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Mar 1, 2010 04:04 PM

Has Father's Office gone downhill?

Hey hounds.

I've always been a fan of Father's Office and go there every few months to satisfy my burger craving. I've noticed, though, that the burgers lately haven't quite been doing it for me. Yesterday, at the Culver City location, the burger was on the cold side (in their defense, I ordered it rare), and the bun tasted stale. I was also disappointed in my second-to-last visit, which was also at the Culver City location.

Are the burgers getting worse? Is it just the Culver City location? Am I imagining things?

Thanks for your insights.

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  1. i've never thought the culver city location is as good as santa monica. i've had flat out gross burgers there (basically too big and too salty), as well as so/so burgers (not bad, just not great). i'm always blown away by santa monica.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nachosaurus

      Tend to agree with this; however, I've never had anything worse than a good burger there (as opposed to always excellent in SaMo).

    2. Years ago there was, ostensibly, no such thing as a bad burger. A burger was a burger. Some were great while others were, well, just burgers. Then the bar was raised, and raised again and again. The ingredients have gone from USDA and fresh to A-5 Kobe and organically grown farm-fresh and beyond. In 2010, we now examine and critically evaluate our burgers through gastronomic electron microscopes as we diligently dissect their molecules with culinary laser scalpels. Damn! How much can a burger take?

      That, along with everything else said in recent times about the ubiquitous burger, I too am guilty of eating my burger with a much higher level of culinary awareness and discernment. Whereas before I would simply devour my burger and be on my way, I now engage and consume it, bite by byte (yeah), literally measuring and evaluating every element of its presentation, taste and texture with my own “umamiometer”. Then come the comparisons: vs. The Counter’s, vs. Morton’s, vs. Lucky Devil’s, vs. In-N-Out's, vs. Hawkins’s, vs. Umami’s, vs. Daddy-O’s (long gone but still my fav), vs. on and on and on. Damn! How much can my burger take?

      Okay, so what about Father’s Office’s burger and any perceived decline in its persona? Well, against the backdrop painted above, I must say that the appeal to me of F.O.’s burger has dropped-off marginally with each successive visit since my first, about five in total. Likewise, so has the appeal of all the rest of its competitors in as many of my visits on average. Has their quality waned? Of that, I am not sure, beyond the visit-to-visit fluctuations in consistency experienced at virtually any eating establishment.

      Am I asking too much of my burger? Again, I am unsure. I only know for sure that, perhaps more so than with any other foodstuff, I am continually asking for more from my burger. Geesh! I’m sure glad that I haven’t treated my beloved taco the same way.

      5 Replies
      1. re: degustateur

        Perhaps the level of level of culinary awareness and discernment is directly correlated with the price of the burgers? I'm sure it is much easier devouring a cheap burger without noticing the subtleties, vs. wanting to get the best product possible when you're paying $10-$20 for it?

          1. re: dinvenice

            FO's burger is $12 IIRC, which is on the low end of "expensive" (or gourmet) burgers, so I think it is still an excellent deal. My burger at Rustic Canyon (which I thought was very good as well) was $18, I believe. I'm pretty sure Morton's is more expensive too.

            Heck, a burger at Carl's Jr is going to probably cost about $6.

          2. re: degustateur

            The over-the-top-izing of the burger puts me in mind of the Dotch cooking show from Japan (sending a guy to get handmade ketchup from a source who grows his own tomatoes, just to use in "Naporitan" spaghetti, being an example).

            The obvious next step is top offer Screaming Eagle by the glass to sip while eating one of these concoctions.

          3. I'll never eat a burger at CC FO again. Santa Monica or bust

            1. You guys do realize that it's the same meat at both locations right? Also, the vat of rendered bacon fat/caramelized onions was, for a while anyway, made at the SM location and shipped every day to the CC location. I've eaten at both many times, and it's the same thing.

              1. It was as if Father's Office set out to make a colossally awful cheeseburger, and then they just effortlessly vaulted over that bar to produce something truly egregious. The complexity and thoroughness with which this meal went wrong would require a white board to really show all of the ways that this was awful, but I will do my best.

                1. They did not let me order the burger with less stuff on it. It came with carmelized onions, a blend of cheeses, and arugula.
                1.a. Caramelized onions were sweet, slimy, and greasy. GROSS
                1.b. Arugula....a bitter green. WHY?
                2. I did enjoy a scene at the bar where a woman was rebuffed while attempting to order a drink with vodka. Father's Office does not stock vodka at the bar. They knew what was good, and it wasn't vodka. The bartender actually chastised her for ordering something as flavorless as vodka.
                3. The fries showed up 10 minutes before the burgers.
                4. The fries came with tartar sauce.
                5. I asked for ketchup, and I was told that they do not have ketchup--just aioli (tartar sauce--cloyingly oily tartar sauce). Neat....greasy, shoestring fries dipped in a thick, oily sauce.
                6. The burgers were served on crusty rolls, which were slathered in butter.....greasy.
                7. The burgers were seared, but then they were either braised or held in a steam table, which saturated the crust and contained the rare interior of the burger in a 3/16 of an inch, rubbery rind of grayish meat and waterlogged sear. It made for an unpleasant mouth feel.
                8. This also served to preserve all of the liquid fat inside of the burger, so when I bit into it, it leaked/squirted grease into my mouth. That coupled with the really oily, Bleu/Gruyere cheese blend on top of the burger, and I had a greasy mess on my hands. Frankly, the only thing that kept this abomination from soaking my hands up to the wrists in grease was the hard crust of the roll.
                9. The beef was dry-aged Angus, so it had a nice funk to it, but it needed savory seasonings or condiments to overcome the sweet residue of the onions and the braise (or whatever it was they did to wreck the outside).
                10. Speaking of which, don't bother requesting mustard and salt--they don't have mustard--the salt...wait 5 minutes, and it will grudgingly be dropped off in a plastic condiment cup rather than a ramekin.
                11. The service was not only dismissive, but it was also incredibly inattentive--not one person was remotely curious as to the quality of the food.

