Several weeks ago, I noticed that the commercial space that once housed El Rey del Pollo on Fort Union — and before that, May Keen Chinese restaurant, and before that, Mashita Korean BBQ — has a new tenant: Pounders Hawaiian Island Grill.
I added it to my list of restaurant-review possibilities. Then, just a few days before my family and I visited Pounders, I found out that I am acquainted, through my children's school, with one of the owners of Pounders.
Did this affect my feelings about the place? You'll have to read on and judge for yourself.
Actually, I hope you'll judge by making a visit, because Pounders serves some fresh, tasty Hawaiian food.
The ambience at Pounders, a small Utah chain that started in Logan, is still a work in progress. That's particularly true outside, where new signage is not yet up. But the service is laid back and friendly, and the music is fun, and on the weekend day that we visited, there was a good crowd of people enjoying it all.
My husband was glad to see his favorite Hawaiian food, the loco moco, on the menu. It was a huge portion: a big beef patty topped with fried eggs on a bed of rice, with steaming-hot brown gravy ladled over it all. The gravy is what makes any loco moco, and Pounders' gravy was rich, silky and satisfying.
The loco moco meal is priced at the highest, "Kahuna," level of plate lunches, but I went down a level to the "Pounders plate," which includes two meat choices, two scoops of sticky rice and a serving of salad — which means the standard macaroni salad, or green salad or fries.
I had the mac salad, of course. I always miss my mom's mac salad when I eat the commercial product. Hers is full of veggies and shrimp, and it's a meal in itself. But as a side dish, the Pounders product was cool, mellow and creamy, just as it should be.
For meat, I had my two favorites: slow-cooked Kalua pulled pork and chicken katsu. The pork was gently flavored, generously portioned and both tender and juicy. The chicken, served with funky-sweet katsu sauce on the side, was super-crisp thanks to panko breading and sliced into bite-size pieces.
My oldest daughter had a Pounders plate of teriyaki beef, teriyaki chicken, rice and fries. Despite the carb overload implied by the two sides, it was a nice meal, with the beef just edging the chicken in flavor and texture.
The rest of the kids had "Pounders chicken," high-quality chicken nuggets coated with the house sauce, a thin, piquant brew with strong Asian influences and sliced green onions.
Though none of us ordered it, I also can recommend the kalbi beef short ribs, thanks to a little sampler plate made up for us by the owner (not the one I know, by the way) when he discovered it was our first time at Pounders. Like most kalbi, they were fattier than I generally like my meat to be, but had great sear and flavor.
For dessert, we ate cake: rich chocolate cake with pudding frosting or buttercream and macadamia nuts; pretty pink guava cake with whipped topping for frosting; and my favorite, the coconut cake with a layer of haupia (coconut cream custard) between meltingly tender cake and frosting. It's just fabulous.
Plate lunches $4.99-$8.49; sandwich combos $5.99; salads $5.99; sides 99 cents-$2.25; desserts $1.79.
Pounders Hawaiian Island Grill
Where: 760 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Easy
Also: Catering available
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