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REVIEW w/ pics: Father's Office

Last May, Bon Vivant and I decided to host a series of outings where we would take my dining group for a different "burger" experience every month until the end of the year. For the first "Great Burger Quest", we went to Father's Office in Santa Monica for the famous Office Burger.

Hearing about its small space and how crowds line up to get in, we got there about 45 minutes before it opened and thank goodness we did. Half hour before the doors opened, there was already a long line behind us, even though it was a holiday weekend and it was for lunch. Amazing. What people will do for good beer and goof food.

Finally, the hallowed portals opened and we streamed in towards the counter to place our orders. Everyone in my group went for the burgers and fries, either sweet potato or regular. I did the same, but ordered a starter of spicy olives and almonds, which were quite yummy by the way. Now the thing about the Office Burger is that substitions are not allowed nor can you ask them to remove and/or add additional ingredients. What you get is what they give you.

The only choice you had was how you wanted your burger cooked and even then, those in our group who ordered differently still got their burgers medium (and a couple of instances more medium rare). From what I've heard in the past, the restaurant preference for their Office Burger is medium. Asking otherwise is apparently ineffectual, so you might as well just accept that and move on.

Before the burgers made their appearance, out came the french fries. The majority of the group ordered the sweet potato "frites" a la carte and wouldn't you know it, the lightest, crispiest, most flavorful sweet potato fries I've ever had showed up in a mini metal shopping cart

What was sad was I didn't understand at first what the deal was with the shopping cart, but then the lightbulb went on. Shopping cart for "frites" a la carte. Get it? Hopefully, you the reader, caught on much faster than I did. By the way, can you tell by my waxing so poetically about the sweet potato fries that I adored them? Oh my gosh, truly the best I've had so far.

Finally, the famous Office Burger arrives and I have to admit to being a bit puzzled when it was first put before me. In fact, I had to take a peek at everyone else's Office Burgers to make sure that I didn't get the wrong item. What surprised me was the bread. Instead of a bun, it reminded me more of a bread or French roll that would be used for a submarine sandwich. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has two definitions for a hamburger:

1 a: ground beef b: a patty of ground beef

2: a sandwich consisting of a patty of hamburger in a split typically round bun

Hmmm...by using the word "typical", what defines a burger becomes more open to interpretation. Although, when you look at the patty melt, perhaps not. Hamburger meat is used, but between two slices of bread; hence, the different name. Maybe, the Office Burger is more of a Burger Sub or Burger Roll. Oh well, it's amazing how easy it is to question things when the "order of the universe" is somehow shifted, even in something as simple as the lowly hamburger.

Anyway, putting the contemplation aside, the Office Burger was tremendous. The combination of the spicy arugula, the sweetly caramelized onions, the pungent bleu cheese, along with a burger patty that was moist and cooked just right made me a happy burger girl. After my first couple of bites, that whole adage of a "rose by any other name" came to play.

Burger bun or roll, this is a truly excellent hamburger. To be honest, this was my first real experience with a "gourmet" burger and I'm hooked. Not that having a basic burger still won't hit the spot, but when you use ingredients that take food to another level, you look at it with new eyes and simply want more.

Although it's been a few months since my first visit, I can still remember each and every bite of that burger and the sweet potato fries and I am more than ready to take the drive all the way from the Eastside down Santa Monica way very soon. Maybe, I'll even see some of you there as well.

To see pics, go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...

Father’s Office
1018 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
http://www.fathersoffice.com/

Thanks,
Abby
http://pleasurepalate.blogspot.com/

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  1. Spot on! That was almost the same exact experience and reaction we had upon our first visit a couple of years ago. I've yet to find an establishment that is able to generate the kind of flavor that FO's burgers generate. The pics are great, thank you. They made me hungry!

    1. As usual, another great review and one that makes us all hungry. When are you going to get over to Tops on Colorado to sample the Kobe burger? It would be interesting to hear your take on it. The Father's Office burger looked so yummy in the pictures but it ain't cheap, is it?

      1. I live just down the street from Father's Office but haven't gone because I don't eat blue cheese. Has anyone been lucky enough to request Office Burger sans cheese?

