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Umami Burger - Does it live up to the hype?

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NY Chowhound here coming to LA for 5 days in April. I have heard a ton of hype about Umami burger and the 5th taste. Does it live up to the hype or is it another bust.

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Umami Burger
850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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  1. Ouch. Try to disregard the snark. Umami gets LA hound's hackles up and EVERY time you see it in a post, a war is about to begin.
    Personally, I LOVE the Manly Burger at the original La Brea location. I order two (they're smallish) and don't even consider trying the mediocre sides or marinara-tasting ketchup.
    Then again, for every positive review of UB you'll see, there will be another one vehemently railing against it. You're toeing a dividing line in local food politics. Be warned!

    2 Replies
    1. re: jdwdeville

      If you want a manly burger try the Maytag or The Mile High at 26 Beach Restaurant, oh and you will only need to order one!

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      26 Beach
      3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

      Mile High Cafe
      7070 Summit Valley Rd, Hesperia, CA 92345

      1. re: Burger Boy

        BB- I live right near 26 Beach, and go there often for the breakfast burger but UB is a different animal entirely... though I must say you do do a killer job promoting their burgers! (I still need to try the California Roll Burger, btw...)

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        26 Beach
        3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

    2. Oh, everyone on the LA CH board is in absolute agreement on this one... NOT! Just kidding, Everyone on the LA CH board agreeing on ANYTHING would be a sure sign of the apocalypse. Take a look and see for yourself: http://www.chow.com/search?query=umam... Maybe take them to Umami and then over to Father's Office and follow that up with an Apple Pan visit. Then come back and tell the board what you all thought about the long strange burger trip you had...

      9 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        I would actually like to see that, someone bringing a NYer to Father's Office & Apple Pan. That would be pretty funny : )

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        Apple Pan
        10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

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

        1. re: Phurstluv

          Speaking as an ex-Manhattanite, I'd say FO would probably fail to impress, but Apple Pan has an only-in-LA charm for visiting NYCers.

          1. re: Peripatetic

            Actually, the terrace of the Culver City-adjacent location of FO on a perfect LA evening wouldn't be a let-down, either. The beer selection is great, with amazing Californian beers that are very hard to find in NYC, such as Pliny the Elder.

            1. re: Peripatetic

              Peri - are you arguing with yourself here? Who usually wins? ;-D>

              1. re: Servorg

                FWIW, neither of us is in any danger of winning an argument with my wife.

                1. re: Peripatetic

                  Do the two of you share one account? I pray daily my wife never finds out how much time I spend on CH and how often I tease her (tease is a good, not too pejorative word) in my postings.

            2. re: Peripatetic

              I think they'd have choice words for the place when they were turned down for ketchup or a substitution. And I think they'd think we are nuts for thinking Apple Pan was all that.

              1. re: Peripatetic

                What, the lettuce sandwich? As a former NYer, I was totally bummed by what passed as LA's signature burger from the Apple Pan. The beef is and continues to be an afterthought.

                FO, Umami and the huge crop of "artisinal" burger joints that have cropped up in LA over the past few years have changed the game. Apple Pan isn't worth the trip, even if you're in the neighborhood. While I'm sure it holds some nostalgia for locals, visitors simply won't get it.

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                Apple Pan
                10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                1. re: JeMange

                  Totally agree about FO and Umami. I think Apple Pan's charm is the overall experience. It's a mistake to expect a lot from the burger. It's more like a time machine to 1940's LA, and -- for better or for worse -- that includes food quality. Sadly it doesn't include price.

          2. had my first Umami today at the Cahuenga location (which is in a very cool shopping space w/ a branch of Hennessy + Ingalls and a pop-up Tom's shoe store).
            we ordered the Umami 6 medium rare, which came out medium raw and was incredibly greasy. I couldn't taste anything beyond the parmesan crisp and tomato. the best thing was the garlic aioli for the thin fries but even that was strangely served on a plastic soup spoon.
            to me it was all hype and a total bust that I don't intend to repeat again.

