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Mar 19, 2009 10:38 PM

The Father's Office School of Etiquette or Why do I bother?


After a night of omakase a taste for surf led us to Father's Office, after a friend begged me to try it again, since they burned my burger the last time I went.

Here's the dialogue that offended (the other is the unkind waitress):

I'm allergic to blue cheese. Can you keep it off the burger?


But I'm allergic to it.

Take it off. There isn't much anyway. (THERE WAS!)

I think it will still bother me even if I take it off.

Then order something else.

Part 2:

Can you put a pickle on the side?

No way.


If you want a pickle go to Pavillion's.

I smile. She doesn't.


The burger was better this time. I felt like it had changed and shrunk. Is it the same french bread as a year ago? I remember more of a taste of basil and less pepper. Plus much less sweet barbecue sauce. Seems odd that they won't let us change anything but that the burger is quite different than before.

That's the drama.

  1. Why DO you bother? You know the policies.

    You were a rude diner. Which is not an excuse for a rude waitress. But, you did start it.

    Basil? BBQ sauce?

    31 Replies
    1. re: jaykayen

      I can "have it my way" when it comes to my Whopper at Burger King. I can have the French Laundry substitute an ingredient on their Chef's Tasting menu--no problem. So what's the issue with taking off some blue cheese (especially if a diner is allergic)?

      The whole "No substitutions, modifications, alterations or deletions" policy smacks of arrogance, of being difficult for diffculty's sake, perhaps to convey some sort of false sense of pretension. Get over yourself Sang--your food ain't that great.

      1. re: kevin h

        Sang is probably ignoring this anyway--as he should. FO is FO. Take it or leave it. You know the policies, so a rude response is expected.

        1. re: Adsvino

          I don't think epop was rude. Would their response have been appropriate if he hadn't been there before? I, too, have had some issues with the attitude of the service here.

      2. re: jaykayen

        i agree....if you been there know the routine. you should get something else besides burger!

        1. re: rickym13

          btw. i do love their burger and fries

        2. re: jaykayen

          Excuse me, but how was epop rude? ASking to protect from allergens? It didn't sound rude. ASking for a pickle is allowed by EMily Post.

          If confronted with such a waitress, I would have darn well gone to Pavilions, bought a pickle, come back, and put it on the plate when my burger came. But I would be polite about it.

          One can take it or leave it, and with FAther's Office, I choose to leave it. There are other places for burgers and beer that I can go to.

          But people should go if they want

          1. re: jaykayen

            Rude diner? Assuming the OP's dialogue is relatively accurate, I don't see it. Throw in some wiggle room for inflections - hmmm - might be possible.

            The OP's suggestion of the bbq sauce is probably the compote - in the same ball park as bbq sauce but with more onions.

            Sang doesn't like to have it his way - he must. It's his place, so if he wishes to dictate with an iron fist, that's his call. But a customer shouldn't be ridiculed or chastised by the wait staff for such a simple and legitimate request. I recently commented on a previous thread on how many of us (as customers) tend to be a little tough on folks in the service industry. Here, the table is turned. The waitress could have been more polite, considering the issue at hand. I remember getting similar attitude from one of their bartenders a few years back when I dared ask a question. The staff just seems to have free license to pop off at customers if they ask something - not right. So this waitress and probably every other customer-contact staff deals with this issue umpteen times a day - too bad. This policy is, shall I say, somewhat unique in the food industry as well as the service industry. Therefore, the staff needs to take this into consideration and adjust their daily on-duty temperament accordingly.

            My experience has been that the general attitude and temperament of a place of business starts right from the top. I've never met Sang, and I'm sure he's a nice guy, a sensitive guy, and probably a very particular guy. I've heard him interviewed - he seems very thoughtful and well-informed. With these assumptions in mind, I can't see Sang being uncaring about issues like the OP's. Would a simple, "Sorry - our bar's long-standing policy is..." or, "I can see how this would be a serious issue. Unfortunately... You know, the ______ is something you might consider instead." And God forbid, "Wow, I feel for you - let me see if I can talk to the kitchen..." I just threw that last one in since it was Friday - I get a little optimistic that better things are to come.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              As my mom used to say "he (Sang) doesn't give a rat's patootie" whether any of us like his rules, or not. And the funny thing is I find it refreshing in an Anti-LA way. I am certain beyond a reasonable doubt that the staff at FO's has had so many "trollish" challenges to their way that they simply shut everyone down in a similar fashion. At least you know what you're dealing with if you go in a second time. ;-D>

              1. re: Servorg

                You're absolutely right. And whether Sang gives a rat's patootie or not, it just seems in great contrast to what I pick up from him being interviewed - the most recent I heard was last year when he was guest DJ on KCRW. Whatever the case, I think there's preempting someone, then there's preemptive premeditated strike with intent to dis. That's where I have the problem, and that's why I'll probably never go back. I love the food, I respect Sang's taste in food and drink, but their ogre-like attitude brings out the adolescence in me - and I was not a good boy in my younger days...

