Running a business that serves food is often an affair of the heart, an expression of philosophy and a reflection of heritage. The owners of the Da Kindz Island Grill – Opal Joy and Junior John Ruddock – spoke about these issues in a recent interview with the gazetteexhausted and cheerful after another long day of cooking and serving Hawaiian cuisine.
“We give off so much energy but get so much energy back,” Junior John said.
“We have this endeavor together that brings so much of what I love about Aloha,” Opal added.
“It’s like we’re serving our family,” Junior John explained. “Treat her like Ohana [family]; I don’t feel like a chef, I’m an ambassador for Aloha.”
Located at 261372 US Highway 101 in Carlsborg, Da Kindz is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm (subject to change, see Facebook.com/DaKindz), but the Ruddocks are busy from dawn to dusk. Daily they prepare Da Kindz’s offerings and each week they travel to stores between Tacoma and Seattle to purchase ingredients not sold on the Olympic Peninsula.
They said they do everything together, cooking, laughing, talking and more.
Hawaiian dishes, say the Ruddocks, reflect the diversity of Hawaii’s population, which in turn reflects its history.
They have big plans to continue sharing this gastronomic diversity, with weekly specials ranging from native Hawaiian fare to that of the immigrants who call the islands of Aloha state home.
“There will always be something new for people to try and something interesting for us [to make]’ said Junior John.
The Ruddocks explained that Da Kindz refers to a pidgin word somewhat synonymous with whachamacallit and is written by them to play on the word grindz, meaning hard work.
Kalua pork, chicken katsu, barbecue short ribs, macaroni salad, musubi, poi, garlic fries, and lau lau stew are just a few features on the regular menu.
A steady stream of customers – never fewer than 10 were observed at a time – selected some of these items, including Poke Bowls, this week’s special, while people waited and exchanged pleasantries with the staff and each other.
A solidly built gazebo with lights and overhead heaters houses four large tables and benches, and a clean bathroom is close by.
Customers said they had a variety of reasons for visiting Da Kindz, including curiosity that turned into a desire for more delicious food, closeness, and the joy of finding real Hawaiian cuisine.
“It’s really good,” said Yuomi Hyde, who ate with her young son Logan. “I lived in Hawaii for a few years, so it definitely hits the spot. My son is a picky eater. I got him a kalua pork and rice. He likes it.”
The Origin of Da Kindz
Junior John is a musician and multinational citizen. His father, Jock Ruddock, was a professional wrestler from Scotland and his mother, Rhonda Syrena Bryers, was a famous New Zealand artist once known as the Queen of the South Pacific.
Junior John lived in Hawaii since he was 4 years old until he moved to Sequim after falling in love with Opal.
When Opal bought the food truck, they originally planned to have it shipped to Hawaii for a local store, but the COVID pandemic scuttled that plan, she said, and they decided to open the store in Sequim.
During the lockdown, the couple spent two years “all the time together” in Hawaii and dreamed up plans they intend to develop beyond the food truck. Plans they mentioned include bringing more Hawaiian culture, shaving ice in the summer, maybe bringing a juice bar and reggae festival to the Olympic Peninsula.
Opal has owned Drake’s U-Bake Pizza and Subs for six years; she bought it from Wendy Drake. Opal said she wanted to keep it open because it’s a “staple” and “iconic” in Port Angeles and has been in operation since 1985.
“So many people come back to it because they went there as kids,” she said. “And now they bring their children with them.”
At Drake’s, the couple tried to sell some Hawaiian dishes to the local community for the first time.
Opal said the people who work at Drake’s are like one big family and everyone helps keep both places running smoothly.
“When they served Hawaiian food from Drake’s, we would go there a lot,” noted father and son Dan and Dathan Myers at a recent stop at Da Kindz Island Grill.
It was the second time the duo had traveled from Port Angeles specifically for the meal; It was sold out the first time. This time they enjoyed a round of food with leftovers.
“It was done really well,” said Myers. “You didn’t skimp on anything.
“We are really impressed – they exceeded expectations. It was a dream and they made it a reality.”