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Sunset Park's Shaka Shack serves up quality burgers and fries with a tiki twist. They also offer wedge salads, slaws, vegan, chicken, and salmon burgers to boot. (photo by Michael Ryan)

If you take a look back on the burger timeline in Santa Monica, somewhere along it the classic hamburger slowly transformed into an elaborate gastronomic experience. Nowadays, ambitious burger purveyors are showcasing newfangled creations that all too often are just abominations on a bun.

The newly opened Shaka Shack in Sunset Park makes some appetizing efforts to bring things back to the basics. Not to say that this burger stand is lacking any kind of panache. But you will see that most of the flare at the Shaka Shack is on the walls and not in the bun.

Situated on the corner of Ocean Park Boulevard and 17th Street, there are no subtleties when it comes to the restaurant’s theme. The Shaka Shack certainly has some Hawaiian overtones, but it is not as if the dining room was slapped together from the tiki section of a party store. An eclectic mix of tiki/surf memorabilia include a Hawaiian mural, original prints, and a surfboard counter top. It also holds up to its “burger lounge” status with a couple of vintage couches, coffee tables, and old school TV trays. The decor goes in the direction reminiscent of a 1960s rumpus room.

The burgers at the Shaka Shack (or a least the one I had) are what really make waves. Bad surf themed puns should not undermine how good, yet how surprisingly simplistic the burger is. Bun, patty, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and the Secret Spot Sauce are the ingredients of the restaurant’s namesake — The Shaka Burger. The burger was juicy, the bun was dense, and the secret sauce was not from a jug-o-Thousand Island, bur rather some sort of peppery, honey mustard-tomato blend. I could not quite put my finger on it, hence the name “secret.”

The crinkle cut, deep fried, well done, and lightly salted French fries are some of the best fries on the Westside. There was the option to upgrade with a sprinkling of white truffle salt or seasoned parmesan, but the less is more approach for both burger and fries seemed to be working well.

The food warrants a second go around and a manageable menu makes ordering a breeze. While it is hard pressed to not go with the standard burger and fries, there are some viable alternatives including the Lava Bean Veggie Burger made up of exotic rice, black bean and corn patty, Cholula mayo, Swiss cheese, baby romaine, and avocado. They also offer wedge salads, slaws, vegan, chicken, and salmon burgers to boot.

The service is friendly and personable at this newly opened burger lounge. Chat it up with co-owner Kathie Gibboney behind the counter. She will be more than enthusiastic to tell you about the tiki adorned dining room she dreamed up. And her partner Mike Anapol will come out from the kitchen to deliver your order and make the rounds from table to table.

With all the red tape, city codes, and permits, it is not easy to start up a restaurant on a limited budget here in Santa Monica. It is tough not to root for the Shaka Shack and their prospects. It is also hard to deny that they have some great burgers and seem to be well on their way.

If you go

Shaka Shack Burgers

1701 Ocean Park Blvd.

Santa Monica, Calif.

90405

(310) 450-5551

www.shakashackburgers.com/

Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.

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