I’ve eaten at many car-wash restaurants—great Chicago dogs, terrible tacos, passable bagels and more lunches of Reese’s Pieces washed down with Cactus Cooler than ever advisable—but I’ve never experienced anything as simultaneously lowbrow and high-falutin’ as Kush Bowl. It’s a kitchen and counter inside the Cypress Auto Spa, a florid testament to entrepreneurial immigrant aspirations, where a coffee bar, tropical-fish tank and arcades dating back to Bush the First vie for the attention of waiting customers in a building that meshes Spanish Colonial with Greek Spa. Add onto this Kush’s design motif of Rastafarian colors and icons (homemade portraits of everyone from Marley to Gandhi to Che to even Huey Freeman of The Boondocks), and you don’t know whether to ask for a pedicure or a toke.
True to its name, Kush Bowl sells stoner cuisine: bowls of rice topped with meats and veggies, all with goofy names (a Bubba Kush bowl finds grilled or fried shrimp alongside beef and rice) that suggest this operation owes its inspiration and humor to a Half-Baked marathon. But the two guys running the place aim for something higher. They carefully arrange orders—kebabs crossing one another like swords at a Marines wedding, meat and rice divided by diced green onions—on actual plates instead of Styrofoam. Playful Sriracha flourishes sometimes border entrées; a glass of orange juice came straight from the rind. And the food, while straightforward, does what beef and chicken bowls are supposed to do: fill the gut cheaply and satiate, hooking into your palate so that the next time you need an affordable meal, thoughts of Kush unleash a Pavlovian response that requires instant gratification. There’s a reason why Kush Bowl opened just up the street from Cypress College, and it’s not just because Lady Chargers are extraordinarily hot.
While Kush’s regular menu deserves a visit, more exciting are the experiments that come and go according to the cooks’ whims. There was a teriyaki burger over the summer—grilled hamburger patty, sauce-soaked teriyaki strips, bacon and a fried egg—that made me brave the 91’s rush-hour traffic more than once. The current special is the Wake ‘n’ Bake, an unfortunate name for what amounts to open-faced egg sandwiches. Oh, but the execution: soft King’s Hawaiian bread supporting scrambled eggs and crispy bacon, with tater tots on the side. And the maple syrup coating the plate? Ladies and germs: You have the French toast for our Proposition 19 times.
Kush Bowl, 5890 Lincoln Ave., Cypress, (714) 376-8141 www.kushbowl.com.
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This column appeared in print as "Kush-Crazy."