Photo by Shane Harms
Owner, Jon Burgett shows his new space. Pono Ranch is almost directly under the Ballard bridge on Shilshole Avenue.

Pono inspired restaurant opens in Ballard

The word “pono,” may not mean much to mainlanders, but ask any Hawaiian and they may say it means “righteousness ” or “in perfection.” There are countless uses for the word, but Jon Burgett, owner of Ballard’s newest hangout, Pono Ranch, says the word means, “organic balance and harmony.”

Set to fully open in the spring, right now the Pono Ranch started their soft opening with a drive up café, and the restaurant is open for brunch starting Feb. 10. To wet the whistle of Seahawks fans, the Pono Ranch bar will be open for the Super Bowl.

Burgett is a long time resident of Ballard. He has worked in the solar energy, general contracting and landscaping industries for most of his life. He owns Paving Stone and Supply across from Fred Meyer.

In his youth Burgett spent time in Honolulu teaching tennis and working in a restaurant. He has since spent a lot of time visiting friends and family in Hawaii and getting to know the tone of the culture there. Though not a Hawaiian themed restaurant, he wanted to share the Hawaiian feeling and the idea of pono by opening Pono Ranch.

Burgett has been in the swing of the project since May 2012. River Carey, chef and resident wood sculptor, crafted long Cedar and Big Maple logs into pieces resembling driftwood weathered by the elements. Combine the wood with industrial pieces like old train wheels, steam pumps, and huge anchors, viewers can see local history come to life. Tables, chairs and counter tops, are all fashioned with this in mind. Moreover, Burgett’s daughter, Rayna, 14, designed the Pono Ranch logo.

Jutting out toward the Ballard Bridge is the boom of a 1903 self-powered steam crane. It towers over a stage and seating area. The crane was acquired from the Snoqualmie Railway Museum and operated until 1972 on the docks of the Duwamish River.

“I think the bridge itself anchors the property. There is just a really good feeling I have about being here and doing what I have with the property,” said Burgett.

The space itself has been under construction for the last year. Burgett said that its inspired by a sustainable approach to living and respect for the local past. Almost everything in the courtyard is made from reused material. The fences are made from recycled pallets and metal from the original roof of the structure on the property. Moreover, the logs used to make the tables and rails were taken from a slag pile on the peninsula. There is also a full water filtration system and solar water heater for the facility. Furthermore, a solar heated thermal radiator system placed under the seating area will warm visitors during cooler evenings.

“The property just kind of fell into my lap, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I was looking for something more intriguing than what I have done before, and slowly I came to the realization of what you see. The biggest challenge was being creative and fully utilizing the space. It takes extra time to get the right feel.”

A centerpiece to the outdoor space is an olive tree, planted in a thermally warmed raised planter.

“What’s so cool about an olive tree is it has a bonsai feel with silver undertones in the leaves that glow in the light. It’s an evergreen tree that has its roots in ancient times, and I think it’s inspiring to see here.”

Moreover, Burgett is dedicated to buying locally and working with local business, such as Mario Vargas, who constructed the substantial paver and stone installations. Moreover, the sunshades above the seating area were made by Ballard Sails. The shades look like real sails and are fastened with self furlers – a maritime angle in the pono expression.

Burgett shares this creative expression with River Carey. From Port Townsend, Carey knew Burgett’s niece, and one night at Burgett’s parents annual Oyster Bash they discovered they had similar interests and starting talking about future projects.

“River is the artist in both the food and the wood. ...We came up with the simple concept of a place where people can come and enjoy a creative space, eat some really good food, and see some live music -- just a little oasis in Ballard.“

The drive up café features fast to-go breakfast items like pastries along with numerous espresso based beverages. They also offer fresh juices with recipes they’ve honed themselves to taste “pono delicious.”
For their current quickie breakfast menu they are offering in-house made biscuit sandwiches, burritos, quiche, croissants and gluten free items like shortbread and spinach and sun-dried tomato puff pastries.

Entrée items like breakfast raviolis and poached eggs will appear on the brunch menu Feb. 10.
This spring diners can look forward to steak, fish tacos, chicken and hand made burgers. Also, a Hawaiian favorite, poky, will appear on the bar menu with other savory snacks.

Once Pono Ranch is fully open, Burgett plans on individual grilling stations for customers in the outdoor areas that will be overseen by a grill master. He also plans for open mic nights and live music. However, Burgett said he doesn’t want to have a “party” feel, but rather a relaxing place where everyone is welcome.

Burgett plans to close at 11 p.m. nightly, except for special events. Portions of the venue will be available for private events going forward.

“We are really looking to invite people of all ages, as well as provide workers in the maritime industry, artists, and artisans a truly enjoyable space.”

To get a great picture of what’s happening, Burgett plans to mount an HD camera on the crane for a live feed from the Pono Ranch website ( as soon as its open.

Pono Ranch is located at 4502 Shilshole Ave. N.W. and the café is open 6
a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and

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