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  Sang doesn't give a patootie? Are you kidding? All this banter is exactly the reason for his passive aggressive policies in the first place: to create ongoing buzz and "controversy."

                  He can hide behind the chef's dish-integrity veil (and I know dozens of folks here will now rise to defend that secondary excuse) but the real reason for his burger-nazi schtick is marketing ploy. And a very effective one at that.

                  No matter how much anyone thinks the negative comments posted here will ward people away, and they will, the truth is that this kind of attention only serves to induce more trial and repeat business than it deters.

                  Remember the old adage: there's no such thing as bad publicity.

                  So it's a big net win for him.

                  1. re: wutzizname

                    >>I sense that He can hide behind the chef's dish-integrity veil (and I know dozens of folks here will now rise to defend that secondary excuse)<<

                    It may very well be a PR angle or a product of his policy. We may never know which. But IMHO, I do sense Sang is a person who feels strongly about his vision, and this is his vehicle for personifying it.

                    1. re: wutzizname

                      Yep, rude is their "thing." Kind of like singing waiters or a fifties diner. Not sure why so many don't get that.

                      1. re: cls

                        Are you kidding me? You can't see the difference between singing in a diner and telling a customer to go to Pavillions if they want a pickle?

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          Really????It's their schtick.
                          My brother used to work at the infamous Sid's steakhouse where they were told to kick people out who asked for salt. The place was packed. Trust me, the employees at Father's Office are waiting for someone to ask for a change or substitution... and they love it.

                          1. re: cls

                            Ahh....Sid's. I miss that place.

                  2. re: Servorg

                    I'm all for being real and can't stand the phoniness at most places. "So glad to see you again," when I've never been there before, etc.

                    This was different. They were going out of their way to be rude. No sense of humor about it. No pizazz. Just an excuse to be belligerent with no purpose but to show either her misery or my irrelevance.

                    1. re: epop

                      I think, unless you've walked a mile in the moccasins of the staff at FO's, epop it's hard to judge just how much crap they probably take from folks whose only purpose in stopping in is to be as trollish as possible by challenging the house "rules" - a la the comment about "adolescent" behavior from Bulavinaka elsewhere in this thread.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        Hey - did I hear someone callin' me out?!?!? Who wants some?!?! ;)

                        It's been a long while since I was last there, but I never felt that the customers were deliberately trying to challange the policy. Most seemed pretty stunned by this, which I infer as just not being familiar with how strict it is. But hey - Santa Monica is a very different place than it was back in the 70s-80s when I used to spend a lot more time there. And that's why I now almost exclusively perform touch & go landings in that town now. In the lingo of my beachside youth, too many kooks nowadays...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Really suggest, in all chow seriousness, that if you haven't visited the new location in LA/CC that you try it some nice sunny day or balmy evening and sit outside with some friends and share some food - hell, don't even get the demon burger - and have some great beer or a nice cocktail and see what you think. It's a unique place, (in the good sense) for sure.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            The next time that the stars are properly aligned (meaning we can dump the kids at my parents' place) and we're cruisin' serious carno-beerage action in CC, we just may do so. Your word is gold in my book.

                        2. re: Servorg

                          I gotta respectfully disagree servorg. I don't care how much crap they take. If they're going to buck convention, they should be prepared to take some grief. By that same token, I do agree there's little point in challenging the policy when they've made it clear they won't waiver...for anyone.

                      2. re: Servorg

                        Exactly right. This post should end the debate. What all are failing to understand is the amount of challenges a restaurant face. FO--maybe in the millions? Therefore, any trying to "have it your way" is met with derision. Amen.

                        1. re: Adsvino

                          Again, no disrespect, but what you don't seen to get is that FO made a CHOICE to adopt this policy. If you CHOOSE to adopt a controversial policy, you have NO BUSINESS deriding your customers for being confused or frustrated as long as they're polite. There is no excuse -- none! -- for snottily telling someone who asks simply for a pickle -- a pickle! -- to go to Pavillions.

                          I'm not saying the customer is always right. I have no problem with servers responding to rudeness in kind. But if FO can't explain its controversial policies politely, if the default of servers is derision, something is seriously wrong. It blows my mind that otherwise sensible hounds like yourself are actually excusing this kind of behavior.

                          PS: I've been informed at fine dining establishments that substitutions (e.g., on a tasting menu) were not allowed. The server was unfailingly polite about it. But if he'd been anything less, I would have been in his face and the maitre di's complaining loudly about the rudeness.