            1. Massively overhyped

              1. Well, just to weigh in . . . I've had 3 of the burgers at the La Brea location and they were underwhelming.

                Not terrible, not worse-than-death-by-a-meat-monster, just forgettable . . . except for the price. . . which was memorable due to an imbalance in the product value to cost ratio.

                Now I DID like their onion rings but frankly, there are LOTS of good rings to be had. As with all things CHOWHOUND however, that's just my opinion.

                1. Each of the Umami locations have a slightly different menu. Their Hollywood location has a smash burger, that the La Brea location does not. For the most bang for your buck, the $5 smash burger is the way to go.

                  1. Yes lives up to hype
                    10x better than Father's Office and 20x better than The Counter

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

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: radman123

                      The Counter is so average

                    2. I've eaten burgers at virtually all of the usual burger suspects in this town and Umami is my favorite. I love the Hatch chile burger and think their onion rings are superb.I should point out, however, that I've only eaten at the original location on La Brea, and never when the restaurant is busy, which might affect the quality of the burgers I have enjoyed.

                      For another great burger, try Rounds on Santa Monica at San Vicente. Their $5 "classic" is a great value.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Bob Brooks

                        Can you please say a bit more about this one at Rounds? Delicate like Umami?

                        1. re: epop

                          The classic is about a one-third pound burger griddled to you spec, served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and thousand island. All the ingredients are impeccably fresh and well prepared.

                      2. Little burger. Big taste.

                        1. Love all the varied responses and the obvious controversy. Similar to someone from LA asking about Shake Shack on the NY board. Thanks again. Got to try it and I will report back. Also hitting up a bunch of food trucks especially to Asian Tacos.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: princeofpork

                            I've only ate at the 5th St. in SaMo location, but I ADORE the hatch burger, think it is sheer genius, and have had nothing but good service, lucky parking, and burger bliss from them.

                            For Asian tacos from a truck, dig the NomNom truck and Komodo. Both have excellent food.

                            1. re: princeofpork

                              Given your "name" you may be interested in this: I like the Triple Pork Burger at Umami a whole lot. Much more than their beef burgers (which I like).

                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                Their Lamb burger is great but they only run it as an occasional special.

                              2. re: princeofpork

                                pretty much what i would have said to your request. it's exactly the same as asking about shake shack. with that said, well worth trying. not sure if it'll blow you away but it's a well made product with good ingredients.

                                as for the asian tacos, i still prefer kogi. while you're at it, you should probably look into chego and a frame while you're here.

                                1. re: princeofpork

                                  I gotta admit that I don't really get the whole Asian taco thing. The first time I had Kogi, it felt like two continents were fighting it out in my mouth - the overwhelming taste was garlic or galbi marinade.

                                  I think it's a shame that the wave of nouveau hipster food trucks have drawn attention away from real winners like The Taco Zone in Silver Lake, which has some of the best offal tacos and salsa in my opinion - the beef cheek (cabesa) taco is one of the prime food items on the planet right now.

                                  There's a few cemitas trucks that are fantastic as well.

                                  Who needs overpriced kimchee infused huaraches when you can get the real deal?

                                  -----
                                  Kogi
                                  Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                                  1. re: JeMange

                                    Does anyone remember Mago Restaurant on Centinella. They used to do Char Sui Burritos, Katsu Tacos and all kinds of Japanese/Hawaiian fushiony stuff, this was back in the 70's, 80's and 90's. Crazy good comfort food long before Kogi and all the Kogi copy cats.

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                                    Kogi
                                    Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                                    1. re: Burger Boy

                                      You and I (back when I was WLA) had this exchange in 2002: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/49797

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        The avocado was key - they'd slap the avocado in just about anything - and it worked. No one but Mago's was so redolent with this California iconic fruit at that time.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          My standing order was two chashu avocado tacos and one double avocado chili cheeseburger...

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            I'm wondering why the high-end burger joints don't incorporate avocado - too "so 80s"?

                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                              26 Beach has them in their Sushi Hamburgers, The California Roll Burger, The Eel Burger, can not remember if the Spicy Tuna Burger has it. Pretty damn good stuff!

