When I’m in L.A. for business, I do my best to squeeze in a few social visits. Last night, I enjoyed the chance to catch up with my friend Tony. We were both at a loss of where to go. We decided we could both stand a good burger. And so we agreed on Father’s Office in Century City, out there by the old Helm’s Bakery. I had never been there and it had been a good long while for Tony.
For a Wednesday night, the place seemed overly packed, but we managed to get a seat at the bar and eager to eat, quickly got the bartender’s attention. There is only one burger on the menu and much to my dislike, it came with bacon. So I ordered, “The Father’s Office burger, but with no bacon please.” The response was a little surprising, “I’m sorry, we don’t make any modifications to our menu items.” I looked at the girl with confusion and said, “I’m sorry? What?” And she repeated, “We make no modifications to our menu items.”
Was “no bacon” a modification? I would think that it was just a simple “leave off” request. I didn’t ask to change the recipe or use elk meat or something elaborate. So I kind of shook my head in disbelief that there was like, zero accommodation, and ordered the sweet potato fries with my burger. Tony ordered the “No modifications Father’s Office Burger with unmodified fries.”
The sweet potato fries arrived as an appetizer with blue cheese aioli. And that was great. The aioli complimented the fries well. When our burgers came, I handed over my bacon to Tony and stole a few regular fries, which are served with garlic parsley aioli. When the bartender asked us if we needed anything else, Tony asked for ketchup. The bartender said, “I’m sorry sir, we don’t serve ketchup.” We looked at each other, looked at the bartender (who must have this conversation often, I would suspect) before Tony leaned in and said, “You don’t serve ketchup? I can’t put some ketchup on my fries?” The bartender said, “No, sir. We don’t serve ketchup.” Tony leaned in a little closer and said, “You don’t have any ketchup anywhere in this establishment?” “No we don’t,” was the response. Tony came back with, “Really. Dude, between you and me, is that reasonable? What kind of restaurant doesn’t serve ketchup with fries?” All the bartender had to say was, “Sorry.”
As someone who works to build brands and positive, purposeful brand communications, this little episode really stuck with me. Tony and I laughed it off, but only after we made a few loud comments to each other, “What kind of restaurant doesn’t serve ketchup?” “Well, aren’t we all super strict here in Father’s Office? No modifications and no ketchup, gosh darn it!” I mean, really. How can any restaurant take themselves that seriously? Why do people in LA like to go to restaurants where they’re treated like crap? Because that’s what “no modifications” and “no ketchup” say to me.
I took a peek at their website. Not only is it one of the only restaurant’s I’ve seen that doesn’t have a menu on their website, but Father’s Office is for certain the only restaurant which has a “Menu Policy.” It reads:
Please be aware of our menu policy. We do not permit any substitutions or modifications to any of our menu items. Outside food and beverages are not permitted. Dessert items including birthday cakes are not permitted.
Father’s Office may have a great beer menu, but this ridiculous Menu Policy spoils all the fun. I won’t be doing business at Father’s Office again. I’m not able to make any modifications to my schedule.
During the past eight years abroad, there were lots of things I missed about life in the US. Eating “strange” foods a lot of the time in Asia, one often misses the basics. For me, that was pizza, Mexican food and cheeeeeeseburgers.
On the few occasions I did make visits to the US, I would enthusiastically request that my first meal be In-N-Out Burger. Didn’t matter if my plane landed at 10:00am or 10:00pm, I needed my cheeseburger. In-N-Out was my first meal when I returned from Japan back in 2007.
This past Wednesday, I attended the Taste of Little Italy event. (You can read my post about that HERE.) One of the better restaurants was the Burger Lounge, which offered fist-sized “sliders” of beef or veggie burgers (officially Grilled Lounge/BL Vegetarian on their menu). They were both delicious. With some restaurants offering samples in jello-shot sized containers, a generous sample was welcomed and memorable.
So my friend Michelle and I decided to return to Burger Lounge yesterday to have a casual night out in Little Italy and downtown for the Memorial Day weekend. On this visit (and trust me, there will be many more), I opted for the Grilled Turkey Burger, while Michelle went for the Crispy Chicken Tenders, served on a stick. We also shared the 1/2 and 1/2 of the nicely seasoned onion rings and french fries. This second visit resulted in lots of flavors dancing on my tongue and making me a very happy girl. I loooove a good burger! The Turkey Burger has the perfect amount of basil with the white cheddar cheese complimenting the creation nicely. The chicken tenders were definitely crispy, offering good texture and a scrumptious bite.
