Treats with a Twist

A Hawaiian-inspired eatery packs a double whammy with handcrafted fare both flavorful and healthy

Written by Wendy Bowman | Photography Courtesy of Pono Burger

For Makani Carzino, who grew up on the Big Island, the concept of the Hawaiian word “pono” means “doing

things the right way.” As the owner and chef of her synonymously named restaurant Pono Burger, it translates

to sourcing organic, grass-fed beef and local farmers’ market ingredients for the eatery’s popular flagship in

Santa Monica and recent additions in West Hollywood and Venice.


“L.A. is full of like-minded, thoughtful and artistic people,” says Carzino, who launched the first of her Hawaiian-inspired establishments in Santa Monica in 2013, complete with a beachy vibe and surf-culture décor akin to the area. “I opened Pono Burger as a place where our wonderful neighbors could gather with their friends and families to enjoy food that resonated with their own personal values. Each of our three locations continue to serve as a neighborhood spot where these creative people can come to support their communities while enjoying a delicious, sustainable meal.”

In keeping with the island theme, the décor at Pono’s newest sites (opened last summer) honor Makani’s Hawaiian parents—complete with hand-crafted baskets made by her mother at the West Hollywood branch and a large, breeze- and cocktail-worthy patio in Venice as a nod to her father. Meanwhile, all dishes are inspired by the professionally trained chef’s home state—from the slate of burgers in Santa Monica featuring organic Eel River grass-fed beef charbroiled over an oak fire (like the Piki “Fig,” with drunken caramelized fig jam, brie, bacon, toasted hazelnuts, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette) to a whole cadre of scrumptious yet sustainable dishes gracing the recently expanded lunch and dinner menus in West Hollywood and Venice.

In addition to Pono’s signature burgers, new offerings feature starters such as Wild Santa Barbara Prawns, Wild & Local Spicy Ahi Poke and Ponzu Avocado Dip served with purple potato chips, followed by entrées including an Ancient Grain & Collard Green Wrap, Wild California King Salmon and Pitman Family Farms Panko Fried Chicken. £ere’s also the new Sassy Wahine burger (think organic beef or turkey with pickled ginger, avocado, pea shoots, wasabi mayo, Okinawan sweet potato chips and sesame ponzu dressing). And diners always can count on a wide selection of craft cocktails, beer and wine, making Pono ideal for happy hour or catching a game.

Can’t get to a Pono Burger? Makani’s newest concept, Green Bunnies Kitchen, soon will begin delivering original USDA-certified organic meals (with some crossover from the Pono menu) to parts of West L.A. and Orange County. Her goal? To make life a little easier for those juggling commitments who still want to focus on clean eating. Aloha!


SANTA MONICA | 829 BROADWAY AVENUE | 31 0.584.7005


VENICE | 512 ROSE AVENUE | 31 0.392.6200


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