                          1. re: a_and_w

                            Correct. I've been to FO a couple dozen times and have never received anything but polite, helpful service. If an individual server proved to be so rude, there's no reason not to speak to the manager about it. But a leap seems to have been made here that the server's attitude was a sanctioned part of the no-modifications policy. Instead, consider the possibility that this server was exercising her right to free will. And that her choice of exercise may have been grounds for censure or firing, just as it would at any other restaurant.

                            1. re: wutzizname

                              They've been genuinely nice when I have been there. Maybe one of the servers a little less so, but they train their bartenders/waitstaff pretty well, at least at the Culver City location.

                          2. re: Adsvino

                            Adsvino. I find it interesting that you condone this level of rudness at FO and even defend it but you can't tolerate the "attitude" at Mozza. What makes this different and acceptable?

                            1. re: Porthos

                              Cause it's a bar? Truth be told, I've never had anything but great service at FO cause I know the rules.

                              1. re: Adsvino

                                So by that reasoning, people that complain about the noise at Mozza or expect butter or olive oil with their bread should also know better right?

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  I think they're telling us that it is our job to shut up and sit down, Porthos.

                      3. re: jaykayen

                        I don't think epop was rude. Regardless of whether epop knew the policies, the waitress didn't need to be so snarky; it was her duty to inform him of their "take it or leave it" ways politely.

                        This place sounds like one of those "soup-nazi" or "sushi-nazi" kinda place, discussed every now and then on the General board. For the unsuspecting diner/customer, those places do seem very rude at first glance. However, if the food's good and you've had good, friendly service, those kinda places can grow on you....

                        1. re: OCAnn

                          I happen to like Nozawa a lot, the soup Nazi in NYC is terse and adorable in his own way and don't mind the crepe guy on Sawtelle, though I think he's hiding too much.
                          This, however, had no entertainment value.

                      4. There has been no change to the burger or the policy. Not even a little bit. The burger was never correctly considered big. It was really more rich and filling.

                        Perhaps the policy is lame. But that argument is an entirely different point. Like the surf you had a taste for, you can yell and scream and pound the water with your fists, but the tide rolls on as it ever does.

                        Why did you bother knowing full well that the policy you dislike was still in effect? Perhaps to yell and scream?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Frommtron

                          FO - still separating the wheat from the chaff in LA! lol

                          1. re: Frommtron

                            "There has been no change to the burger"

                            I was at the Culver City location just recently and I swear the burger patty shrank or the bun got bigger. Regardless, a dang tasty burger...

                          2. Summing up the above and restating the obvious:

                            Father's Office is known for their arrogant, inflexible policies.

                            Some people don't mind it. They even consider it part of the "charm." Hence the crowds.

                            Others find it offensive, and thus should stay away, and/or not complain if they choose to return after their first visit.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: wutzizname

                              I don't read the fine print when I enter a restaurant. So I didn't notice it.

                              The allergy, one would think, would be honored. As I said, my friend urged me to try it again after I once had a totally burned burger (not well-done but burned). I don't care what their reputation is. How would I know that it was a sin to ask for a pickle?

                              I find it ridiculous that people think I was rude to ask.

                              This is a board where people post their opinions and experiences about restaurants and that's what I did. Sounds like the faithful are clinging to their Bibles...

                              1. re: epop

                                No way were you the rude one. A burger without ketchup and pickles? And the alergy issue? I dont get it. Why do patrons subject themselves to abuse? And the waitress with the smart mouth? You have convinced me not to go there. I can make a great burger anytime I want. I dont need them. What happened to the idea that the customer is always right?

                                1. re: Baron

                                  I understand Chef Sang wants you to eat his creation the way he makes it. This is not The Counter, you do not get to buikld your own, they have to know that they are gonna alienate some people with this stand but they do not care. They are packed every night of the week.

                                  1. re: Burger Boy

                                    Therein lies the rub, yes?

                                    It's unfortunate that, because they're busy every night, it's somehow acceptable to treat customers poorly - the old, "screw you, I have a line out the door" attitude is just a shame.

                                    Surly waitresses and even surlier chefs are not charming, not ever. I don't care if they're serving golden eggs from a golden goose, it's just not necessary to treat customers in this fashion.

                                    I daresay that the waitresses bad attitude (and yes, even that of the chef) would be tempered if they suddenly experienced a decrease in business.

                                  2. re: Baron

                                    I've come to the same conclusion as you about making a better burger at home - really. And I agree with you on just about everything else. The one thing that I personally don't believe in is that the customer is always right. But I also don't believe in the way that the staff at FO gets away with abusing customers. I believe in each side being civil and friendly to each other. Not much of a request in my eyes, but it seems more and more folks and places have a serious problem with that...

                                2. re: wutzizname

                                  I wanted to try their burger again. When I got there I wanted a pickle. Nothing more than that, Frommtron.

