Ono Grinds Poké is a bright and tropical oasis in the midst of downtown Newark, just a 10-minute walk from campus. Named after the Hawaiian slang for “delicious food,” Ono Grinds serves fresh, energizing, and delicious Hawaiian foods such as Poké and smoothies.
The owners, Daniela Hoyos and Luis Valls-Amabile, have been running the restaurant for 7 months. Their inspiration for the food and decor is rooted in their love of the Hawaiian Islands, designed to be accessible and customizable in the busy northeast “grind”.
Most notable of the dishes is the poké, which is best described as a sushi bowl. They can be ordered off the menu or customized to include or exclude different cuts of fish, rice, vegetables and sauces. I picked the OGP Bowl, one of their signatures, which includes fresh marinated tuna, cucumber, masago (capelin roe), jalapeno, cilantro, scallions, fried onions, wasabi aioli, and Hawaiian sauce.
I almost cried at my first bite. The fish and vegetables were so fresh; the wasabi aioli and Hawaiian sauce infused the warm rice with every passing minute, and the fried onions added the perfect crunch to each forkful. I actually switched to chopsticks to pace myself; even though I ordered a small portion, there was definitely enough food to span two meals.
Wanting to try the fruity side of the menu, I returned and got a Superfood Bowl. I chose an acai and coconut base, topped with granola, banana, berries, coconut flakes, honey, and peanut butter. Pro tip: pay the extra 50 cents for the peanut butter. It added the creaminess that made the icy base feel more like an ice cream. I also appreciated that the granola and bananas were layered below and above the base. The granola at the bottom soaked up the base as it melted, saving me from the disappointment of those dreaded liquidy last bites. Like the poké bowl sizes, the small was more than enough for one person. I chose to share mine with a pal, and although the denial that we’d finish the bowl intensified as we ate, we were both left satisfied and energized.
The restaurant itself is gorgeous and makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a tropical Hawaiian lunch spot. The owner pretty much hand picks the decorations; I’ve seen Daniela adding new plants and different touches to the restaurant on separate occasions. There is A/C, lots of light, and the seating is perfect for lunch dates or small groups. I must add, however, that there are not any customer restrooms. If you can’t hold it for the walk back, you can typically visit the Dunkin Donuts across the street. Otherwise, the 10-minute walk to/from campus is enjoyable and can be spiced up by walking through Rutgers’ green campus and enjoying the trees.
Ono Grinds Poké attracts a wide customer base with their food, decor, and patient, welcoming staff, ranging from commuting professionals to curious locals. Students are, however, especially catered to. With a student ID, you can get a 5% discount all day and 20% off between the hours of 2-5 pm. The owner, Daniela, has mentioned plans to increase the allday student discount, so keep your eyes open! If you’re tight on money, I recommend visiting OGP and getting a student discounted smoothie. The bright, inviting and frankly unexpected atmosphere is worth it!