Burger Lounge is dedicated to serving high-quality products which are super tasty, as well as being environmentally friendly and healthy. The beef is all natural, 100% forage/grain fed, free-range moo moos. All animals are hormone, antibiotic and byproduct free. Great focus is placed on the source of the food they serve. In addition to their burgers, BL serves tossed salads and cupcakes for dessert. I’m looking forward to trying both of these items.
The Little Italy location is a great spot and I imagine I will take advantage of their patio dining in the warmer summer months. Another Burger Lounge is due to open in the GasLamp Quarter soon. You can also find them in Coronado, Hillcrest, Kensington and La Jolla.
While I still love In-N-Out, I am 100% sold on the Burger Lounge quality, taste and experience. Folks, I have found my new burger heaven.
Likes: Pretty much all of it at this point.
Dislikes: Pretty much nothing.
Burger Lounge is located at:
1608 India St.
(at the corner of Cedar)
San Diego, CA 92101
With a friend visiting from out of town, I wanted to savor a simple, tasty and enjoyable dinner for the four of us. We all met in Little Italy at the Princess Pub. Great place to enjoy an afternoon beer, by the way. When my friend Shawn told me that our dinner reservation was at 6:30pm, I felt like we were trying to catch the sunset dinner special or some senior discount. In fact, we had reservations further up the road at The Wine Vault & Bistro. Here you are served a set menu of five courses, paired with five wines and everyone in the restaurant is enjoying the same meal. Me likey. When you are hosting an out-of-town guest, it’s nice just to sit down and have everything decided for you. Perfect for catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in nearly a decade!
The atmosphere of the Wine Vault & Bistro is a homey setting, literally within a house on the hillside of India Street at Washington. The soft lighting and white interior make for a warm glow, but bright enough you can see what you are eating. And boy did we eat. The five course portions are perfectly sized, and yet really fill you up.
A well rounded menu, we were served spring vegetables, a deliciously petite and well seasoned fish ‘n’ chips, a crispy chicken roulade with a tasty curry cous cous, lamb osso buco and pistachio cake. The lamb was the least creative and therefor my least favorite dish. The 3-bites of the fish ‘n’ chips were simply perfection.
Each course was paired with a wine, which you can purchase from the Wine Vault Bistro. In order, we were served a 2009 Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Cass Viogner, 2005 Garmendia Tempranillo, 2006 Tobin James “Blue Moon” Syrah and finally a 1999 Domaine Fontanel Rivesaltes Ambre. I’m not a big fan of dessert wines, and so the Domaine Fontanel got only one taste from me. The Cass Viognier is an absolutely perfect summer wine, very bright fruity tones and nearly sparkling. I loved this one. On the reds, I rather enjoyed the bold tones of the Tobin James. It was a perfect selection for the lamb.
With wine flowing and well-timed dishes landing before me, I could easily relax and enjoy my friends, which is exactly what we wanted for the evening. Our meal lasted well over four hours and with great satisfaction. The set menu and wine flight were $50 per person, a very reasonable price for the meal.
While I loved my visit at the Wine Vault & Bistro, it is not the style of restaurant which becomes a weekly habit. It’s great for a date, a gathering of friends or for wine enthusiasts and foodies who want to test the skills of a capable chef and see what creations he’s come up with for the evening. The calendar of events on the website is wonderfully full of winemaker dinners and tasting events. Every Saturday is the Chef’s menu, as we enjoyed. I’ve signed up for the newsletter and to learn about singles events. I can see a potential business opportunity here as the Wine Vault & Bistro is nowhere to be found on Twitter or Facebook.
On a side note, I’d make sure you have a designated driver. With a 3oz. pour per tasting, and all that delicious food, best to have someone with a clear head drive you home.
Likes: Great wines paired with a tasty menu with lots of variety. Tasting notes provided for each wine, as well as the set menu. Generous pour.
Dislikes: Location is tough on parking. A visit to their website crashed my computer.
Wine Vault & Bistro is located at:
3731-A India St.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 295-3939
With a commitment from the gals to get out on the town more (and to help re-introduce me to my hometown after being overseas for 8+ years), we met in Pacific Beach to try Caffe Bella Italia, as well as take advantage of a Groupon offer.
We weren’t the only ones who had waited until the last minute to use the Groupon. We had to take an early reservation and were seated outside due to the high volume of Groupon reservations (this is when the whole coupon thing becomes unappealing to me). Fortunately it was a pleasant, warm evening and so a patio seat and our bottle of wine set the tone for girl talk.
