Submarines are mechanical marvels and the mystery ships of the ocean. In the US Navy, they are known as the “Silent Service”. The most powerful asset of the submarine is its ability to not be seen.
In the restaurant business, visibility is more valuable. Alas, like the ship that bears its name, Submarine & BBQ Teriyaki cannot be seen as you drive along Huntington Drive in Monrovia. It is hidden in a strip mall behind a Burger King and next to a defunct Radio Shack. But in this hidden jewel, you can purchase some rather remarkable and sometimes unique food.
Around 24 years ago, Sung Yeo, a pastor from Korea, emigrated to America with his wife, Young, and his son, Sam. A few years later, they purchased a sandwich and teriyaki shop in Monrovia, Submarine, and became restaurateurs. Over time, the sandwiches disappeared, to be replaced by BBQ Teriyaki and other Japanese dishes. This answers my mystery #1: Why is a restaurant that features teriyaki chicken named “Submarine”?
Around 6 years ago, I started a new job in Monrovia. My supervisor, Michael, brought me Submarine for lunch. Michael is a fan of the #49- Yaki Noodles with Chicken: A bed of ramen noodles with teriyaki sauce, housing red, yellow and green bell peppers, cabbage, onions, broccoli, mushrooms and that chicken.
Large quantities of fresh vegetables and hand trimmed, grilled, dark meat chicken make Submarine the treasure that it is. Unlike what you may think when you hear “teriyaki”, their chicken is neither salty nor sweet. Years have taught them perfection in preparation and cooking. If you want your chicken “saucy”, they provide bottles of extra sauce on the front counter. As they are located adjacent to Baja Ranch supermarket, Submarine’s fresh vegetables are individually selected for quality and are always available for restocking on demand. Their vegetable tempura reflects this. If you think you don’t like tempura, allow them to change your mind. The batter is light and vegetables are ripe.
Unlike most places I try, the kobacha is properly sweet.
Besides quality, Submarine ranks high on the bargain scale. The lunch special provides a small salad, a pile of rice, two California rolls, a plentiful serving of that chicken and a soda for $7.10, including tax.
The #47 consists of a large bowl udon noodle soup topped with that chicken and eight pieces of spicy tuna roll for less than $8 with tax.
But as good as these are, Submarine serves something unique to themselves, developed in house: a California bibimbap.
A few years ago, I began to hear a lot more chopping going on in the kitchen. More teriyaki places moved into the neighborhood and began to poach business. Sam talked his parents into introducing some Korean styled dishes, such as bulgogi, into the menu.
He also created something new. Bibimbap is a Korean dish centered on cooked vegetables and rice. Sam combined this traditional food with the local resources and culture here in Southern California. Their bibimbap is still centered on a pile of rice, but it is surrounded by freshly chopped carrots, onions, radishes, lettuce, cilantro, cabbage, cucumber and avocado, topped by a generous serving of that chicken. It is a huge bowl of freshness. It’s enough food for two, and again, less than $8 including tax. This is new food culture in the making, hidden in a strip mall behind a Burger King.
About a year ago, friends who recently moved to Monrovia asked me for a recommendation to cater a birthday party. My recommendation should not be a mystery to you by now. Despite ordering a copious amount of food, the guests managed to wipe it out. “Where did you get that chicken?”: “I love that chicken!” and so on were the compliments received. They have informed me that they are regulars at Submarine now because of that chicken. Be kind to yourself: venture to Monrovia, park behind the Burger King and discover the marvel of that chicken.
Submarine & BBQ Teriyaki is located at 344 W. Huntington Dr., Monrovia, CA 91016