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Pono Burger “Does Things the Right Way”

Taste of Santa Monica
Presented by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce
Written by Barbara Bishop, Mirror columnist and Santa Monica Chamber member.

I used to pass by this awesome, dome-shaped, rust-covered hut on Broadway near 10th St. It was such a cool space. It was for lease at one time. It was a little too pricey and large for my needs as an office, but a girl can dream, yes?

One day, my little hut was buzzing with people inside of it. A place call Pono Burger had taken the space. What the heck was a Pono? I was coming back from a meeting close-by, so I stopped in to see what all the fuss was about.

Turns out that my fantasy office was the dining area for this new establishment. I walked into the area where one would place an order. “What does Pono mean?” I asked the gal at the counter.

Here’s what she said: In Hawaiian, “pono” means “to do things the right way.” For them, it meant making the ultimate burger – fresh organic beef from pasture raised, grass-fed cows, organic ingredients from local farmer’s markets. They also proudly informed me that their fresh cut French fries were good for me! Now she had my attention.

The Executive Chef, Makani Carzino is from Hawaii. She says that what we take into our bodies becomes a part of us. She reports that all of her ingredients are sourced from small California family farms and ranches that care deeply about the quality of their products and the global impacts of their (production) methods.

“I wouldn’t feed our guests anything that I wouldn’t feed my family,” she proclaims on her website. Me too! In an ocean of (very qualified) male chefs, I’m pleased to see a woman at the helm of Pono.

After studying the menu, it was clear she put her “money where her mouth” was. The line up included veggie appetizers like Tempura Blue Lake Green Beans, Fried Curry Cauliflower, Burnt Miso Brussel Sprouts and Lemon Tamari Grilled Asparagus. All this at a burger joint.

But this was no ordinary “joint.” Chef Makani’s signature burgers included some fascinating concoctions, such as the Piku, the one that I ordered. Check this out: The healthy-sized, organic, grass-fed burger was topped with house-made, drunken carmelized fig jam, Brie Couronne Cheese, Niman Ranch bacon, toasted hazelnuts, organic baby kale, with a house-made balsamic vinaigrette. What a burger!

They also make the buns fresh daily. I love fresh buns!

Oh, and the fries. They are hand-cut daily, cooked in California Rice Bran Oil, topped with organic fresh thyme, organic parsley and kosher salt, served with house-made citrus aioli. Delish! And good for you.

What I’ve reported is just a small sampling of their offerings. They also offer a large selection of wine, beer and low-proof Hawaiian-inspired cocktails. 

When you go to Pono, remember there’s underground parking. You don’t have to mess with finding a surface spot if none are available. I think that these guys made the best use of my dream office. Aloha! Glad you’re in the neighborhood, Pono!

Pono Burger is located at 829 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401. It is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit ponoburger.com.

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