Once upon a time I moved to L.A. Thanks do a dear friend, client, and maker of fine rap music, I was immediately made aware of the innumerable amazing places in this wonderful town where one might shift his or her stomach level from E to F. Within a very short window of time I also learned of the fact that Los Angeles is arguably Mecca to burger-heads such as myself, which lead to my frequent asking of any and everyone (which has yet to dissipate) “so what’s your favorite burger in L.A.?” A few answers came up far more than any others: Umami (of course), The Oinkster, Apple Pan, and this week’s burger maker: Father’s Office.
I excitedly made my way to the Culver City location immediately after hearing about it, and only shortly after calling Southern California home. At the time, Father’s Office was perhaps the most talked about burger of which I was aware, though to be fair, the burger quest on which I currently find myself had not yet begun. Rather than recount the entire experience I will distil to one point: the staff was SO rude, I hardly remember anything about the food. I have not been spoken to by a hostess that way in my life, before or since. I left completely disappointed and did not return for over 3 years.
Over the course of those 3 years, I really dug into this city and its burgers, and while the journey thus far did not suffer for a lack of Father’s Office, I did continue to encounter people who cited it as their all-time favorite. The masses had spoken, so a return trip, this time to the original Santa Monica location, had to be made.
Upon entering this quaint, nostalgic taproom, a bubbly young man offered to show me to a seat. His cheer and desire to please instantly bagged the other place. There was no way it was going to be as shitty this time. I found a seat at the crowded little bar and ordered my burger and fries (each are offered a la carte). They have a rather impressive draught beer selection as well that I would have loved to show you and I might have even ordered one, had the bartender not reprimanded me for attempting to take a photo of the taps. “House rule” he said. Apparently the fear is that someone will plagiarize their beer list. He was relatively polite considering his role at that moment in our interaction though. So far so good, kind of.
My burger came quickly, and I may be grading on a slight curve because I was STARVING. According to the menu, which I inspected closely only after I ate, the Father’s Office burger comes adorned with: caramelized onion, applewood bacon, gruyere, Maytag blue, and arugula. My notes about the onions were that they were very bouillon heavy: salty and sweet at the same time, and nearly overpowering of the other flavors. Upon reading the description, I inquired as to why my burger hadn’t had bacon on it (because it didn’t). The same cheerful gent who greeted me explained that the bacon wasn’t strips but is confit, and it’s IN the onions. I would absolutely never have known, but I really wish I had because I wonder if the experience would have been any different. I never picked bacon out as a flavor in those salty onions, and I’m so bothered by it now that I almost want to go eat it again as I write this. In any case, the burger is pretty well assembled even if one flavor dominated. The cheese appeared to be broiled on to the patty, making it melted and browned a.k.a delicious. Arugula is always a good pick for sharp green, and F.O. serves its burgers on buttered Portuguese rolls, which I thought was innovative. Instead of being yet another brioche pusher, they slap their burger on some cheap yummy white bread. The patty wasn’t particularly seasoned that I could tell, and was firmly packed for my preference but overall, Father’s Office has a great and somewhat unique burger.
So the verdict is: there is some truth to the hype. Do I think that Father’s Office’s burger should rank amongst L.A’s finest? I might if it was six bucks, but for the money you spend I can think of many places I would rather eat. A burger, fries, one beer and decent tip is $30, and for that you can just about have your pick of any of Los Angeles’ finest ground meat sandies. To lay my initial Father’s Office experience to rest was not cathartic but important, and for the first time my opinion of this place is actually objective. This all feels good, but I’m still in no hurry to go back.