                                  1. re: epop

                                    it good to be "THE BOSS",
                                    owner/chef wants his burger to be just that way,
                                    customers have the 'right' to take it or leave it.

                                    1. re: epop

                                      I'm sure they don't have pickles there, which might have been the reason the waitress responded with "go to Pavillion's," which is about two blocks away.

                                      FO is what it is. Perhaps this post will remind people that they have a rigid no substitutions policy (which I think might have been mentioned in other posts about FO ;)) so that those who require substitutions can go elsewhere.

                                      1. re: mollyomormon

                                        Yet another place that will never see a penny of mine; I suppose there's no salt and pepper on the tables as well? One wouldn't dare tamper with perfection by adding a pinch of black pepper!

                                        I hate places like Fathers Orifice, but that's just my opinion; thanks to CH, I know the "etiquette" and "rules" of the place and I know to stay away. Your mileage may vary.

                                        Who wants to meet me at Irv's?


                                        1. re: mollyomormon

                                          Tried the burger for the first time last Friday. I dont get it? It was average at best.

                                        2. re: epop

                                          If you knew the policy going in, then I must agree that you should not have asked for substitutions, regardless of what you want. However, that is no excuse for the rudeness of the waitress. It seems to me there was a lack of respect from both parties.

                                          (And I'm not saying this as a FO fan, because I'm not. I've never been there, and I doubt I'll ever go.)

                                      2. Dump these chumps, it sounds like you will not get what you want. I am gonna reccomend my favorite 26 Beach, big surpirse to anyone who reads my posts. 26 Beach does a great burger of their own creation, not a build it yourself type place, they make their own sauces and hamburger buns. What more do you want and if you have allergies they will work with you. Enjoy Life, eat a burger today1

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: Burger Boy

                                          O.k.....gonna have to level with us. Do you live next door? Or, are you a part-owner? Do you *ever* eat anywhere else that you would recommend to us hounds:) giggling at you a bit.

                                          1. re: Burger Boy

                                            Gotta agree, B-boy. Tried them for the 1st time this week and the burger was awesome. Perfectly done to order. I know westsidegal recs the salads, and actually had that in mind when I went, but didn't feel like a sweet salad, and couldn't resist the chimichurri burger.

                                            And after reading all of this, and trying to get in FO, realized they're not open for lunch?! Is the one in CC open at lunchtime? Well, if the OP was me and the waitress or bartender was that rude, I would've gotten up and walked out. And possibly thrown my drink in their face! There are too many good burgers in this town, and no one should put up with rudeness, period. This isn't NYC, for goodness sake!

                                            1. re: Phurstluv

                                              >>And possibly thrown my drink in their face!<<

                                              Your drink is on me, or on them, or... I'll buy your drink!

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                You're on!!

                                                But I'm dead serious, I've worked in all aspects of hospitality, except for being a chef, and I would never have thought to treat a customer with such disdain! They don't want to sub, I get it. But to be surly for no good reason when answering questions from a patron, who, for all they know could have been a reviewer, is just plain stupid. But it sounds like the owner sets the tone, and probably requires his staff to be rude, even makes them miserable himself. Hey you don't like your job, then quit!

                                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                                  My exact sentiments - see my first post above in response to jaykayen. We must have been separated at birth, so I retract my drink offer or else we might be breakin' some law... .-)

                                                  Regardless of anyone even having the notion that the OP was wrong, or should have known better, there's absolutely no excuse for wait staff to respond in that manner. Zero.

                                              2. re: Phurstluv

                                                I think westside gal and myself need to do lunch, she can get a salad and myself a burger and we can share!.............LOL She is nowhrer to be seen in this post. I am sure she is leaving the burgers to me. Westside, have you tried any of the new salads they are doing at lunch?

                                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                                  FO in Santa Monica is open for lunch on weekends.

                                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                                    Does that include Fridays, like the Culver City FO?

                                              3. I've never been treated rudely at Father's Office, but I knew the rules beforehand.

                                                I have no food allergies, but I am a type 1 diabetic-- and I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (did I say never ever?) ask a restaurant to accommodate my disease. NEVER.

                                                Instead, I eat less of something, or I don't order it. The way I see it, my world's not going to end if they won't hold the carbs from the burger. Who cares? It's food. One meal. It's just not that big a deal to me. I'd rather have the experience of tasting a dish the way it's meant to be tasted, even if it's just one bite, rather than modify it into oblivion in order to satisfy my body's curious metabolistic whims.

                                                Case in point-- I spent 7 months traveling through SE Asia, China, Korea and Japan just so I could taste dishes how they're intended to be served. I don't particularly like cauliflower, but I would never ask them to hold it from a curry dish at an indian restaurant. Instead, I eat it as intended (or don't order it) and more often than not, it's tolerable-- or, strangely enough, pretty tasty-- despite my preconcieved notions on cauliflower.

                                                Mr Taster