        4 Replies
        1. re: fdb

          You probably know that one cannot request a burger sans cheese (or any other ingredient) at FO.

          But as a foodie, how can you not love the simple combo of Gruyère and Maytag blue cheeses on that burger?

          Give it a shot.

          1. re: vlad

            I'm ok with Gruyere but unfortunately I just can't handle blue cheese, but I may just scrape it off as hrhboo suggested below. It sounds too good not to give it a shot. Thanks.

          2. re: fdb

            No substitutions at all, but if you really can't stand blue cheese you can always scrape it off. The burger itself doesn't have a strong flavor of blue cheese at all. The flavors from the onions, bacon, cheeses and arugula mingle into a taste sensation that is much more than the sum of its parts.

            1. re: fdb

              The flavor of the cheese and the arugula are VERY mild. I wasn't even sure if I had cheese on mine, and I mistook the arugula for spinach at first. I had to taste the arugula separately to make sure.

            2. Thanks for the food porn! My lord.

              1. Oh my...it's def. time to make a trip to Father's Office. Next time, try the other items on the menu. I haven't been disappointed, yet. Their beet salad is my absolute fave - I crave it, it's so good.

                1 Reply
                1. Glad you liked it. I like the burger and fries but the atmosphere and service just doesn't do it for me. I thought maybe with time I'd feel different but it hasn't happened yet.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: snooze button

                    Try going for lunch. It's not as frenetic in the daytime as in the evening.

                    1. re: snooze button

                      My wife felt the same way you do.

                      i respect Soon's perspective (Yang Soon is his name right?!?!)

                      He thought there was a lack of true gastropubs in los angeles that took food and beer very seriously. He wanted a place that felt like a true gastroPUB and not a restaurant. The food is so good that it attracts people looking for a restaurant not a PUB, and there in lies the problem.

                      This is unfortunate since I have been unable to convince my wife to return.

                      The new culver city branch due to open soon might be a better fit?!? Who knows.

                      1. re: jlrobe

                        I went during lunchtime on Sunday and had the same impression. Maybe someday it'll grow on me. Cool-- I didn't know about another one opening up. *crosses fingers*

                        1. re: jlrobe

                          The problem is, it doesn't feel like a PUB so much as a Bruins defensive line on fourth and one.

                          I don't just like pubs. I LOVE pubs. But that ain't no pub.

                          1. re: Bjartmarr

                            hmm. Well, it sorta feels like a pub to me. Far more pub like than Library Ale house. Not an ole irish pub on the south side of boston, but a pub none the less.

                            Of course the crowd is brentwood kids and UCLA grad students and always packed.

                        2. re: snooze button

                          I am with you. From the gastropub angle you would think that Father's Office would basically function as my living room/kitchen. As it is I am so turned off by the service and atmosphere that I go only when taking visitors. I drink at better bars, and I'll make my own damn burger.

                        3. Thanks Abby. Great review! :)

                          For those that have been there, what Days / Times are the best for Minimal Wait Times? Abby mentions going there 45 minutes before they open for Lunch and there was a long line!

                          Thanks.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: exilekiss

                            Weekend afternoons or after 9 early in the week are the times I've had the best luck.

                            1. re: exilekiss

                              Right when they open during the week.

                              1. re: whatsfordinner

                                I live nearby and have never had trouble walking over, spur of the moment, after 7:30 (as long as it's not tourist season, i.e. summertime). I've never waited in line, not once.

                            2. How much is the Father's Office burger? $12? $14? The menu on the website doesn't give prices...

                              1 Reply
                              1. "The combination of the spicy arugula, the sweetly caramelized onions, the pungent bleu cheese, along with a burger patty that was moist and cooked just right"

                                The Father's Office burger, by which so many Angelenos seem to compare all other burgers, is just THE ONE written above? The website menu included bacon. Will be visiting L.A. soon & just wanted to make sure in case we found ourselves in this vicinity at lunchtime. So, no choices like The Counter (not that I'm saying they're the best)? It's just that I LOVE a good hamburger sans extras & this seems to be a board fav besides In 'n Out.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: ceekskat

                                  I agree with the CW that father's Office has the best burger in southern California, but I seem to be in the minority in that I put the Counter's burgers in my top five.

