Rating: 4 ½
Ron’s Grill Etc. at 4859 N. Milwaukee, is not a typical fast food eatery. Located mere footsteps from the Jefferson Park blue line terminal, just inside of Veteran’s Square and next to the 7-Eleven, this cozy, family-owned restaurant has been feeding north siders since January of 2008.
Their menu, consisting of the average fast food cuisine- hot dogs, burgers, wings, chicken nuggets, fries, onion rings, etc. – also boasts dishes not routinely found at a typical in-and-out food joint. Ron’s Grill’s Filipino-style breakfast menu challenges the palates of anyone unfamiliar with the Southeast Asian cuisine, not extremely exotic but definitely different. Longganisa, a Filipino pork sausage, eggplant omelet and Filipino-style corned beef are three of the six breakfasts that give this diner its originality. The meals are served with a healthy amount of freshly fried garlic rice and eggs over-easy, the typical way Filipinos have their eggs in the morning. Manager Carla Soria, whose family owns and operates the restaurant, recommends Tocilog, a Tocino-cured pork, for beginners. The sweet, crisped pork is a great starter for venturing into the Filipino cuisine. Tangy meat complemented by the rich garlicky fried rice gives off a soothing aroma that reminds individuals not to ignore the other foods that come out of the world’s largest continent.
Soria’s endearing personality and great memory helps her to establish and build on relationships with her customers. She can recall many faces and names of the regulars that come in with special orders catering to their diet or allergies. After a couple of visits, she has the ability to hone in on what her customers want. “I know what they like,” Soria said. When someone is unsure of what to order that day, she simply reminds them of what they had their previous visit, tells them about other items that may be similar or indulges their curiosities.
Besides the exotic breakfasts, the salmon burger and veggie burger are other popular items. But, surprisingly, one of Ron’s Grill’s most popular dishes, Soria claims, is the jibarito (a Puerto Rican sandwich that uses cut and fried plantains as a bun), served with either steak, chicken, or zucchini for vegetarians. This Humboldt Park invention has landed itself in an unlikely neighborhood. In fact, I challenge anyone to locate a restaurant within a mile from Ron’s Grill that offers this fried plantain sandwich. Although I’ve only had it at less than a handful of other spots, Ron’s Grill does it right- and garlic fried rice can be added for an extra $1.04. The crunch of the plantain and the tender steak (bola de res) make for a filling meal, and the rice is a bonus. A special garlic sauce adds richness to the well-seasoned steak , and the tomatoes, lettuce and cheese enhance this heavenly platter. “We do plantains,” Soria said. “Bananas are a staple in the Philippines.”
Speaking of bananas, the fried Turon is a great dessert, provided the stomach can squeeze it in after such a hearty meal. The deep-fried banana egg roll is primarily found at Filipino restaurants that specialize in catering large orders. Here, they are $0.79 a roll.
For those stopping by the Jefferson Park terminal on their way to and from campus, or for those desiring a new breakfast experience, Ron’s Grill opens at 11 a.m. every day and closes at 8 p.m., except for Saturdays (at 7 p.m.) They are closed on Sundays. Find them on facebook.