a mayo-based basic salad while the Purple Sticky Rice prompted us to ask our server what made it purple. That’s how we learned that when you combine Thai Sticky Black Rice, which is really dark purple, with white rice, you get light-colored purple rice. Also on the plate, a pickled yellow radish added more that a spot of color; it was both spicy and tasty, an attractive addition to the mix.

Grilled Tofu was topped with ginger-garlic sauce that featured more garlic than ginger along with another side, Carrot-Pineapple Slaw seasoned with li hing, a sweet/sour/spicy blend. The dish included a serving of Purple Sticky Rice, which made for a hearty vegetarian meal. An unexpected bonus, Kim Chee, added very spicy heat and more flavor to the tofu which tends to absorb the flavors of its neighbors.

Thin-sliced and tender Bulgogi Beef had a salty sweet sauce that made the dish. That was true as well for Chow Sum, which we discovered is a classic Hawaiian side and at Ono Kine Grindz they combined broccoli stems, spinach leaves, sesame seeds and a light soy-based sauce. After two lunches at Ono Kine Grindz, it was clear that sweet and spicy dominated most of the sauces they use on a variety of proteins and vegetables. When we raved about the sauce on the beef, our server told us the Bulgogi sauce can be purchased if you wish to make this dish at home.

A Daily Special, Teriyaki Chicken, was impossibly tender and served on a bed of Purple Sticky Rice. Sesame seeds and chopped scallions topped this large portion of white meat. The flavor of my companion’s Kalua Pig, smoked pulled pork done in traditional Hawaiian style, hinted of smoke and like the Teriyaki Chicken, was served on a bed of Sticky Rice. The pork was juicy and there was a lot of it.

As we left, we mentioned to our server how much we enjoyed the food. When we said we thought everything was not only delicious but presented with care, each plate an aesthetic celebration of Hawaiian cuisine, she paused a moment and said, “The chef cooks with a lot of love.”

On The Menu

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The Rundown

  • Location: 7215 W. North Ave.
  • Phone: 414-778-0727
  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tue-Thu, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fri-Sat
  • Website:
  • UM Rating: stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

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Categories: Dining, Food & Drink, Review

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