                Bitter, slimy, greasy, sweet, bland, and rubbery are not things associated with a good burger--these are things that you might find in a diaper. This was a lousy, excuse for a burger. Honestly, the only reason that I did not purge that abhorrent thing was because I did not want to taste it twice.

                Burger Review : NO!


                Father's Office Bar
                1618 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA

                17 Replies
                1. re: TheBurgerBusters

                  As a Father's Office denier, I happen to agree with many of your criticisms, but republishing a blog review that's almost a year old is the opposite of Houndly. How about trying the place again and reporting on any changes, uphill or down, in the last year?


                  1. re: Harry Niletti

                    Duly noted, but I've been there, repeatedly, and it is consistently awful. Spending more dough there would be pointless.

                    The Bill of Rights is hundreds of years old, and it does OK for us.

                    1. re: TheBurgerBusters

                      Why keep going back if you dislike it so much?

                      1. re: mollyomormon

                        Three times in three years, cupcake. I wanted to make certain that it wasn't just an off day.

                    1. re: TheBurgerBusters

                      1., 2., 3., 4., 5., 10., and 11. have nothing to do with the burger and those points form the majority of your review of the burger. Odd.

                      I'm also confused by several of your statements. First, the idea that truly caramelized onions wouldn't be sweet is very strange. They are called caramelized because the sugars in the onions sweeten and . . . well . . . caramelize. Second, you refer to a juicy burger that retains most of its juices as "greasy." Just does not compute. Third, you requested mustard for the burger. I cannot fathom that flavor combination but I'm shuddering in disgust while I try. Blue cheese . . . mustard. Whew! Fourth, while the bun may be more toothsome than the average burger bun, if that is considered a "hard crust" then Wonder Bread rates a "medium."

                      But after cutting through the unfunny snark and hyperbole, I think you do clumsily and accidentally stumble across an answer to the actual query the OP posed.

                      The meat has changed from what they served years ago. The patties appear to be preformed and pressed more tightly than they were. In the past, the edges were more irregular and the sear more intense. There were more of those browned bits with all the tasty compounds that maillard reactions impart. That is what is missing these days.

                      I think it's very possible that the cooking method has changed. I wouldn't be surprised if the meat is pre-cooked in a very low oven to get the meat up to temp and the edges are given a quick sear once an order has been placed. Not optimum in my world, but they seem to pull it off in a way that still makes the patty juicy and taste heavy of beef.

                      So I agree with the OP that the burgers have changed. But I seem to remember noticing this change awhile back. It might have been just before the CC location opened. I could be wrong about the time line, though.

                      I still think it's a really good burger despite having declined since its inception. The flavor combination was pretty uncommon when it first hit the menu and I still crave it. Contrast that with the fantastic Rustic Canyon burger which to me tastes as though someone was trying to create the world's best iteration of In-N-Out's Double-Double Animal Style. That Rustic Canyon burger is so good, but I still go back to the FO burger pretty regularly for that compote and bleu cheese combination.

                      1. re: cacio e pepe

                        There's something about the salty, sweet, bitter and beefy flavors combo that gets me every time.

                        1. re: cacio e pepe

                          I was worried about coming off as ponderous and preachy--thanks for setting the bar low enough for me to clear.

                            1. re: cacio e pepe

                              This review is a bit confusing, because the guy says he's been there several times, including before having done the review, yet complains about being unable to make modifications to the burger and have ketchup.

                              Even by the time of the posting (Nov. 2009), I think most of the LA food community knew about the rules of Father's Office.

                              Father's Office Bar
                              1618 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA

                              1. re: andytseng

                                Yep--I live here now, but when I visited before, I was in town on business.

                              2. re: TheBurgerBusters

                                While I am in total disagreement about your take on the burger at Father's Office I enjoyed the review. Since you are fairly new to the LA Chowhound board I wondered if you had seen this epic LA burger review/post: - If not it's definitely worth the time to read (especially if burgers are your thing).

                                Father's Office Bar
                                1618 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA

                              3. re: TheBurgerBusters

                                I think I was the girl getting reprimanded for ordering vodka.
                                They also chastised me for asking if there was any way they could not add the cheese, as my dining companion kept "kosher-lite" (meaning she simply tried to not mix meat and dairy). I know, I know, I should have known better than to have even asked, but, well, that's why hope was invented, right?

                                Anyway, in response to the thread, I hadn't had a FO burger in at least a year and last month I found myself at the CC location. I was much less impressed by the burger than I had been in previous years at the SM location. Perhaps I had simply exagerated the greatness of the burger in my memory. Oddly, this burger was simply lacking in flavor. I could taste the arugala and occasionally the onions, but there was no "beefy" taste to it. Not sure why this was...

                                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                  That was comedy--I had never seen anything like that before.

                                2. re: TheBurgerBusters

                                  You will soon learn, Burgerbusters, that you will get slammed on these boards if you slam Father's office, the Burger Nazi of LA. Happens to me everytime, as though if you don't fall for the burger Nazi schtick, something's wrong with you. Go figure, but this town is full of those who love the Kool-Aid.