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DRIVE-BY DINING

On the Spam tram

November 17, 2005|Dog Davis | Special to The Times

WHY is Spam so maligned? Does it really taste that bad, or are we just conditioned to be leery of processed pork shoulder with ham? Can we not appreciate the simplicity of its manufactured block shape or does that jelly in the can simply creep us out?

Ono Hawaiian BBQ is a fast-growing fast-food chain, which now has half a dozen locations in the L.A. area with more on the way. It features Hawaiian-style plate lunches -- huge portions of meat served on a bed of cabbage with sticky rice and macaroni salad on the side. It offers terrific beef, chicken and seafood dishes, but there's one item buried in the paper takeout menu that's omitted from the large glass menu over the counter. "Grilled Spam Moco. $5.49. A true local dish: Grilled Spam with gravy and two eggs."

Now, it's been said that Hawaiians take their Spam seriously, ever since World War II, when it was the most readily available meat on the islands. How would Spam, gravy and eggs taste?

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Ono Hawaiian's Spam Moco

Taste

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While not as good as most of their other dishes, the Spam Moco is surprisingly tasty, but then, most anything tastes good when it's smothered in brown gravy. Apparently, grilling is the best way to bring out the flavor in Spam, and the two fried eggs on top are a nice touch.

Diet Watch

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Let's ignore the cholesterol and sodium and focus on calories. By rough calculation, the moco has four slices of Spam at 180 calories each, two eggs at 75 calories each, two scoops of rice at about 100 calories per scoop, one scoop of macaroni salad at who-knows-how-many calories, a little cabbage, which should be fine, then ladle on some gravy, and ... uh, let's ignore calories.

Portability

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The moco, like all the plate lunches served at Ono, are boxed in sturdy foam containers, but these meals are not the type you can eat on the run. For in-the-car dining, you might want to sample the Spam musubi appetizer, maybe the world's strangest sushi roll -- grilled Spam with rice wrapped in seaweed.

Hype-o-meter

Ono has yet to launch a big ad campaign but should be commended. It's the best grilled Spam Moco this reporter's ever had, but then, it's the only grilled Spam Moco this reporter's ever had. Despite an argument that others should be sampled for comparison, this paper refused to fly me on a fact-finding mission to Hawaii -- a sad day for investigative journalism.

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* Ratings are on a scale of zero (lowest) to four (best).

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