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Underwhelmed at Father’s Office

Last night I finally had a chance to go to Father’s Office in Santa Monica. I keep seeing their name on lists of “Best Burgers in LA”. So I order “The Office Burger” and a side of Frites. The fries were more like warm potato straws, interesting change of pace, but not my fry of choice. Now the burger, the bun was fresh, the grilled onions, while good, were a little overwhelming. The biggest problem was the burger itself. The patty had the consistence of meatloaf. Very dense and over ground, like meat particleboard. And while I like that for meatloaf, I hate it in burgers. So I won’t be going back. The pork-pie hatted hipster crowd did help either. But if the food rocked I could deal with that, but it doesn’t.

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  1. If you do go back (which it sounds like you probably won't), try the sweet potato fries. The regular fries aren't really my preference in fry style either. As for the burger, to each his own, but it remains at the top of my short list of LA burgers. It's still one of the only places where I can consistently (although not always) get my burger cooked rare as ordered.

    1. Meatloaf? I honestly find it hard to believe that the FO burger could be compared to meatloaf. How did you get it cooked? Anything over medium is a killjoy. The burgers I've had were never that dense. They were thick yes, but juicy and a joy to eat. And yes, get the sweet potato fries. Their beer selection is also great.

      1. I also have to skip the burger, but it's because of my aversion to onions. I had the FO Burger three times, and always liked the meat, but the onions kill it for me. Hey, I tried!

        Now, the duck prosciutto salad on the other hand is my favorite salad in town. So good with a nice beer! I'm an FO fan.

        1. You need to give FO one more chance.

          Go to the other FO location, at Helms. The crowd is considerably less hipper than thou. It's a lot more spacious.

          As mentioned by another hound earlier, don't get the regular fries, get the sweet potato fries. And get the burger medium rare.

          1 Reply
          1. re: J.L.

            i've been to the SM location a lot and i love the burger. BUT i went to culver city once (fairly recently) and the burger was different. it was bigger, denser, and incredibly salty. even though i think this was probably just some new staff in the kitchen or some other random mistake - i will not go back there. it was so bad, i couldn't even eat the second half. also, i order the burger medium and at CC location, but they made it medium well and took on the meatloaf consistency. but that's how burgers are. you need to eat it a bit red to achieve a soft mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

            oh - and agree about the fries. but the sweet potato fries are the bomb.

          2. You're not the first to dis FO's burgers. Not to mention, the surly attitude you get there, like you're lucky they're waiting on you.

            There are so many great burgers in this town, I wouldn't even bother with FO. It's not worth it at all, IMHO.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Phurstluv

              I've only been to the Culver City location and I've never received any surly attitude from the people there. Most of the time, any attitude I see is from customers who think they're meant to be waited on hand and foot in a bar.

              1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                I've only been to the SM location, probably about 20 times. Not once was a bartender or runner surly.
                The patrons, on the other hand, could use a lesson every now and then in courtesy.

                1. re: Wolfgang

                  2nd time I'm posting this - ch monitors have it in for my thoughts today!!! Wish they would tell you WHY they deem some posts delete-worthy!!!

                  You probably never asked for a sub and that's why you didn't get attitude. Those who dare to ask ?s or express a different taste for their burgers are the ones who get the surly attitude from. i've heard and read this many times before.

                  I dare you to go back and ask for your burger without the bleu cheese and see how they react. Who knows, maybe if they recognize you as a regular, you will be the first to get what you want on the burger. And then you can tell us all about how pleasant they were! It would be a fun test.

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    My friend does not like onions and requested a burger without them.

                    The answer:
                    "Sorry, but we don't allow any modification in the burger, it's our policy."

                    That wasn't bad at all. My friend bought the burger, took the onions off, and still proclaimed it the best burger he ever had. (I actually prefer the value of 25 Degrees, though FO's has better taste IMO.)

                    They were also very patient in explaining what beers to try out as well as the highlights of each, as we were beer noobs interested in trying their selection.

                      1. re: Phurstluv

                        If you have ever read anything about Father's Office, you know that one of the first things mentioned is that they don't allow modifications. It's not a secret policy that they enforce with only patrons they don't like or something; they simply don't allow modifications. It seems rude to me to go in knowing that and then request a modification.

                      2. re: kainzero

                        Please, please, please - I beg of you - don't encourage anymore people to go to FO's! Let's tell all of them that the FO's workers are so mean they smite you with bleu cheese balls if you ask them any questions. Yeah, maybe then I'll have a better chance in getting in without waiting.... ;-D>

                            1. re: vinosnob

                              Fourth! There are too many restaurants in this town for anyone to bother with this nightmare. The burger is fine, and the beer selection was more impressive a year ago before LA's beer culture started hit it's stride. These days there isn't anything they serve they you can't find some where else, and anywhere has better atmosphere than FO SM.