                                  Time will tell if either place can maintain that level of quality after their expansion.

                                  1. re: maxzook

                                    I ordered a Counter burger a few weeks ago. Fantastic! One of my all-time great L.A. burger experiences.

                                    I dragged my wife there and attempted to repeat the experiment. We got a disappointing, bland, soggy burger.

                                    I adore the Father's Office burger, but its consistency is what impresses me most. Every visit, the burger is perfect -- as long as you like caramelized onions, blue cheese and arugula. It's one of those instant classics like Keller's "Oysters and Pearls" or Puck's "Jewish Pizza"; It'll never change and you wouldn't want it to.

                                  2. re: ceekskat

                                    Definitely worth the effort to at the very least to have tried it. I'd kick myself in the behind if I was anywhere in the vicinity and not go there.

                                    In-N-Out is a icon in burgers but comparing it to FO's is like comparing apples to oranges. 2 very distinct and very different burgers. Both good but in their own ways.

                                    1. re: Joe

                                      Maybe a sandwich/burger hybrid? Until this thread I assumed Father's Office was a burger place. I know one of my favorite "sandwiches" is the chicken gruyere at Oakville Grocery in Palo Alto. Thin sauteed chicken breast with carmelized red onions (in balsamic vinegar?), melted gruyere & pancetta on baguette all grill pressed to perfection. I also love a good pastrami & have already inquired on another currently active thread.

                                      1. re: ceekskat

                                        Kind of like that, yes. The burger itself is not on a traditional bun with traditional condiments. It's on a French roll (I think) with non traditional seasonings.
                                        One the most delicious things I've bit into. I can't believe it's called a hamburger. It's almost an insult!

                                        1. re: ceekskat

                                          If you're just going to go once. Def get the burger. But IMO it'd be a mistake to think of this place as just burgers. Sang is really good, keep an eye out for his specials. Small plates are great, love the boquerones (white anchovies), olives, sopresada... and a small but interesting selection of wine.

                                      2. re: ceekskat

                                        This isnt 2000 anymore. Fathers office is not the only place to get a great burger and not the only place that serves up artisinal beers either.

                                        hollywood has a bunch.

                                        Bar Marmont sliders
                                        The Bowery, 25 degrees, hungry cut, and especailly lucky devil's have great burgers and cocktails and/or beers.

                                        I like the kobe beef burgers at Ebizo's in manhattan beach, where I live (not worth the drive if you don;t live here)

                                        Royal Clayton's, Redwood Bar, BBQ king have good burgers downtown.

                                        There is a place in the brentwood country mart on 26th and san vicenti that also has decent burgers. There is also a place near abbot kinney in venice that has a great burger.

                                        Baby Blues in Venice does a great burger if you LOVE blue cheese (there you can definitely taste it).

                                        If you don't like the crowd, the policy, and if you don't crave fantastic beer, then don't go to father's office JUST for the burger.

                                        Most popular and fancy places in LA make a fancy burger nowadays that actually tastes really good. All of them use "kobe" (read Angus+) beef, all cook their burgers medium to medium rare, all use artisan cheeses.

                                        1. re: jlrobe

                                          Too true. In fact, the best beer list combined with yummy food I've seen is at Boneyard Bistro.

                                          And the owner/chef will make substitutions or alterations to the dishes and food, even though he is an artiste in the kitchen! No Yoon Snoot there! Plus, you don't have to beat your wy to a table.

                                          Why go to Father's Office

                                          1. re: Diana

                                            Diana,

                                            good rec on boneyard, I forgot to add that one.

                                            Village Idiot, 3rd stop, and the york shouldnt be overlooked either.

                                            Although the burger at 3rd stop isnt on par with the other elite places, it is decent. Plus, only 5 bucks for ALL beers. It has hidden snootiness. It forces bud light drinkers to subsidize craft belgium beer drinkers instead of refusing to offer it.

                                            LA will truly turn the corner on the beer appreciation map when 3rd stop is forced to forgoe this policy because everyone orders the craft beer.

