I had one of the best milkshakes I've ever had at Pono Burger in Santa Monica. The Oatmeal Stout Milkshake is made with organic vanilla ice cream, Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout, housemade salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and toasted coconut chips. (I should note it's only for the 21-and-over crowd.) It is one of several new items added to the charming beachy restaurant's menu for Spring.
I found the biggest mind blowers from the Pono Burger menu were the beverages, actually. Oh, make no mistake, the food was great and I'll get to that, but I wanted to start with the superstars -- this milkshake as well as their homemade, DELICIOUS, strawberry lemonade and some really unique, tasty, organic cherry cola. I was really glad I let the server talk me into that cola -- I am trying to find it in a store so I can buy it for home now.
It was a hard choice - especially with some really great options added to the burger selections recently, but I settled on the Piku "Fig" Burger. It is dressed with drunken caramelized fig jam, brie, bacon, arugula and balsamic (it normally has crushed hazelnuts on it as well but due to allergies, I went without). It was a juicy, wonderful tasting sandwich with every bite. All of the flavors came together as a really savory party in my mouth, guys. Highly recommend this one. I think I even appreciated it more later on, when I had time to process it. Like when you see a movie and like it even more an hour after you see it.
My partner in crime for the day ordered the Kuawa Burger and was kind enough to save me a bite or two. The server made a great call suggesting she add avocado to it -- that was great -- and the best part was that it had potato chips on it. How could you not love that? A burger with a salty, satisfying crunch?! Amazing.
At places like this, I always find myself sad I don't have more than a +1 with me or, at least, a giant stomach and a body that never gained weight. I'm just never able to try as many items as I'd like but I guess that just means I'll have to go back for the Sassy Wahine burger (wasabi mayo and ponzu!) and more of those delicious fries. And frankly, the fries were only secondary to the homemade aioli they serve them with.
If I haven't made it clear enough, I was really impressed with the service. The management could not have been nicer and our server was sweet and informed and gave an honest opinion when we asked for it. Sometimes you're going to find servers pre-programmed with salesy shtick so I value that kind of thing. The overall aesthetic of the place is very tied into the beach being nearby as well as the Hawaiian traditions the owner draws inspiration from. "Pono," by the way, means "to do things the right way" and they certianly are. Everything about Pono burger is, at the core, honest, as well as charming, communal, familial... and really yummy.
- Parking is available in an underground garage - it's free!
- Pono Burger website
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