Ever since I moved up to the bay, I kind of forgot how much I enjoyed Guamanian food. Could Booniepepper Islander Grill help scratch that itch?
It was a weekend afternoon around lunch time and there was a short line to order. Most of the tables were not occupied. We just happened to catch it during the rush.
The menu is very simple and straightforward. Simple is always welcome because complex leads to indecision, which leads to a longer time food can reach my belly. They built the menu kind of like a Chipotle or a Subway. First choose your protein, followed by a base, sides, and finally the “finadene” which is typically a spicy/sour condiment used in Chamorro cuisine.
The plate comes with one protein, two sides, and finadene. We wanted to try another protein to make it a 2 item combo plate and chose rib eye and chicken kelaguen. Kelaguen is one of our favorite things in this world. If you’ve never had it, you just might be missing a key ingredient to reaching happiness in life. This version comes chopped with onions, lemon juice, shredded fresh coconut, and jalapeno. It’s not too spicy but can be sour. Their version had a nice balance, although we do like our kelaguen extra sour. If you like things sour, definitely try kelaguen.
The beef wasn’t as tasty as the kelaguen but again, when we enter kelaguen mode not much can compete. The mac-tato salad came heavy on the potato side, which I like. The F prefers more mac.
Excitement means we order more than a normal restaurant visit. Yes, we ordered two two item plates. This one seems to be missing the proteins! Luckily, they just came on the side to make enough room for the salad. The red rice gets its orange color from achote, which imparts not only color, but a little bit of tanginess to the rice.
The pork was a bit dry, but had a nice smokey flavor. The finadene helped with the dryness, which by the way, was tangy and quite spicy.
Even though the pork was dry, it had more flavor than the chicken. The F enjoyed the pork more even though there was almost zero moisture. I couldn’t get over the texture and opted for the chicken as my winner between the two.
So did Booniepepper Islander Grill scratch the itch? Most definitely. If not for the kelaguen we might be in trouble. But the sides were great, and whenever we eat this type of food it just feels like home, even though we aren’t from the island. In order of protein ranking it goes kelaguen, beef, chicken, and then pork. If the pork had more moisture it might jump a few spots. We will definitely come back. We might even get double kelaguen next time…
Booniepepper Islander Grill
6180 Jarvis Ave., Ste B
Newark, CA 94560