On the endless best burger lists in LA several names come up time and again: the ubiquitous Umami burger, Apple Pan, Pie ‘n Burger, sometimes Plan Check and sometimes 26 Beach Restaurant, and frequently Comme Ça, Lucky Devils, and Golden State. These vaunted burger shrines represent two factions between which a tension sizzles: those that prefer their burgers thin and well-done with a toothsome char (a la the famous In & Out), and those that desire a dense patty of six to eight ounces of marbled meat cooked on the juicy side of medium rare, or rarer, and providing, for lack of a better description, a steakhouse mouth feel. Umami, Plan Check, Comme Ça, 26 Beach Restaurant, Lucky Devils and Golden State no doubt please this crowd, while the thin, griddled burger styles of Apple Pan and Pie ‘n Burger have been satisfying fans for well over thirty years.
Given how entrenched the concept of a great burger is in the minds of burger lovers, it would seem almost impossible to bring them together over any one burger in LA. And truth be told, there were always be partisans on either side of the divide, for whom consensus would be akin to betrayal. Yet we believe, despite a few vociferous detractors, that The Office Burger at chef/owner Sang Yoon’s magnificent gastropub Father’s Office in Culver City, is not only the burger to unite loyalists from both camps, but is also the best burger in LA.
Is it the French-bread style bun? No, it’s a tad dry. The arugula? While it’s peppery and fresh, it graces many on an upscale burger. Perhaps it’s the combination of melted Gruyere and Maytag blue cheese? Again, delicious, but not unfamiliar to a top-notch patty. Then it must be the caramelized onion jam with bacon, a Yang Soon creation unique to Father’s Office. It’s unquestionably deep, and yet onions and bacon aren’t exactly breaking new ground. Then it has to be the dry-aged Niman Ranch beef, as pungent and flavorful as the finest steakhouse offering.
Yes, yes it is, but it’s also the way the elements play off each other to create a sense memory of classic meat dishes, like Sang Yoon’s inspiration for the burger, the intensely beef forward broth of French onion soup. To this end, he has succeeded marvelously. A bite of the burger, cooked a perfect medium rare, reaches almost uncomfortable depths of flavor. It challenges you with juicy funk, rewarding those who appreciate the dark nuances of aged minerality.
It is, as Samuel Jackson says in the infamous burger scene in Quentin Tarantino’s pop culture totem, Pulp Fiction, ‘a tasty burger.’ And just as Jackson’s hitman character, Jules, acting on behest of his boss, the all powerful gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames, never better) quotes Eziekiel 25:17 before smiting small-time crook Brett (Frank Whaley), there are burger fanatics who will respond with “furious anger” to apostates like Sang Yoon, who re-imagined the iconic American hamburger through the prism of classical French cooking. But as the young, in-over-their-head thieves learned from Jules, stealing from greatness comes with great risks.
So, what’s a burger-loving Pulp Fiction fan to do with so many tasty options? You could gather as many friends as are willing and go on a crawl through the burger landscape, enjoying the nostalgic backyard char of thin, well-seared patties (Apple-Pan style), then dive into the deep end of over-produced, juicy giants, the likes of which stud the menu at Lucky Devils and 26 Beach Restaurant like hulking archipelagos. But we suggest, wherever you start, you end at Father’s Office, where each component of the burger is portioned and calibrated for maximum impact, and nearly biblical in its devotion to the principles of French classicism. And as for Pulp Fiction, if you’re as devoted a fan as Tarantino was of the style of banter pioneered by the late, great crime novelist Elmore Leonard, you don’t need to see it again. You can simply quote your favorite scenes while enjoying your royales with cheese.
An upscale gastropub with a mighty beer selection and the best burger in town.
The Office Burger, Sweet Potato Frites In a “Basket”.
Sleek and spacious main room adjoins a narrow communal patio.
Bartenders are knowledgeable, but the ordering system (you have to order from the bar) is vaguely irritating.
Typically loud and boisterous, as it should be.
3229 Helms Ave Los Angeles, CA 90034 (310) 736-2224 www.fathersoffice.com.
Mon-Thu 5pm-1am, Fri-Sat 12pm-2am, Sun 12pm-12am. No reservations. Credit cards accepted. Lot parking.
PULP FICTION (1994) Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Written by Quentin Tarantino. Story by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary. Starring John Travolta, Samuel Jackson, Uma Thurman.