Pono Burger opens tomorrow in Downtown Santa Monica, bringing the Bay City grass-fed burgers with fresh island flavor and farm-direct produce from Hawaiian chef Windy "Makani" Gerardi, who owns and operates Kona's Ultimate Burger. After taking a peek inside today, we'll be darned if this isn't one of the cutest spaces we've seen in a long time, with a sunny, sweet dining room neatly arranged inside of the neighborhood's WWII-era Quonset Hut. Designed by DEX Studio, Pono's two distinct rooms are subtly complimented by vintage crates, tableside flowers, chalkboard menus, and a tall stack of split logs reaching to the sky.
"Pono," as Gerardi spells out on one of the walls here, means "doing things the right way" and with integrity, perfectly expressed by the effort and consideration that it takes to produce her signature 1/3-pound, seven-dollar burger. Pono grinds the organic beef in-house, sourced from a family-owned ranch in Mount Shasta, bakes its own brioche buns (a gluten-free version is available), and also makes its own house sauce, adding toppings like cheese from nearby Andrew's Cheese Shop, Niman Ranch bacon, wood-roasted Anaheim chilies, and avocado at an additional charge. Similarly, Russet and sweet spuds are all-organic, GMO-free, and hand-cut, with everything made-to-order.
In addition, the chef will hatch two daily specials like the debut "Sweet Mona" burger with organic strawberry-onion compote, Niman Ranch bacon, and caramelized onions, as well as a salad with organic arugula and strawberries, Valbresco feta cheese, Marcona almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette. Drinks include lemonade squeezed-to-order, milkshakes with Straus cream, craft beer, and wine.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Plus, there's free parking below. Before the restaurant opens tomorrow at 11:00 A.M., come take a look inside of Pono Burger in our slide show tour.
Pono Burger, 829 Broadway Santa Monica; 310-584-7005.