June 22, 2018

Restaurant Review: Lunching at Shaka Shack — A Touch of Aloha in Sunny  SoCal



Restaurant Review: Lunching at Shaka Shack — A Touch of Aloha in Sunny  SoCal

In this family portrait, Gibboney, left, is ready to serve up the Makuakane burger, while Anapol, right, flashes the Shaka sign of good will. Son, Riley, a wizard on the cash register, and daughter, Miranda (center), pose behind the pineapple. Customers’ every wish is accommodated — Teriyaki BBQ sauce or Hana Slaw on the side? Done. Burger, no bun? Done — with cheerful service and the bonus Wish Fish.

In anticipation of my first visit to Topangans Michael Anapol’s and wife, Kathie Gibboney’s new restaurant, Shaka Shack, in Santa Monica, I read the online menu and was salivating already.

No wonder. As one of Topanga’s notable musical-chairs-n’-tables restaurateurs, Anapol has had extensive Westside restaurant experience, among them Spago, West Beach Cafe, Rebecca’s, Rockenwagner, waitering at Topanga’s Willows/Abuelita’s, Froggy’s and his own food and drink stop at The Theatricum Botanicum, “What You Will.”

Gibboney is a true connoisseur of the foodie arts and together with her unique choices in fashion, the welcoming, comfy Hawaiian furnishings of the Shack are replete with Sixties/Hawaiian décor, TV tables and assorted kitsch, such as the “Wish Fish.”

A present from Kathie to Michael hangs in the front window: a classic neon “OPEN” sign. The orange walls and deep purple, zebra-striped exterior were painted under cover of night as another surprise for Michael from Kathie and their Topanga friends, Ken and Judy Kaufman and their daughter Lulu.

The mom and pop couple, who went it alone — no partners, no investors, no franchise — modeled the

Restaurant Review: Lunching at Shaka Shack — A Touch of Aloha in Sunny  SoCal

Head Chef Jimme Morrison wows customers with his own unique Mango BBQ sauce created for ribs and tri-tip on BBQ Fridays.

Shack after the word, “shaka,” the Hawaiian hand sign for good will, an easy step for this eclectic pair who dish it out to their guests along with an imaginative menu that lives up to its intent.

Walking into The Shaka Shack feels like time-traveling back to Santa Monica High School, c. 1959, and hanging out at Don’s Malt Shop on Pico with surfer magazines scattered about (one Shaka Shack salad choice is named “The Wedge.”).

Yet, the friendly relaxed vibe is true Topanga: you can sit on a mid-century divan and scooch back to read your newspaper or magazine with no sense of time or urgency. Of course, there are conventional tables and chairs, and if you call ahead, they can set up tables to meet your needs for a business meeting lunch, or social party.

You’ll want to return to the UN-fast food environment for another meal and the discounts offered to Topangans, nearby businesses and Santa Monica College students.

Restaurant Review: Lunching at Shaka Shack — A Touch of Aloha in Sunny  SoCal

A dramatic mural dominates the dining area of Shaka Shack’s 60s Hawaiian decor. Owners Michael Anapol and his wife, Kathie Gibboney, modeled the Shack after the word, “shaka,” the Hawaiian hand sign for good will, something the eclectic pair readily dish out to their guests along with an imaginative menu.

The ambitious menu, created by Consulting Chef Lisa Stalvey of Malibu Catering (who trained with Wolfgang Puck and was Anapol’s partner on NBC-TV’s “The Chopping Block”), is delicious, varied and reasonably priced.

The menu choices are numerous and delicious descriptions beckon for recognition: the Samoan Salmon, Kobe Kahuna and Turkey Shaka burgers or the Veggie Maui Mushroom Burger and Lava Bean Burger. I’m remembering my trips to Hawaii between the lines.

The day arrives to meet other Messenger staffers for lunch and the easy-to-read menu is now in my hungry hands.

Okay. I needn’t read more. My first order is The Kauiian Burger. (Make that turkey, please, with grilled onions and BBQ mayo on the side.). Listed as “1/2 lb. grass fed Black Angus” with pickles, baby romaine, red onion, Swiss cheese and bacon, it was perfection, even the bun — but it’s okay to say, “Hold the bun!’

My friends ordered from the vegetarian offerings, among them the zesty Lava Bean burger that has developed an enthusiastic following. Guests can frequently look for specials dressed with pineapple and drizzled with teriyaki sauce.

Restaurant Review: Lunching at Shaka Shack — A Touch of Aloha in Sunny  SoCal

Gibboney, who writes the “My Corner of the Canyon” column for the Messenger, cashes out the register after a long day at “The Shack.”

Our server happily accommodated our special requests. A side of Hana Slaw completed the entree with just the right amount of fresh n' juicy, crunchy slaw with scallions and toasted macadamia nuts, marinated in evoo and seasoned rice vinegar.

‘Couldn't get enough!

Michael modestly told us not to miss the sweet potato fries, “the best in Los Angeles,” so we shared an order among the three of us on pretext of watching our waistlines, but the next time I was scooting by the Shack alone, I got a full order to go … just for me!

After the meal, I was happily satisfied in a good-full way so I placed an order “to go” for dinner that night. Ahhh ....The Maui Mushroom. Not a burger, it included an exotic rice and portabello mushroom patty, baby romaine, tomato, vegan mayo, tofu mozzarella and avocado. Heaven.

I took menus to my friends at Westside Family Health Center (WFHC) next door, who were later visited by Kathie bearing her calling card: sweet potato fries. They loved them.

“My latest project is trying every burger on Shaka Shack’s menu,” said Sandra Mendez, Dir. of Projects at WFHC.

Only one thing was missing from the menu — the words were in my head as I parked my car: “... and a Pina Colada Shaka Shack Shake.”

Restaurant Review: Lunching at Shaka Shack — A Touch of Aloha in Sunny  SoCal

The mouth-watering Makuakane Burger, an Angus beef patty with cheddar cheese, bacon, Maui onion, Hawaiian  mayo and an umbrella, no less, is served with a Luau fried corn, parmesan, cayenne and lime veggie wrap.

Maybe next time?

Shaka Shack Burgers, 1701 Ocean Park Blvd. (at 17th Street), Santa Monica, CA. 90401; (310) 450-5551. Open Tues. – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Closed most holidays and family birthdays. Call ahead for reservations.

Visit shakashackburgers.com and “like” them on Facebook.