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                                              26 Beach
                                              3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                                              1. re: Burger Boy

                                                I've had the Cal Roll burger which I found to be dee-lish-shus. But outside of 26 Beach, there seems to be almost an aversion among the higher-end places to Mother Nature's butter... 26 Beach is fearless when it comes to flavor combinations. IMHO, they understand that there is no one perfect burger to satisfy everyone's palate.

                                                -----
                                                26 Beach
                                                3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                  Spark Woodfire Grill in Studio City has an Avocdo Kobe burger that's fit t'eat. Had one last night. With Sweet Potato Fries and Chipotle Aioli, it ran about $15.

                                              2. re: bulavinaka

                                                At the other end of the scale, there is still Howard's Famous Bacon and Avocado Burgers on Venice near Sepulveda. Not a fan of the burger there, myself. Conversely, I did love the new double cheeseburger at A Frame (served sans avocado but, if you order the new Bodega Prawns there, you could use the avocado mash it comes with for the burger, if you are so inclined).

                                                -----
                                                Howard's Big Burger
                                                11127 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                                                1. re: New Trial

                                                  I've always wondered about that place and have wanted to wander in, but never knew if it was worth it. Is the burger any good, or dry and tasteless??

                                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                                    Not dry and tasteless--the bacon and avocado alone almost guarantee that--but not particularly satisfying (to me). Without the bacon and avocado, there would be no reason to have this particular burger at all when there are so many better around.

                                                    1. re: New Trial

                                                      Right, right, gotcha. I assumed the b-a combo is what makes it. Guess it's worth a try next time I'm in the area and have the urge. It can't be worse than a BK or Carl's Jr, right? And I'm a big sucka for anything with bacon & avocado....;p)

                                        2. re: Burger Boy

                                          I used to proudly wear my Mago's t-shirt around town! Thinking back, yes, it truly was ahead of it's time. My regular, teriyaki avocado double burger + taquitos/guac. Sounds weird, but damn it worked.

                                    2. For me it didn't live up to the hype. I've had far better burger experiences in San Francisco (Rosamunde, Broken Record, Mission Burger, 4505 Meats, Foreign Cinema). Umami was nothing special in comparison. I was really surprised to see it listed as #20 of The 100 Greatest Cult Restaurants in America: Top 20 http://www.poortastemag.com/the-100-g...

                                      1. It is definitely great but nothing lives up to too much hype. Nothing.

                                        1. Count me as a definite NO. For that matter, there was a time many years ago when one could not find a decent burger - other than a very expensive steakhouse type burger - in NYC. That time is long gone. Why come to LA to eat something you could find at least as good at home? NYC has really lousy Mexican food - eat Mexican food. LA has better Thai food, better low end Japanese food, better "California cuisine" and a few other things - I think we've got far better Chinese food too for that matter. Vietnamese, Korean... Come here and eat what we do best, not what you can find at home. That's my two cents.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: estone888

                                            I agree with estone... the burgers in this town have a divide among the residents but you've gotta try the stuff that LA does best and that is ethnic tastes... first and foremost, Mexican. Sushi is excellent as well, and "California cuisine" at various locations others can attest to is also great. Enjoy your trip!!

                                            1. re: estone888

                                              You will not find Sushi Burgers back in New York. If you do they ripped of 26 Beach in Venice. Try a Sushi Burger and enjoy life!

                                              -----
                                              26 Beach
                                              3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                                            2. As a former NYer whose Manhattan burger favorites ranged from the late lamented All State Cafe and McHales in midtown to Corner Bistro, I'd say that Umami is the real deal. While I think their burgers should be at least two ounces larger, they're always cooked to order in my experience and the beef is fatty (in the best possible way) and extremely rich. My dining has been limited to the Los Feliz location, which I prefer to Father's Office and Golden State, two other joints that always come up in this sort of discussion.

                                              -----
                                              The Golden State
                                              426 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036

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

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: JeMange

                                                I'm with you JeMange! i really like the Los Feliz location and still go there....even though I've moved to the west side. Though I do like the Santa Monica one as well. I went to LaBrea when it first opened, and though I liked the burger, I've never liked the space or the service. (plus no wine and beer)
                                                But I think the burgers, and the onion rings, are top notch. I drove by the Studio City location today, and it was packed. People were waiting outside.

