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The Bistro Burger

Since Hoodburger began there has been a process of steady revelation for us that there is a frequently recurring style of burger in Southern California, which I have (for lack of a more clever name) dubbed SoCal style. Made famous by In n’ Out, who appear to have just added tomato to the toppings of a Big Mac, SoCal style is lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, American cheese (usually), and Thousand Island dressing. Several places employ this formula, and some of them are excellent (see Oinkster’s Classic Burger). What I did not realize though until this week, is that there is a second formula at work in this region’s burger scene, and it is responsible for some of the best and also most famed burgers around. I am not sure who did it first though I would not be surprised to find out that Father’s Office can claim the fame. Los Angeles’ second burger archetype is as follows: Patty with 1 or 2 kinds of melted cheese (usually a blue and sharp cheddar), strong bouillon flavored caramelized onions, arugula, and some sort of aioli (in most cases, though Father’s Office uses no condiment). This week, I went to 6th St. Tavern in DTLA, who just so happens to have both of Southern California’s burgers on its menu.

The Classic Burger

Catty-cornered from the Standard Hotel, 6th St. Tavern invites any passerby who might find joy in its modern décor and craft cocktails. On a Saturday afternoon they were busy but not crowded, and the vibe was mellow without being fully subdued. You order at the bar, and in my case the food came very quickly. As mentioned, these guys make 2 burgers, and each accurately represents a very similar list of ingredients to those of its competitors. The “Classic Burger” (it’s even named the same as the one at The Oinkster), is classic indeed: double patty, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, American cheese, 1000 Island and pickles (though they came on the side). Perfectly good in every way you’d imagine, and feel free to openly refer to it as Animal Style, because it is. I mean, if it ain’t broke…

Inside the Bistro Burger

The other Burger 6th St. offers is the “Bistro Burger” featuring a collective group of components that I have yet to nick-name, but much like Father’s Office and King’s Row, this burger comes dressed in Port Salut cheese (like a higher fat muenster- melty and mild), Worcestershire onion compote, arugula, and aioli. For my taste, this was a clear winner of the two, but in that the burger is constructed in the image of the King’s Burger at King’s Row (my favorite in LA), The Bistro Burger wearing the 6th St. Tavern burger crown comes as no surprise. The strength of the flavor of the onions and the excellent seasoning of the meat made this one the standout, bite after bite. And did I mention they have duck fat fries? The have duck fat fries.

Duck Fat Fries(!!!)

So the steady revelation continues. A talented few have thus far determined two failsafe means of assembling a burger, and intelligent burger peddlers are following suit. The good folks at 6th St. are doing at least as good a job as any one else in the same lane. If you’re looking for something amazingly unique or culinarily challenging you may want to look elsewhere, but if you’re in the market for superb quality pub food, be sure to add 6th St. Tavern to your list. As if the eats weren’t enough, the beer and whiskey selections are stellar too. Definite hoodburger green light.

-Geoff Sawyer

Classic Burger Guts

The Bistro Burger

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F.O. Burger

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.

Outside

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.

The Meal

Shoestring fries and ambiguously herby mystery aioli.

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.

Father's Guts

There’s a bug on my thumb. I didn’t eat it.

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.

-Geoff Sawyer