Ono Hawaiian BBQ brings the island to the mainland with tender meats soaked in made-from-scratch marinades. Chefs hand roll chicken katsu in panko bread crumbs to give it a fresh, crispy texture, and assemble generous portions of crispy shrimp, island whitefish, and barbecue chicken in the seafood mix.
Some chefs attend faraway schools or universities to learn how to cook, but for Emma Sue Miller McWhorter—the inspiration behind Big Mama's Rib Shack & Soul Foods—it was natural. Though she's gone to the big kitchen in the sky, a little bit of her soul can be seen today in the restaurant's hot links, saucy ribs, and fried chicken, which the Los Angeles Times called "beautifully cooked; moist, flavorful."
Bubbling pots of gumbo and jambalaya fill the eatery's air with rich smells and fill mouths with equally rich flavors when paired with sides such as corn bread, fried okra, or mac 'n' cheese served in the southern tradition of adding dairy to everything. Guests can enjoy live music on Tuesday nights, which ranges in musical style from jazz and R&B to soul and rock 'n' roll.
Smoke sultan Robin Salzer enraptures senses with his menu of American barbecue and homemade sauces dished out in a whimsically decorated dining space. In blanketing his four-ton smoker with apple and oak wood-chips, Robin appeases swine-centric palates with favorites such as the Carolina pork plate ($13.95) or the wood-fired smoked pork chop ($15.95). Slather one of four signature sauces onto meat racks of baby back ribs ($17.95+), spareribs ($13.95+), and beef ribs ($13.95+) or eschew meat for stylish swim caps while diving into plates of Louisiana barbecue shrimp ($18.95). Southern-inspired sweet treats, such as Mom's fruit cobbler ($3.95) or killer slabs of carrot cake ($5.75) cap off satiating meals, as diners pay homage to Q-master Salzer with a frothy toast of beer ($4+) or handshake of fresh lemonade ($3.25).