                                              2. Has anyone eaten the WTF burger from The Catch in Anaheim with some OMG burger chasers? I imagine you burgers eaters eating stuff like that.

                                                -----
                                                The Catch
                                                1340 N Dynamics St Ste K, Anaheim, CA 92806

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: apple7blue

                                                  I haven't heard about The Catch's "WTF Burger" but The Catch's web site features "The OMG" Burger -- an 8 lb burger with 4 lbs of Meat for $49.95. And you can double the meat to 8 lbs for $30 more or add bacon for $10 more.

                                                  One of the reviews on Yelp mentioned The OMG Challenge -- finish "The OMG" Burger in 1 hour and win $500.

                                                  Sounds like a burger for Adam of Travel Channel's Man vs Food.

                                                  http://www.catchanaheim.com/

                                                  1. re: Norm Man

                                                    I'd like to see that, well not the actual process but maybe like the beginning and the end. I wonder if any chowhound could win the $500.

                                                2. IMO YES. The food great, service good and the beef tender and juicy. Might be a tad greasy but HEY it's a burger!

                                                  1. BUST! Not worth the effort and definitely not up to the hype. In fact worse than crap. I went three times and each time they managed to screw up my order and the burgers was served cold. Management at the La Brea and Los Feliz locations are douches. Too cool to actually do a good job. I believe they subscibe to the "ironic" style of serving.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Petey McNichols

                                                      So why didn't you ask for new burgers, when the ones you got were served cold? Restaurants make mistakes, how they correct those mistakes is how a restaurant should be judged.

                                                      1. re: reality check

                                                        I did talk to management and they or rather he was too "cool" to do anything about it. He literally shrugged his shoulders and said that's how we serve it. All the while he kept rubbing his hands on his sweater. Creepy. That was on the third and last visit. The last time I ate there I was at the bar at the Los Feliz location. The bartender apologized for everything, saying that the manager is a dick and treats everyone like that. He then proceeded to tell me that the kitchen fucks up the orders to give him a harder time. Either way, whether this is truth or not, Umami sucks ass. NOT WORTH YOUR MONEY. The La Brea location had a really bad manager that would yell at the staff in front of everyone and make eating your meal uncomfortable. He has since been fired I was told but Umami's track record for hiring managers is not stellar. BTW I am definitely not the only one that has had issues with management at Umami, read review sites, ask people. I judge restaurants on the overall experience and never make judgements based on one experience. If the manager had made some type of effort to correct instead of being rude, I would have a different opinion, maybe, of Umami. I'll never know cause the burgers were not served properly and then management didn't properly address these issues.

                                                        1. re: Petey McNichols

                                                          Now that somebody has mentioned management, I'll reveal that I have seen chairs break under people at the Los Feliz location TWICE!! It looks like they bought the cheapest chairs around and don't mind that their customers are left on the floor after a sudden fall. To top it off, EVERY EMPLOYEE INCLUDING THE MANAGER in the place walked by ignoring the people on the floor in BOTH instances as if that was a reguilar occurrence. I was utterly shocked as I walked over and helped the person up off the floor in one of the instances. I will no longer patronize Umami Burger and hope they begin to provide half the attention to customer service as they do to printing up their t-shirts that read "You're Welcome" in sheer arrogance.

                                                          1. re: mrshankly

                                                            I've gone to the Los Feliz and La Brea locations several times. I've had decent burgers, but the staff at both places have attitudes that definitely need serious improvement. Their saving grace is that they aren't as arrogant as Father's Office.

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

                                                    2. I'll be in the area solo for work and thought this would be a good place to get some take out...until I read about the crowds, parking, and the fact that it seems to be a sit down joint.

                                                      Can someome tell me if a) I can get take out and b) which LA location is easist to park and get my order in?

                                                      Thanks.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: christy319

                                                        Undeniably, the best burger in L.A. is at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica. It's pricier than most high-end burgers, but still the best value.

