Entrees have a simple, multi-ethnic appeal, featuring savory homemade sauces.
Fast, friendly and casual, with counter orders delivered rapidly to tables.
Most dishes in the $8 to $10 range, with combination plates from $9.50.
Pleasant island-style decor, from surfing memorabilia to leis and flip-flops.
|-||- Rate It!|
A = Outstanding
B = Very Good
C = Average
D = Below Average
F = Poor
|Restaurant facts (updated: 3/18/2011)|
|Hours:||11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily|
$ of $$$$ What's this?Vegetarian menu: Tofu and tempura plates available
|$ =||under $12|
When a restaurant has success at one site, patrons may sometimes wonder why it picks up and moves to another spot.
In the case of Big Island Kona Mix Plate, Bend's lone Hawaiian-style cafe, it was all about location.
“It's been the greatest move ever,” said Shinobu Kuga, who manages the new Kona Mix restaurant next to the Regal Cinemas in the Old Mill District.
Previously situated in Reed Lane Plaza on Bend's south side, Kona Mix opened in the Old Mill in August after several weeks of renovation. Owners Ricky and Sheri Kim traded substantial seating — the new cafe can accommodate only 35 indoors — to get far more foot traffic, and the move has paid off.
“The people of Bend are embracing the island style,” said Kuga, who is the Kims' niece. “When tables are full, people are welcoming new friends to share their tables.”
Kona Mix Plate did, in fact, have its origins on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Back in the 1970s, the Kim family began serving traditional plate lunches portraying the rich ethnic mix of the Pacific state, featuring such dishes as Korean bulgogi (sliced beef), Japanese teriyaki, Hawaiian kalua pork and mahi-mahi, and American steaks and grilled-cheese sandwiches.
The Kims moved to Bend in 2006. When they opened Kona Mix in 2007, they maintained the popular and diverse menu and installed decor reminding diners that this is, indeed, true island-style cuisine.
The decor has been carried to the Old Mill digs. Autographed photos of famous surfers Gerry Lopez and Shane Dorian hang next to well-loved surfboards. Ukuleles and outrigger canoe paddles, flip-flops and kukui-nut leis, adorn other walls. Even the restrooms are labeled “Kane” (man) and “Wahine” (woman).
Why, then, is the radio tuned to classic American rock when Kona Mix could be playing contemporary Hawaiian music?
That's a minor complaint. More importantly, the service comes with “aloha spirit” and the food is as good or better than at any Hawaiian island lunch wagon.
Ethnic entree choices
Orders at Kona Mix are taken at a service counter (there's an overhead menu as well as laminated page and takeout menus) and delivered to tables.
Diners have a choice of about 30 entree dishes — beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetarian — as well as a dozen sandwiches and various soups, salads and side dishes.
A good way to get a feel for the variety of Kona Mix cuisine is to order a combination plate with smaller servings of two or three different dishes. As with all single entree servings, these include an additional two side plates such as rice (two scoops, white or brown), french fries, tossed green salad or steamed broccoli.
I suggest as a side a longtime Kim family recipe for Grandma's potato-mac salad: mostly macaroni, blended in light mayonnaise with potatoes, celery and carrots.
On my combination plate, I had chicken teriyaki, with a choice of breast or thigh meat, and kal-bi, served upon a bed of dry cabbage slaw.
The chicken (I chose the darker thigh meat) was broiled and sliced, then stirred with a sweet homemade teriyaki sauce. The Korean-style kal-bi, sliced from beef short ribs, was marinated in a spicy garlic sauce before broiling. Both were tender and delicious.
Kalua pork and more
On a second visit, I chose kalua pork. I remember having been disappointed with this dish a couple of years ago; this time, its flavor was much improved. Smoked and shredded, the savory pork was slow-cooked with cabbage. I chose a healthy side of broccoli, which was perfectly steamed.
My companion on this occasion chose a seafood platter. Everything here was crusted in panko bread crumbs and deep-fried: calamari, mahi-mahi, scallops and shrimp. The tempura-style shrimp were her favorites, followed by the scallops.
Kuga said that Kona Mix has added several items to its menu at the new location.
“Our barbecued kalua-pork sandwich, topped with homemade coleslaw, has really been a hit,” she said. “We also put on spicy chicken wings marinated in a homemade sauce, and sauteed tofu to expand the vegetarian menu.”
While retaining its former clientele, Kona Mix has expanded its patron base, she said.
“We're amazed how many first-timers have been in, and they think we're a brand new restaurant,” she said. “And then we have all the Old Mill-area employees as well.
“This has definitely been a great move.”
Boken, the new Japanese-style bar and grill in the downtown Bend breezeway between Wall and Brooks streets, will debut lunches on Tuesday. Owner Justin Cook said a new midday menu will include chicken yakitori, pork tonkatsu, donburi rice bowls and bento-box specials, as well as Thai-style chicken and vegetable curries. Nothing is priced over $12. A selection of hot and cold teas will also be available. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with happy hour 3 to 6 p.m. 852 N.W. Brooks St., Bend; www.bokenbend.com or 541-706-9091.
Hola! plans to open its new Sunriver location Monday. Executive chef and owner Marcos Rodriguez said the menu will expand on that of his other two restaurants — on Bend's east side and in the Old Mill District — with such new items as seafood paella, quinoa-crusted ling cod and lamb shank in a cilantro sauce. Serving lunch and dinner daily, the new Hola! will add weekend breakfasts in late April. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 57239 River Road (1 mile west of Circle 3), Sunriver; www.holabend.com or 541-593-8880.
Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill (B): Classic comfort food, from soup to ribs to pasta, is presented at bargain prices by a friendly and efficient service staff. Two dozen flat-screen TVs are all the ambience required by Sidelines' rabid sports fans. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. 1020 N.W. Wall St., Bend; 541-385-8898.
Brickhouse Steak & Seafood (A-): At once simple and sophisticated, Brickhouse has a veteran professional staff that serves superb steak dinners in a handsome atmosphere overlooking the Deschutes River. The steak Oscar is especially good. Open 4 p.m. to close very day. 803 S.W. Industrial Way, Bend; www.brickhousebend.com or 541-728-0334.
The Depot Cafe (B+): Casual home-style cooking, three meals a day, is the forte of this little restaurant on Sisters' main drag. The mood is rustic, the service uber-casual; the food is simple but worth the visit. Open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. 250 W. Cascade St., Sisters; www.facebook.com or 541-549-2572.
El Rancho Grande (B+): Professional service and a welcoming atmosphere enable this family Mexican restaurant to stand out over many others in the region. Dinner entrees, including steaks and seafood, are superior to everyday lunch selections. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 63455 N. U.S. Highway 97 (Cascade Village Shopping Center), Bend; www.elranchograndebend.com or 541-312-2022.