Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Pono in Hawaiian means done 'the right way'- and at Pono Burger they're not wrong

Since May 2013, the Quonset hut in Santa Monica has been transformed into a great organic burger restaurant. With the return of summer and strawberry season came the return of their very best Sweet Mona Burger to their menu- and we just had to check it out.

The first thing you notice is the mouth watering aromas- well, the first thing that really hits you is that you're in an old war hut, but soon enough your stomach is growling and you're ready to tuck in.

Pono Burger really is one of a kind- the open air feel offers a cool but sheltered environment, with seating options in the hut, building or outside. The eclectic mix of wooden, organic decor with the metal of the Quonset hut gives the restaurant modern, revitalised feel without losing the nostalgia of the building's history. Pono Burger is bound to catch your eye on the street, juxtaposed against the high rise builds so often seen around Santa Monica.

Their menu really packs a punch with all kinds of flavour to choose from: Chef Makani truly isn't afraid to experiment with seasonal, adventurous fruits and ingredients, including the winter fig burger which has remained on the menu all year.

I couldn't help but go for the Sweet Mona burger: a succulent beef patty layered with Hook's 1 year cheddar, housemade organic strawberry compote, Niman Ranch smoked bacon, wood smoked caramelized organic onions and organic green leaf lettuce - as a Brit, I have to say I was cautious to taste a burger with strawberry, but now I will never go back- I have been converted!

Pono Burger's all year round specialty and favorite, the Paniolo, was also second to none. It's unusual mix of Organic beef patty, English oak smoked cheddar, Niman ranch bacon, housemade Kona coffee, bourbon BBQ sauce, and beer battered onion rings were an incredible taste sensation: it truly brought back the taste of America. With it came sweet potato fries which were seasoned with thyme, organic salt and organic parsley- which were absolutely to die for. The accompanied Niman ranch bacon and chipotle aioli were the perfect compliment.

We were greeted with fantastic service from the moment we walked in. The staff were excellent and really understood the food and what it stood for. Even the menu gave suggestions for which drinks went best with the burger, for instance, pairing the sweet mona with Poppy, Santa Lucia Highlands, Pinot Noir or Uinta Hop Nosh.

The staff have clearly learned from the best; Chef Makani really knows how to reach the perfect balance of sweet and savoury, adding the subtlety of sweet brioche bread to the meat. It's even shown in the adventurous caramel shake with bacon bits! Though be warned- there is a fine line between excellent tastes and a rich sugar overload.

Pono Burgers is for everyone. You are given a choice of how well done the meat is cooked, and even the option to design your own burger completely! And the options keep growing-Pono is now selling 2 new beers on tap, and a huge selection of dark and light wines. Even their cider is gluten free; there really is something for all tastes.

You can even feel great about what you're eating- the melt in the mouth patties are all grass-fed and organic. But it's not just about organic food, says waitress Jenna Hawes. "It's about an organic lifestyle, being conscious and educated about the food, and showing that food is love." You can tell there is a true pride on their sources of produce and their local farmers- you just need to look around to see explanations of where their food comes from hanging from the walls.

Chef Makani's philosophy is simple: "use organic and farm fresh ingredients for a handcrafted burger made with integrity that above all, tastes great" and that truly shows here at Pono Burger. Just make sure you go with an empty stomach and a big appetite as they are sure to fill you up!

Pono Burger - 829 Broadway -

Santa Monica, CA 90401

For further information, call 310.584.7005 or visit


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