This is a place I’ve been wanting to try for quite a while. Lucky for me, we had a few readers who wanted to try it too. So last week, after a long day of work, I hopped in my car and cruised down PCH to Santa Monica toward an evening that can only be described as epic. Out of the three people I was meeting for dinner, I had only met one. My buddy Chris, who actually shot the pictures for this post, was in town from NYC and wanted to find out if the burgers were as good as everyone said. The other members of our group were Liisa, who is an awesome and frequent commenter on the site and Courtney, a NYC transplant who is just starting to figure out how awesome L.A. is. I was glad that EatMeCalifornia could help with that.
Father’s Office – On Montana Ave., between 10th and 11th Streets, Santa Monica
Father’s Office was very similar to another one of my favorite burger joints: The Apple Pan. They’re both tiny, hole-in-the-wall places, they’re both famous for their burgers and they both strive to keep things simple. Father’s Office is a little more “upscale” than The Apple Pan, but has a similar attitude when it comes to dining in their fine establishment. The Apple Pan makes you wait your turn, standing around the lone counter, but FO, once filled to capacity, forms a line outside so you can patiently wait your turn to go inside. Both places also frown on substitutions, with the Apple Pan being the more lenient. If you want something changed at Father’s Office, they’ll just turn you down.
So this place is not for the picky. What else? It’s not for big groups either. In fact, the four of us lucked out with getting our table. Courtney and I got their early and shared half of a table with two random dudes. When Liisa and Chris met us inside, the guys were just leaving so we got to snag their seats. I don’t think that’s the norm, as I spied a ton of people just hovering around waiting to slip into an open seat. If the worst thing I can say about a place is that it’s hard to get a seat, you know it must be good.
Once we were settled into our table we went to the bar and placed our orders. At FO, there are no waiters, just busboys who bring out your food and take away your empty beer glasses. Speaking of beer, FO has one of the most impressive selections of beer that you’ll find anywhere. They have about 30 beers on draft and plenty more in bottles, with their specialties being California microbrews and Belgian ales. They also have a good wine selection, which hopefully Liisa will comment on because I stuck to the beer. With so many amazing choices on tap, how could I not?
I could write a whole post on the beers I tried, but this is a food website, so I’ll give you what you want: just the facts food.
I quickly realized that nearly every single person in this place was gettin’ down on the burger. Not that I was shocked, mind you, just aware. I had heard about the unique Father’s Office burger, but until I actually took my first bite, I just figured it was all hype. It was not.
The Father’s Office burger comes one way… theirs. It’s an all beef patty, on a soft roll with Maytag blue and Gruyere cheeses, caramelized onion and arugula. We all ordered our burgers mid rare, which ended up more on the rare side, but I didn’t mind. It was clear that these guys were using above average ground sirloin and the grill, that charred the outside of my burger to perfection, also provided more than enough temperature for the middle.
If there was an aspect of the burger that I found lacking it might be that the cheese was only a big flavor when you were taking a bite off the side. For a burger with two pungent cheeses like that, I was hoping to get a little more in the flavor department. The main factor neutralizing the cheese was the caramelized onion. They reduce that onion until it has an almost jelly-like consistency. I actually thought someone had put some kind of jam on my burger after the first bite. Then the flavor slapped me in the face and I realized what I was dealing with. I’ve never had onion like that in my life and I don’t think anyone else does this on a burger, so if you’re a burger fan, this is one you have to experience (at least once).
The best choice for burger accompaniment is a basket of the sweet potato fries. They are the best example of this particular dish that I’ve ever had. Usually I find two things wrong with sweet potato fries. First, they go soggy too fast and second, they are just too sweet. These were neither. They were crispy on the outside and soft and warm inside. Also, they were made with a nice amount of black pepper on the outside, which made them perfect in my eyes.
After eating our burgers, Liisa asked one of the bartenders, “What was on the menu, beside the burger, that was flying out of the kitchen?” His immediate reply was the soft-shell crab, a dish that I’ve never had before.
Aside from being beautiful on the plate, it was delicious. They gave us 5 small crab and the term “soft-shell” was certainly applicable. Liisa told us about eating the dish several times in NY, where the crab’s shell was a little more difficult to bite through. When I ate mine, I couldn’t even tell that there was a shell on it. The batter that they coated the crab in was light and well seasoned, but the real star of the dish, in my opinion, was the red jalapeno sauce that coated the bottom of the plate. It looks like a tomato based sauce, so be careful, because it actually has a fair amount of heat to it. Needless to say, I’m a fan.
I’ve mentioned, on a number of occasions, that the people you eat with greatly influence how you feel about a meal. Despite the fact that I had an absolute blast with Chris, Liisa and Courtney, though, I still think that I would have loved Father’s Office. Is $12 a little expensive for a burger? Sure. But it’s on par with The Counter Burger and the atmosphere at Father’s Office is worth the difference in price, as is the enhanced beer selection. Bottom line, this is a cool place to eat, drink, hang out and generally have a good time. If you don’t go to crazy at the bar, you’ll end up walking out having had a great time without feeling like you spent too much. After all, it’s all about what you get for your hard earned cash, right?
Needless to say, I’ll be going back to Father’s Office anytime I get within’ 10 miles of Santa Monica. The hype around their burger is well deserved and hopefully I can do my part to add to it with my recommendation. I don’t know that I’ll ever get the chance to eat there with as cool a group as I had last week. But even if I don’t, at least I’ll have superb food and drink to fall back on.