Jennifer Hunter has never been to Hawaii. But in 2004, three years after she got married, her husband, Brent Hunter, took her out on a date for some Hawaiian food. It was her first taste of the islands.
“I fell in love,” she said.
The cuisine became her favorite, and she started making dishes at home and modifying recipes, putting her own twist on things.
When she got laid off from her job last year, the Hunters began thinking about starting an eatery. And the Albany couple felt they had no other option than to specialize in Hawaiian food.
Last month, the Hunters opened Grindz Food Truck in Millersburg, which offers Hawaiian food to go.
“There’s nothing like this in Albany. People are super excited that they are no longer having to go out of town to Corvallis, Salem, Eugene, Portland to get their Hawaiian food,” said Brent Hunter, who grew up in southern California regularly eating Hawaiian food.
Grindz Food Truck’s menu includes shoyu chicken, Kailua pork, as well as Hawaiian tacos, nachos, sliders and Spam musubi.
And Jennifer Hunter is proud of her macaroni salad and pineapple coleslaw, which has a bit of a spicy kick and uses a yogurt base instead of mayonnaise.
“Everything we use is fresh. I cook every single morning,” Jennifer Hunter said.
Macaroni salad, of course, is a sort of litmus test for Hawaiian restaurants, Brent Hunter said.
“It’s the thing that is sought after. It’s the thing that people look for. Ours is, of course, a little bit more unique than just an average mac salad. Put our own little flavor into it is what we’ve done,” he added.
And thanks to his wife’s diligence every morning, the pasta is fresh and not a rubbery mess.
The Spam musubi — a slice of Spam sandwiched between rice, wrapped in seaweed and glazed in teriyaki sauce — also has been popular, and one customer placed an order for 16.
The Hunters aren’t sure if they ever want to have a brick and mortar restaurant, but they hope to expand with a mobile trailer, so they can go to events or just park on the other side of town.
The best part about owning a food cart for Jennifer Hunter is that she’s her own boss. “I don’t have to put up with anybody else’s stuff,” she said.
Eventually, perhaps when the business gets a little less hectic, Jennifer Hunter would love to get over to Hawaii.
Grindz Food Truck, 3297 Salem Avenue SE Suite 600, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information, call 541-974-6767 or go to the business’ Facebook page.