                      3. re: Phurstluv

                        I don't ask them to remove the bleu cheese because of two reasons. One, I actually like it on burgers. Two, I knew going in that I couldn't make subs or even have ketchup. That's their policy. I think the burger is great as is. Sure, I'd prefer maybe a different cheese, but I still think the burger is fantastic the way it's presented.

                        My opinion is that sometimes, restaurant patrons expect everything their way, even when it isn't suppose to be that way. If it's customization you want on a burger try 25 Degrees or The Counter. Even Burger King or Five Guys will do that for you. But I believe a restaurant/bar has every right to set their policies. If you can't take it, go somewhere else. It'll save me a spot at the bar when I want a great burger and a chance to try a new beer.

                      4. re: Wolfgang

                        Surly is probably too strong, but they can be patronizing and rude. I don't need them second guessing my drink orders, and if they have a draconian "no modifications" policy, they should explain that fact politely without the attitude.

                        Regarding the OP's review, it sounds to me like you got a bad burger. There are plenty of reasons to complain about FO, but the patty should not taste like meatloaf and/or particle board.

                      5. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                        "Most of the time, any attitude I see is from customers who think they're meant to be waited on hand and foot in a bar."

                        Spot on...It's a BAR. They don't allow kids for a reason. It's just unfortunate for me, somebody who loves beer that I have to put up with so many clueless people who wander into this place looking for somebody to seat them or bitching about ketchup not being available.

                        I actually prefer SM to be honest. The burger just seems better in comparison. It's a real shame since I live so much closer to the Helms location

                        1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                          No, see, it's NOT just a bar. It presents itself as a gastropub, which implies something more.

                    1. To each their own. I think the burger is outstanding and I went in HIGHLY skeptical about how good it would be (and I hate bleu cheese). It won me over despite all that.

                      To anyone who has not been: don't do SM, do Culver. It's much much much easier to get a table there and order. I'd also recommend Friday lunch as an easier time to grab a table. I've been twice now and while I couldn't always sit outside, getting a table was never a problem.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: odub

                        And FO in SM doesn't do lunch during the week.

                      2. Does FO's policy allow BYO condiments or providing a knife to remove any unwanted ones that come with the burger?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Akitist

                          I think like most restaurants they don't want you bringing in your own additives to avoid any problem with complaints afterward, or people not feeling well and blaming it on FO when the bar can't be sure what was added to it's food by someone who then blames FO for the problem they created themselves.

                          1. re: Akitist

                            I've heard of people sneaking in ketchup for the fries. But honestly, I'd much rather dip them in the garlic aioli they give you. Outside food is prohibited as far as I know.

                            You can definitely get utensils at FO. It's usually the bleu cheese that most people find issue with.

                            1. re: Akitist

                              People have been advised to "go get a pickle at Gelson's" so I assume it's ok.

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                From the FO website:

                                We do not provide table service. All orders must be placed at the bar including take out orders.

                                Please be aware of our menu policy. We do not permit any substitutions or modifications to any of our menu items. Outside food and beverages are not permitted. Dessert items including birthday cakes are not permitted.

                                1. re: vinosnob

                                  ...and no one under the age of 21 is permitted in...

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    Or perhaps they were telling you that they look the other way if you are discreet about violating their "policy"

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      This didn't happen to me, but based on the report, it didn't sound like that was the point.

                              2. This is the most dragged out topic in CH history...

                                Father's Office is a Beer bar. They have great micro brews in addition to a very good burger. If you like your burgers rare/med rare and great beers, fathers office is the place for you. If you're the type to ask for a ton of modifications to your well done burger and a glass of ice water, just go somewhere else.

                                Somewhere along the line, people who have attended FO have totally lost the plot hence the frivolous complaints.

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                                    I would still welcome the opening of Mother's Office where they serve the same food and beer...but you can bring kids. Saying - my 4.5 year old would LOVE the fries ;)

                                1. Thank you all. There are so many wonderful places to eat in LA and not enough time to visit them all. So I depend on Chowhound to warn me of places to avoid. Father's Office sounds like the kind of place I would absolutely hate, and by reading this thread I've learned that it would be a bad idea for me to ever go there. Thanks for saving me from wasting my time and having a bad experience.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: farmertomato

                                    And thank you for not making it more crowded and then complaining about it when you have already determined that it's not your kind of place. Keeps everyone happy! :)

                                    1. re: farmertomato

                                      >>>Father's Office is a Beer bar.

                                      Er, it *was* a beer bar... back around 1984. That ceased when the next-in-line ownership decided against allowing people to bring food in from Louise's next door and started in with their own burger. A good burger, (I've had it twice in the last 8 years), but I wouldn't say it's worth all the fuss and fawning I've read about in Chow Posts. Add to that the "entitlement" issue that so many SM eatery clientele bring with them, and you end up with some of the disappointing comments that occasionally come up about F.O. on Montana.

                                      Frankly, I wish it was still a beer bar (with the pool table) but then it wouldn't be so overdiscussed in foodie forums (ad nauseum). Sadly (or happily!), that part of Santa Monica vanished at the turn of the millenium.