                                                        1. re: christy319

                                                          EASY parking
                                                          @ Santa Monica Umami.
                                                          Call in your order.

                                                          1. re: christy319

                                                            Santa Monica's Umami Burger seems to always have street parking when I go at lunchtime. And although it 's very pleasant, inside and out, I always seem to get take out, cuz thats how I roll.

                                                            1. re: Phurstluv

                                                              burger roll lol

                                                              1. re: apple7blue

                                                                Yup. That's how I burger roll, when alone and on school carpool duty....;p)!

                                                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                                                  \_(O_o)_/ . . . So has anyone tried their veggie burger?

                                                                  1. re: apple7blue

                                                                    My son loves their veggie burger because they don't try to make it taste like fake meat.

                                                          2. How does it compare (whether good or bad) against 25 degrees and 8 oz?

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: waterisgood

                                                              8oz is gone for good.

                                                              1. re: waterisgood

                                                                Ugh, 25 Degrees was one of the early places for "gourmet" burgers and it was just not good 4 years ago.

                                                                -----
                                                                25 Degrees Restaurant
                                                                7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                                                              2. It's amazing. I recommend the Socal Burger and of course the Umami Burger. This joint is a must try!

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                                                                Umami Burger
                                                                850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: iamemmaparker

                                                                  I've only had two burgers and both times from the LaBrea and 9th street location. I had the Manly burger both times. They are nice, good burgers. They're familiar tasting. I enjoyed it but I would say that it does not live up to the hype. It's good but it's not something that claws at me and nags me to return when I haven't been in a while. I have never and would never say to someone, you HAVE to try Umami Burger. It's more like, if you want a burger, you'll probably like what you get here.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Umami Burger
                                                                  850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                                2. So I was in LA this weekend with my family and we hit up the Umami on La Brea. For a guy from NY to have to valet park to get a burger was just insane. Anyway, we walked in with 4 adults and 4 kids, they sat us right away it was Sunday at 1PM. We ordered a variety of burgers and I tried them all. Loved the chilies on the Hatch, really loved the Parmesan crisp that comes on the Umami and the Portobello. The onion rings were excellent however the fries were pretty ordinary. Loved the glasses the drinks came in. I thought the bun was a little puffy bit in no way distracted from the burger. I made sure to try the meat by itself and thought is was excellent. Certainly in my top 5 burgers. There were a lot of comments on the bad service but I saw none of that. $12 for a burger with no sides was a little much but I would do it again if I had the chance.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: princeofpork

                                                                    Check out 26 BEach Restaurant for a really great experience also, the next time you are in town. They have some really amazing burgers on home made buns.

                                                                    1. re: princeofpork

                                                                      I also checked them out this weekend in Santa Monica (I'd posted a question upthread). I'd seen the color photo of the "earth burger" in the NY Times and it looked amazing...but it wasn't. It tasted mostly of soy sauce, and the ricotta on top just didn't work with that. The onion rings were way too greasy. I'm not really a hamburger fan (I know, I know) but I tried a bite of my husband's So Cal burger and it was really good. He loved it. The staff was very sweet and accomodating.

                                                                    2. Went today to the Santa Monica one - my first trip to Umami. Long waits.

                                                                      Had the Ahi Tuna Burger. It was tasty, but very, very small and not filling (and I'm usually not one to complain about small portions). Was starving afterwards, so ordered fries (which defeated the whole purpose of the Ahi Tuna Burger for me, which was to have less fat and calories than a beef burger). Fries didn't sit well - quite greasy.

                                                                      Was excited by the wine list, until I tasted the Gruner Vetliner I ordered. Insipid wine. Didn't like the plastic tumblers for water either - just don't like drinking out of plastic. Ordered iced green tea, which they didn't mention on the menu was pre-sweetened -- sent it back - hate sugar in tea.

                                                                      Wouldn't go out of my way to return. Tons of teenagers - not that there is anything wrong with teenagers, but after my first visit, I now sort of view it as a place for teenagers - who when they are 21 and just learning to drink can have that insipid wine.