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By Michael Hepworth

I recently had the opportunity to meet up with the founder of Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Mexican Grill Steve Paperno in Chatsworth and got an idea as to why the chain of 21 restaurants is doing so well.  The menu strives very hard to use fresh, natural and organic ingredients and uses unique stone ovens and mesquite-grilled cooking styles to enhance the flavor. At the moment all the restaurants are based in California but Arizona and Nevada will be coming soon, maybe after the 2015 opening in Portland.

The menu is nutrionally transparent, a new term for me which broadly means that the menu is measured in caloric and nutritional representation enabling guests to select their own food.  A calculator is included on the website detailing calories, fat content sodium and sugar levels and cholesterol etc.  If it all sounds a bit over the top, Paperno and his top executive David Goldstein come across as pretty genuine in their desire to create a brand and product that does good things for the community.

When it comes to the food and ingredients the Chicken Breast has no added hormones, preservatives or phosphates and the Angus Beef is antibiotic free. GMO free organic corn is used to make the tortillas and chips and Sharky’s cooks with non GMO project verified canola oil.  They were also well ahead of the organic crowd by introducing organic beans, rice and tofu way back in 1992 putting them on the same wavelength as none other than King of the organic boom Prince Charles.  No freezers are used in any of the locations and every dish is handcrafted daily and this even extends to the product which is grown in local fields and in particular Camarillo.  Fish are caught in clear oceans and proteins are grown on farms where the livestock is treated humanely.

They serve a nice handcrafted red and white sangria with honeydew and melon that goes perfectly with the style of food on offer here and in particular the stacked chicken enchiladas that pair with the red and the harvest quinoa salad that goes with the white sangria.  They also have their own brand lemonade like the watermelon basil and pineapple lime that go well with the charbroiled mahi mahi burrito and the tofu fajita tacos respectively.  If you like tea then the hibiscus ginger green tea is their most popular and like all the others is made right in the restaurant.

By all accounts they have regulars who are hooked on certain menu items such as the Power Plate featuring mesquite grilled chicken breast, Angus steak, organic tofu, wild salmon or big shrimp all served with grilled or steamed vegetables.  The “Get it Naked” menu features the Naked Chicken Tostada Salad with up to 73 grams of hormone free protein and a maximum of 389 calories.  The salad dressings at Sharky’s are also pretty creative such as Poblano Caesar, Sesame Lime and Sweet Lemon and Avocado Vinaigrette.

Website: http://www.sharkys.com



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