Pono Burger – Los Angeles Eats

I bet you would be hard pressed to find a kid who doesn't love a meal consisting of a hamburger and French fries. But...most parents balk at the prospect of dining at a burger joint because often times it is synonymous with 'unhealthy' and a real 'dive' experience.

But, what if I told you that there is a hamburger spot located in the Los Angeles area that can satisfy both kids and parents alike? Here, you can encounter food specially prepared with healthy ingredients served up in a serene and historic environment.

Meet Pono Burger. This is the brainchild from a chef hailing from Hawaii, and centers around 'pono' which in Hawaiian means 'to do things the right way.' As former residents of Los Angeles, we had heard that Pono Burger was great at accommodating gluten free diners, and sourced ingredients from local organic farmers. So, Kid Allergy Travel made a point to partner up (via sponsorship) to bring you all the details for your next visit to Los Angeles, California.

Location

Only a few blocks from major attractions like the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade, you can't miss the conical prefabricated World War II era building set amongst the palm tree-lined streets of this Los Angeles beach town. LA is filled with unique dining establishments, and this one definitely ranks up there as a total La-La Land experience. Why? Because dining here at Pono Burger takes place inside a Quonset hut.

What is a Quonset hut?

The Quonset hut was created for the first time in 1941 in response to the United States Navy's need for a lightweight, prefabricated, easy to set up, portable multi-use building. The first designs were 16x36x8 feet developing later into a slightly larger structure that could provide roughly 960 square feet of usable floor space. This design was so flexible that it translated into a number of different uses such as sleeping quarters, medical and dental areas, and food preparation space. Often called surplus huts, these buildings continued to be manufactured even after the end of the war. They could be found dotted throughout the landscape across the US and even branched out beyond military usage into civilian post-war housing developments like Roger Young Village in Los Angeles, California.

The Dining Experience

Think benches, cozy textiles, fresh flowers and candlelight set amongst steel and plywood. The space is intimate but, at the same time, it feels surprisingly open. Other families can be seen throughout the hut, making it seem particularly homey for those of us bringing small ones along. Take the mellow mood music, couple it with their soft desk lighting, and these folks have set the stage for an incredibly authentic neighborhood bistro feel.

There is nothing we like more than a solid by-the-glass wine menu. Plus, as our table is normally loaded with things like legos, crayons, and molding clay to keep the whole family busy without utilizing electronics, we certainly appreciated that they served our beverage in a stemless wine glass. Didn't have to stress out about knocking anything over. And...neither did our kids!

Not a wine fan? We loved that they have other gluten free adult bevies on hand like craft made cocktails and Sir Perry Pear Cider.


I wanted to go for one of the more popular eats on the Pono Burger Menu which we learned were either the Paniolo or the Piku burger. Although the Paniolo sounded tempting with the house made Kona coffee BBQ sauce and English Oak Smoked cheddar, I would have to take off the beer battered onion rings to make it gluten free. So, I went with the Piku. All the ingredients are gluten free if you select this style, and I was really digging the house made drunken caramelized fig jam, Brie Couronne cheese, and toasted hazelnut combination. I added a little twist by opting to wrap my burger in collard greens instead of the gluten free bun.

My no meat eating hubby was eye balling the portobello mushroom burger but was excited to learn that the veggie patty here (called the La'au) is completely gluten free. For those veggie lovers out there, take comfort knowing that you can order any of the burger styles using one of their vegetarian patties. My husband finally settled on the Spicy Kuawa Crunch (pictured at top) using the La'au vegetarian patty because he loves habaneros. For those that love a kick, the spicy guava sauce that accompanies this particular order is loaded with hot peppers. For those that are spice adverse, keep that in mind when selecting your ingredients.

The little one was a bit on the grumpy side. Four straight days at Disneyland made for an incredibly overly-tired five-year-old. Although I explained we were dining at a burger shop, he refused to eat anything other than chicken fingers. Thankfully these fine folks at Pono Burger had me covered by having the Crispy Panko Chicken Bites on the menu. The best part? The "chicken fingers" were appetizer size, and priced exactly right for a small kiddo.

Kid Allergy jumped straight into the hamburger concept and got himself a classic cheeseburger on a gluten free bun.

The aoli that accompanied the sweet potato fries had bacon in it, so we all settled on sharing a basked of French fries. I repeat: the French fries are gluten free! They have a dedicated gluten free fryer where they cook their fries in a Non-GMO California rice bran oil.

The Taste

We all devoured our food without the usual heavy gross fried food feeling you get when you walk out of a greasy spoon.

The shining star for me was my collard green wrapped burger. Even though my picture makes this option look a little messy, I assure you the flavors paired beautifully, and the greens were expertly steamed. I was thrilled with the overall taste and quality of the ingredients, and when we return, I will definitely go with this choice again.

For Kid Allergy? The fries totally won him over. It is such a treat to find a place that has a dedicated fryer, and this place totally delivered on taste and safety in terms of gluten free dining.

Notes

Burgers have their origins in California. One of the most popular versions of a hamburger started in this state after all (ie. McDonald's). But, we have to give props to Pono Burger for elevating our experience beyond the norm. Don't discredit making time to visit this burger spot when visiting Los Angeles. This place is unique in style, taste, and presentation. Yes they are serving up classic American fare but it really is anything but ordinary.

There isn't much we would change about this place but wanted to pass along a few things to remember when dining here:

  • The bathroom requires you to leave the hut and enter another building. Kids will have to be accompanied and little ones should be given plenty of time to make it to the potty.
  • If the weather cooperates (this is LA people so remember that means it normally does), don't discount sitting on their lovely patio. It is decorated with strings of lights surrounded by flowers and greenery.
  • They have free parking at an underground garage! Having lived in LA for so many years, we can attest this is a huge plus.
  • Go hungry. Portion sizes are generous here and you won't want to miss any bites because it really is that yummy.

Please note Kid Allergy Travel did receive a discount while dining at Pono Burger. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos by Kid Allergy Travel.

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