                                            PS: I digress from burgers to beer. The reason is because I think of father's office as one of the pioneers for craft beer in los angeels more than I think of it as the pioneer of the fancy burger.

                                      3. Has anyone else who's been recently noticed a change in bread? I used to remember it being a brioche type roll, but last night it was closer to a french loaf. Also, seemed to be light on the blue cheese.

                                        Despite these minor "issues" it was still well worth the trip on the way back from the airport and we were lucky to only have a 10 minute or so wait at 8pm on a Saturday night.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: VealParmGuy

                                          VealParm,

                                          The bread is the same that I've always remembered it, a demi baguette type without a tough or heavy crust.
                                          I'm with you on the bleu cheese. I'm not a fan of bleu cheese and my burger enjoyment would usually come down to how much and how strong the bleu cheese was that day. I found that the flavour would sometimes overwhelm the beef and other ingredients. I took a year+ break from FO and came back about 5 months ago and have had 4 burgers since then. Every burger has had just a hint of bleu cheese and I couldn't tell if I've become more accepting of the flavour or if there was a change of suppliers or amount. Either way, I like the balance so much better now and the beef tastes more like it did when we first started going a few years ago.
                                          I do think the regular fries could use a little improvement. I enjoy fries more elsewhere whether it be BLD, Village Idiot, or even Wood Ranch.

                                          1. re: Wolfgang

                                            The blue cheese is weaker. i love bleu cheese, and my wife hates it. together, we make a great blue cheese taste testing team. Go to baby blues in venice if you want TONS of blue cheese.

                                        2. OK, now that we've opened the thread to other great burgers: Philly West. Classic burger (though on a roll rather than a bun), no crowds, easy parking, half the price.

                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/456360

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: nosh

                                            Philly West RULES for chill scene, good beer, and FANTASTIC cheesesteaks! However, i cannot recommend the burger there. the one time i got it, it was WAY over cooked, dry, and smothered in nasty mayonaise. i was completely and utterly unimpressed. GET THE CHEESESTEAK!

                                            1. re: DeLobster

                                              Your description of Philly West's burger is absolutely nothing like the burger I have now eaten half a dozen times.

                                              Each and every time I've had it it's been cooked about medium and was run down your wrist juicy. I brought an editor I work for the last time -- a hard to please New Yawkah -- and he loved the burger, too (which they sort of talked him out of ordering well done.)

                                              1. re: DeLobster

                                                Agreed on the burger. I was sorely disappointed after having gone there on nosh and PaulF's raves. It wasn't WAY overcooked, but pretty tasteless. My dining companions also got the burger and was equally unimpressed with her also overcooked burger. Loved the service and atmosphere, but probably wouldn't go again unless for something else, like the cheesesteaks. FO's burger is MUCH better.

                                                1. re: baloney

                                                  yeah, Philly West pales in comparison to FO's, but that's not really a fair comparison. it's like comparing a ferrari to a miata. maybe the burgers at Philly West are good when i'm not there. i've only tried it one time. i could give it another shot, but what's the point? i'll take the cheesesteak any day.

                                                  1. re: DeLobster

                                                    Me and nosh will meet you two at the flagpole at 3 o'clock.

                                                    1. re: PaulF

                                                      They deny it to the hilt, but I think the Philly West burger is much better when the co-owner (about 50 or so, salt & pepper hair) is manning the grill (almost all lunches) than the younger Hispanic cook (dinners and evenings). He cooks them properly medium rare and is much more discreet with the mayo. Order accordingly.

                                                      1. re: nosh

                                                        nosh, I did have the burger at lunch though I couldn't see who was cooking that day.

                                                        PaulF, be advised that as a chick, I will pull hair.

                                                        1. re: nosh

                                                          I have only been there for lunch.

                                                          I think that's a clue ... ?

                                                        2. re: PaulF

                                                          hehe. bring it on. i will go head to head in a burger-brawl any time. nosh may be right (below). i have noticed that the bearded white guy nails the cheesesteaks during the day. he always piles on the onions, shrooms and peppers to the hilt and never scrimps on the meat.