                                      Tip: Go early, keep expectations down, and enjoy the elbow to elbow.... and it's a great experience.

                                      1. re: farmertomato

                                        I've had the F.O. burger several times, aside from feeling that I had horrid onion breath from it (and equally horrid indigestion from same onions), I feel the blue cheese was muted (not enough or not good enough quality?) although I love the copious amounts of arugula. The meat patty is not particularly flavorful.

                                        However, it did inspire me to create my own version at home. Use really good grass-fed beef (Santa Monica Co-Op has this), and instead of caramelized onions, use fig jam! Make sure you use Dijon-type mustard to balance out the sweet. Of course lots of arugula (baby-leaf) and blue cheese to suit (Stilton---Could get some bad-breath kickback from it, but you're at home). Now that's a burger that's a perfect balance of ambition and humility.

                                      2. I have to agree with Fryboy. I've had the Office burger at both SM and Culver and I left disappointed. I agree with Fryboy's opinion of the burger, it's too salty and too overground. Even with the sweet potato fries, the burger leaves a lot to be desired. I also agree on the crowd, that only increases the disappointment.

                                        1. I agree with most of this. My girlfriend is a vegetarian, which pretty much makes me one. So the second she left town, I headed to the Santa Monica location to give it a shot. I sat at the bar and the bartender was very nice. The wines by the glass were very good. But the burger was over ground and compressed like a pre-made bought patty.
                                          Hubert Keller's theory on one reason his burgers are so good at The Burger Bar is the oxygen that surrounds the fresh ground beef from it no being compressed brings your taste buds more flavor. Right? Wrong? I dont know. But it is by far a better burger.
                                          Plus I dont think anyone can say they have the best burger with a gas only grill.
                                          I would go back, but I would order something else.
                                          For the record: I wanted and asked for no modifications and I had it Medium-rare. It still was only slightly better than average.

                                          1. The one time I went to Father's Office in Santa Monica, the staff was extremely rude to us and that was well before we ordered anything. My brother and I went early one evening when they opened, wandered in and found a table. We were contemplating what to order when there's this loud yell across the bar, "YOU! You two! You didn't show your ID! Come here NOW!" It was from the bouncer who had not been at the door when we walked in.

                                            Now while both my brother and I are well, *well* over 21, we're both baby-faced enough to show our IDs pretty frequently, and we had no problem with the idea of showing ID, but we did not think that this was something necessary to announce to the entire bar like we were criminals. The bouncer also insisted that we had to come to him to show the ID instead of showing it to one of the servers, so we had to give up our table as well.

                                            I did not have the burger since I'm allergic to onions and (as is well-known) FO only prepares their burgers one way. Their other food was tasty, but not tasty enough to make me endure that treatment ever again.

                                            1. Wow, I'm away for a day and I come back to this. I have said my piece on the burger and I stand by it. The service at Father's Office has been mentioned. Our experience with the staff was fine, very nice and friendly. They could have used a few more of them though. Standing 5 people deep in a line to get a beer and pay the tab got old quick. Thanks for all the responses. This was a bigger hit than my "Looking For A Good Churro" thread.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Fryboy

                                                There is much less a sense of "crowdedness" at the FO Helms location. It doesn't feel the like the floor at the stock exchange.

                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                  Or if you go at 2 or 3 on a weekend afternoon to the SaMo location then it's a much less harried experience.

                                              2. First the best meat in the world will be horrible if its over cooked. The Office burger or any decent burger for that matter should never be cooked over medium. Anything more is a slap in the face of the chef who created it. Yes the frites are mediocre and the sweet potato fries are much better. In my opinion the various flavors in the burger combine flawlessly to create a wonderfully balanced tender burger. In addition the beer list is among the best I have found in LA, and i've been looking. The staff is friendly and helpful in recommending a nice pairing for what ever you're eating. And don't ask for substitutions. The chef has spent a lot of time and energy into creating an excellent burger. Trust the chef and enjoy the burger.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: skers11

                                                  Great post.

                                                  Another reason why i only go to FO SM...A rare burger is actually cooked rare. Culver City seems to think rare=medium

                                                  1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                                                    The overcooking of the burger at the Helms location can be avoided if you reiterate your preferences at the time of ordering.

                                                    1. re: J.L.

                                                      are you suggesting I ask for the burger to be cooked rare, multiple times? lol

                                                      1. re: ronnie_gaucho

                                                        When ordering, simply emphasize to the person taking your order that you've been to FO before, and that you've had unfortunate experiences with overdone burgers there before. My prior visits at FO tells me that this simple reminder to the staff at FO will result in burgers done the way you like them.

                                                    2. re: ronnie_gaucho

                                                      While I love both the craft beer and food here, I have always ordered my Office Burgers rare and that's how they cooked em. Girl friend and others have ordered them cooked more done and have received them rare, a couple of time they were sent back and they were still not cooked enough.

                                                      -----
                                                      Father's Office
                                                      3229 Helms Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034