My friends ordered the lobster ravioli and the lasagna. I opted for the saffron gnocchi. Once our order arrived, we claimed the dishes to be “tasty” “delicious” or “really good.” The portions were well-sized, but none of us finished our meal. To be truthful, there was nothing special about the food, presentation or menu. It’s hearty Italian food without any fuss or pizazz.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing special to write about. Caffe Bella Italia does advertise Happy Hour, discounted bottles of wine and wine tasting specials, but after a lackluster meal, I’m not sure that we would make a return visit before trying out a plethora of options in PB or elsewhere. It’s hard for me to dislike Italian food, but this was a miss for me.
Likes: Wine and location (while busy and tight for parking, it’s a hot spot)
Dislikes: Unimaginative menu, no WOW factor. That and – What’s up with that logo?
Caffe Bella Italia is located at:
1525 Garnet Ave.
San Diego, CA 92109
In an effort to get out and about and try new-to-me restaurants and hot spots in San Diego, I rallied my gal pals for an evening on the town last night. Michelle had a Groupon for the Wine Pub in Point Loma and so that assisted in our decision.
As we arrived, I was a bit hesitant, as the entrance is through a mini mall in a high traffic area on the cusp of Shelter Island and Point Loma. We managed to find parking in the back where we could see that a private party was occupying the lovely outdoor patio.
Carrie was waiting for us inside and we nestled into our table by the window. Once inside, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming with a long bar and both tall and short table dotting the widows. Unfortunately, no view here.
What the Wine Pub lack in location, it makes up for in friendly staff and wonderful food and wine. Sean greeted us and helped us to order a few specials on the menu, a pastry-wrapped, baked brie, the hummus plate, shrimp cakes and for me, the Greek Olives. (Ever since my trip to Greece in 2007, I can never eat enough of these beauties!).
Sean also guided us through the wine menu and helped us land in the Cabernet Sauvignon, Vinum Cellars, California (2008). It was the description, “Huckleberry and blueberry, with soft vanilla tannins 6” that lured us in, the huckleberry being the largest draw. And we were not disappointed. Full, smooth and a perfect wine to enjoy on a Saturday night out with the girls.
Our bill came to about $88 and while that didn’t qualify for the $100 tab needed to get the 50% off on the Groupon, the owners were kind enough to give us $25 off. Our wine and appetizers were delicious, the staff super friendly and the experience cozy and content. I would be interested to return for a dinner, or for some more tasty appetizers and a chance to enjoy a summer evening out on that patio.
Check the website or facebook page often, as they host a variety of tastings and events, as well as Woofer Wednesday, where if you bring your pooch in and dine on the patio and they’ll donate 10% of your check to Loving Arms Pet Adoption.
Likes: Staff, food, wine list, community spirit
Dislikes: Location (mini mall), parking
Wine Pub is located at:
2907 Shelter Island Dr. #108
San Diego, 92106
It was a classic day in San Diego today. It started with a breakfast right at the Ocean Beach Pier and a meet-up with an old high school friend. Returning to the US after eight years abroad is a great excuse to renew lots of old friendships.
The itinerary for the day was a hike on the beaches of Sunset Cliffs. It’s the middle of February and in San Diego, the sky could not have been more blue and the temperatures more suitable. I’m not sure where else you can get an 80℉ day in winter!
The hike, to my surprise, included a wade through very winter-like ocean waters. Well worth it for the views and the secluded beaches. Even the surfers were hard to find.
What better way to finish the day then with a San Diego and Ocean Beach tradition – Hodad’s. The Cheeseburger and Frings (with a beer of course) perfectly hit the spot! Frings were served in a huge portion which even two sun-drenched, hungry hikers couldn’t finish.
For native San Diegans, Hodad’s is probably a no-brainer. You want a good burger, go to Hodad’s. But to the tourist, the atmosphere of Hodad’s really captures the SoCal beach spirit with the No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem policy and a decor of surfboard and license plates. Located so close to the OB Pier also helps for those taking in a San Diego beach tour.
One of the things I loved the most about the visit though? Our waiter. He looked all of 25, but perhaps the San Diego lifestyle had helped prevent any wrinkles – he’s worked at Hodad’s for 11 years. That almost says more than the delicious burgers.
Likes: beach location and spirit, bodacious burgers
Dislikes: Numerous napkins needed, line outside the door doesn’t make you want to hang out longer than what is deemed cool by the locals.
Hodad’s is located at:
5010 Newport Avenue
San Diego, 92107
p.s. Here’s a photo of me on that hike…shirt drenched from wading in the freezing ocean!