Kiki Sato’s Teriyaki and Burgers: Road Trippin’ for Hawaiian Grub
2010-07-20 · By Chandra Clewley
As purveyors of island food, my husband and I decided on a Sunday drive south, and took the coastal route down. The drive overlooked the endless summer blue of the Pacific, peppered with the surfing tourists who pack into beach breaks like Trestles, and San Onofre, creating something of a riot on the water. They won’t clear out until the dog days of September roll around, so we avoided a surf adventure in favor of some “ono” food and a jaunt out of Long Beach for the day.
We had heard of Kiki’s through some friends that are fans of Bob’s Okazu-ya and Gardena Bowl, two amazing Hawaiian staples locally. When we arrived, I was first pleasantly surprised with the décor. Kiki, or Kitty as most people call her, has taken a defunct restaurant space in a huge, new strip mall adjacent to a large industrial park and a Residence Inn. If you didn’t know it was worth going to, this is a gem you may certainly miss out on. Kitty Sato, restaurateur, had a normal nine to five day job in her “past life” and was married into the Sato family. She and her husband had always inspired to retire and open a restaurant. After being widowed, she was spurred on by friends to continue her journey, still incorporating her husband’s delicious barbeque sauce recipe and her nickname, given to her by her mother-in-law who could never pronounce “Kitty” properly.
When Kitty stumbled on a vacant restaurant space that was practically ready to be opened, she knew it was a sign. With some eye to detail, a good knack for paint colors, a few tables for outside and a large patio umbrella inside, she polished the space up and was ready to open Kiki Sato’s Teriyaki & Burgers.
We venture in from a gorgeous drive past Camp Pendleton, taking in the small town vibe that Northern San Diego always projects and are greeted not only by Kitty herself, but by her niece and nephew who work in the kitchen. Kitty’s niece is a recent culinary school graduate, and her nephew, a seasoned line cook and sous chef from Los Angeles that commutes weekly to cook in the family kitchen. We love that it is a family affair where there is not only the Aloha welcome but a lot of haaheo (pride) being invested into the establishment.
The menu consists of Plate Lunches, Bowls, Noodles, Burgers, Sides, Desserts and a Menehune (Kids) Menu. We are both hungry, and I order the Kalua Pork Sliders while Ben orders the Loco Moco. (I am convinced my husband’s quest to find the best Loco Moco will never stop because he loves it so much). The Kalua Pork Sliders are probably the best I have had. Kitty has made friends with the Barbeque joint down the street, and they smoke her pork shoulder for her, to perfection. The pork is crispy, not drenched with water like so many other places that reheat it in plastic baggies dropped in boiling water. It is fresh, crunchy, and lightly smoked. The buns are, naturally, King’s Hawaiian, and have the sweetness that compliments the pork and cabbage mix. I ate three, I wanted thirty. Ben’s Loco Moco was hamburger (although you get a choice of Spam or Burger) with a perfectly fried egg, and rich, savory mushroom gravy that he soaked all of his remains up with. Each meal comes with homemade Miso soup which was SO different from regular miso (the tofu was fresher and the essence of seaweed stronger, in a good way) and your choice of either a green salad with miso dressing or a spicy edamame salad created by Kitty’s culinarian niece. The edamame salad was fresh and crunchy and added an upscale touch to the down home food. We finished our meals with Green Tea and Halo Halo Ice Cream, both delicious.
There are about ten other things that we want to try on the menu, including Kiki’s Teriyaki Burger, the Korean Style Shortribs and the Chicken Karaage. If you are looking for a fun drive down the coast, I would highly recommend finding Kiki Sato’s Teriyaki & Burgers. San Diego always has a wonderful culinary flavor that we don’t often see here in Los Angeles, but this hidden gem is a local’s favorite and the Aloha spirit will keep us coming back again and again! I encourage you to try it out while it is still a secret!
Kiki Sato’s Teriyaki & Burgers is located at 3617 Ocean Ranch Blvd., Oceanside, CA 92056. (760)529-5315 (Located in the Ocean Ranch Plaza).