Kona Grill and Some Thoughts on Chains

Kona Grill 1

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a restaurant review it seems. Hasn’t it? Somehow I’ve moved on to other things like talking about my travels, making videos, and even some cooking. I guess I haven’t been trying as many new places or eating out as much (which is a good thing!) lately either. But this past week I did try something new, and I would love to return to my old ways of sharing it with you all.


I went to Kona Grill. Maybe you’ve heard of it – it’s a medium scale restaurant that serves American cuisine “with a twist” and a couple of Pan-Asian items thrown in, namely sushi. They have 18 locations across the U.S. with five more in the works, so yes, it is in fact a chain.

Now, I never used to have anything against chains- I grew up with chains and there is really no reason to dislike them as a whole. BUT I have to say that since returning from Amsterdam, I haven’t been able to stroll through the chain-laden streets of the Chicago suburbs in the same way. I’m just sick of depending on Panera when I’m in the need of a place for lunch plans. I’m sick of heading over to T.G.I. Friday’s for dinner outings. I want a family-run place where the waiters know exactly what’s cooking in back because they picked it up from the market that morning. Is that so much to ask? Maybe.

The Chicago suburbs are severely lacking in this area. I had a friend visit from New Jersey looking for an interesting place for lunch, and in complete embarrassment, all I had to offer was a shopping center full of Potbelly’s, Go Roma, and Noodles and Company.

But, in that same shopping center is Kona Grill. It’s been there for at least half a year now and I never had any desire to go there. Another American restaurant with a twist didn’t excite me much until last Tuesday, I found myself having dinner there.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed it! While the menu full of Macadamia Nut Chicken and Sweet Chili Glazed Salmon were nothing extraordinarily new, virtually everything sounded appealing. I was either beyond starved that evening or they came up with a pretty good selection, and the food didn’t come up short either.

Kona Grill 3
I ordered a Widmer Hefeweizen draft to drink. I was craving a Hefeweizen and this one was delicious! It was thick, virtually unstrained and flavorful, in other words quality.

Kona Grill 2
For an appetizer, we went with the recommended Kona Calamari. There was more on the plate to begin with, I forgot to take a picture before starting! The calamari and sauce both had a little kick to it, which I enjoyed.

Kona Grill 4
And then we both ordered miso soup. Not the best miso soup by any means, but suitable.

Kona Grill 5

I went with the sushi for my main course.

Kona Grill 1
And my friend ordered the Seared Sesame Ahi Salad which both looked and tasted delicious (according to him). I was too full to try it but next time I go, this will be a definite consideration.

So all in all, the food and experience made for a pleasurable evening, at a place we had both never been before. Perhaps the next time I visit Kona Grill it will seem more formulaic, and less exciting. But the fact that I don’t see a Kona Grill literally every other block makes it all the better than some of those other chains!

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  • http://www.plentyoffood.net Sorina

    You have a very nice blog, good post…keep up the good job

  • http://aloshaskitchen.blogspot.com melissa

    I think it’s a nice touch that they have a small gluten-free menu. I’m not GF myself, but it’s cool to see places do that for those who are.

    the menu overall looks good. I might have to try it with my mom next time I am in dallas this year.

    and I know what you mean about chains. it gets so tiring, so fast, especially for lunch hours. I am pretty lucky here in orange county, CA but I do have to work at finding the good places sometimes.

  • JDebs

    I can competely relate to the visitor-chain restaurant problem! I can’t count the number of times my parents visited my college campus and I ended up taking them to Panera. Ridiculous!

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Hillary

    Sorina – Thank you for reading!

    Melissa – You’re right about the gluten-free menu! Good catch!

    JDebs – I’m glad someone can relate! It’s sad.

  • http://gourmeted.com Joy

    We went there once and liked the place. The sushi was decent and I thought the miso soup was so-so. I actually asked them if they served Kona coffee, for kicks, I mean I’d be thoroughly impressed if they did. But they didn’t. We got great service, though, even on a very busy Saturday night.

  • Sarah P.

    Hilary you should check this place out for Happy Hour! They have martini’s and sushi half price….at least they do that in Kansas! I use to go here all the time back when I lived there. Now I am excited to hear that there is one around me!

  • Jan H

    Went to Kona Grill in Houston. Ordered cowboy ribeye which was this giant bone with very little bone! Tough as a board. Hubby ordered Sea Bass which tasted like it has migrated into old age. Portions miniscule and second rate at best. When we walked in, it was to dense fog of cigarette smoke as the bar was near the front door.

    Bill was over $70.00. No bread offered and we had to ask twice for 2 measley pieces. I can’t understand how they are still opened!

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Hillary

    Joy – I agree about the miso soup, it was just so-so. They SHOULD serve Kona coffee! :)

    Sarah- I have heard about the happy hour deals. Perhaps that will be my next visit! Thanks :)

    Jan – I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your experience. Was this recently?

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