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Aug 5, 2013 11:35 AM

Umami becoming more corporate?

I realize that many of you may have already thought this two years ago, being chowhounders, but I want to share a strange experience I had over the weekend there. Now, Umami is not my favorite burger in Los Angeles by any means, but by no means is it bad. I'm not hoping for a discussion on how good Umami is or isn't. Here goes:

I went to Umami Burger over the weekend with my girlfriend (to have her first burger) and her roommate, who insisted we go there for my gf's first burg. I went along with it even though I think we could have gone elsewhere for that first taste of heaven. We went to the location at The Grove.

Besides noticing that the menu was different, I got the sense that Umami has become more corporate. Signs of cost-cutting were evident. I recalled a menu featuring a variety of burgers packed with many different ingredients that made each burger unique. This was not the case on Saturday. Pouring over the menu, I got the sense that I was either rereading the same lines on the menu or that I was actually seeing mostly the same ingredients on all the burgers, with only slight variations. The latter was true.

I was shocked to see the lack of avocado on the California burger, which is something I remember well, because I had the Cali burger during my first trip to Umami 3-4 years ago (the original one on La Brea). I would bet anything that I ordered that burger BECAUSE it had avocado on it. I asked the waitress if they took avocado off the burger and she said no, and that it had never been on the burger at all. I was very surprised to hear this, considering I was positive that it did. After all, avocados and California are associated with one another all the time. I've asked a few people and they agree with me--the Cali burger DEFINITELY used to come with avocado.

Was the waitress just wrong? The skeptic in me thinks she was told by the higher-ups to not confirm that anything had been changed; after all, why would a company aiming to streamline its costs and therefore its ingredient list want to disclose that information to its customers?


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  1. They have a couple of sandwiches with avocado. Maybe the avocado was a recommended add on?

    1. The Grove location has been the least inspired since it opened. But I am pretty sure the Cali burger has never had avocado on it.

      1. Cali burger didn't come with avocado. I thought it was called the Cali Burger (initially SoCal Burger) because it was a spin off the In-N-Out burger (lettuce, tomato, cheese, caramelized onion).

        See photo of the burger and menu below at the now closed original La Brea branch:

        1 Reply
        1. re: Porthos

          Yep. Never had avocado...


        2. Hey dude. A quick question: did you mean that you GF never ate a burger before of any kind? If so, don't leave a brother hangin' -- did she like her first burger?? I need closure...

          1 Reply
          1. re: silence9

            precisely! She has had steak and lamb before, but never a burger! She loved it!

          2. For a really great burger just blocks from the Grove try The Golden State on Fairfax. One of the best in LA.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wienermobile

              yeah, i really want to try Golden State. Next on my burger list.