A tangy taste of the islands with a Kix

Gourmet and ethnic food trucks may be here to stay. But nothing beats a casual food stand that serves good food and stays put. Now that Kix's BBQ is open, right there between Jack's Lube and Hamlet Auto, you'll always know where to go when you're craving some inexpensive Asian island barbecue.

They keep it wonderfully simple here. Basically, there are four items on the menu — three combos and a rib-eye steak plate. The common element to all the combos is a killer barbecued chicken leg. Fried rice and salad come alongside.

On top of that, you choose two skewers of either beef, pork or shrimp. At $4.99, it's quite a bargain. The chicken leg, which has been steeping in a glorious soy sauce-based marinade, arrives hot and juicy with a smoky aroma and flavor from the open-fire grill.

The skewers are good too, though I recommend the beef or pork skewers more than the shrimp. The shrimp are too small and delicate for such a hot grill and were, for me at least, overcooked. But everything is better with the hot sauce they serve on the side. Customers dubbed it Explosive Sauce. The owners liked the name so much, it stuck.

But don't worry, it's not too hot. The flavor blooms with island spices more than heat, similar to jerk sauce. If you don't see it on your plate, be sure to ask for it. They also provide a side of soy sauce mixed with what I'm guessing is vinegar and sugar, which cuts the saltiness a great deal. Incidentally, they do not use MSG here.

The iceberg lettuce salad with ranch or Thousand Island is fine. But what will really float your boat (that's island talk) is the Filipino-style fried rice. The fluffy rice with bits of egg is imbued with garlic and a smoky, sweet flavor. I couldn't stop eating it if I tried.

Besides extra skewers (a buck a piece) and chicken legs ($2 each) there's one more option on the menu. The rib-eye plate ($7.99) comes with rice and salad, but no chicken. This is a large, thin slab of marinated steak cooked just right. It may not be the most tender or least fatty cut you'll ever have, but it is juicy and flavorful. Again, it's great with the sauces. Sodas and water are available from a self-serve refrigerator for $1 apiece.

There's something really friendly about the budget decor at Kix's. Maybe it's the bright colors or maybe it's the "don't worry... be happy" attitude of the staff behind the counter, but the clever use of yellow canvas, green and white corrugated plastic walls, casual tables and bamboo panels give the place a beachside hut feel.

There's even a nice breeze moving through. If you close your eyes and use your imagination (really hard), the sound of cars roaring by on Colorado Street just outside might sound like the roar of the ocean on an island beach in the Philippines or Maui.

Even if your imagination is not as active as mine, Kix's is an easy place to pop in (there's parking in the back) and get a taste of fresh Asian island barbecue for a song.

Lisa Dupuy wishes she could be at a real beachside hut right now. She can be reached at ldupuy@aol.com.

Infobox

What: Kix's BBQ

Where: 514 W. Colorado St., Glendale

When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Combos $4.99; rib-eye plate $7.99; drinks $1

Contact: (818) 550-1788

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