David: When it comes to Father’s Office, there are two types: those who think the F.O. burger is the holy grail of its category, and those who think it’s hype in a bun served in an establishment run by tyrants (because there are no substitutions and they don’t allow ketchup). I’m of the first camp. I think the F.O. burger is perfection. And not only is it perfection, but it’s the OG gourmet burger in a copy-cat filled category. You may not know this bit of burger history (see Jen’s entry for links), but before father’s office opened 13 years ago, there was no such thing as a high-end burger. I have a love affair with cheeseburgers. I love grilling them; i love stacking them high with bacon and a fried egg; I love them via the drive-thru; most of all i love eating them and this is just the best burger to ever hit my lips. Chef Sang Yoon makes the meanest burger on the planet.
A lot of people declare “it’s not a burger,” and although i don’t agree, i can understand why that say that. It was inspired by French onion soup, it’s not on a bun (but a crunch French roll), there is no ketchup or mustard, its cheese is blue, its greens are arugula and its onions are caramelized. Oh and the beef is 100% chuck and dry-aged on the premises. That’s pretty rare. There’s also some hate about the rules, the lack of a wait list for a table, the order-yourself method that leaves you wishing you had an extra set of hands to carry all the beers back to the table, the death-ray stares piercing through your back as others wait impatiently for you to vacate your table…i actually could go on but, hey, it’s Father’s Office. And it rules. They can do what they want as long as they don’t run out of meat.
There are plenty of other things on the menu. I’ve had a few of them over the years. Just keep it simple with the F.O. burger, shoe-string fries, and a beer of your choice (allagash white for me) and don’t try and get it with bacon or cheddar, they may blacklist you.
Jen: In the mood for something local, Zorn and I rode our bikes a few miles down the road to Helm’s Bakery to get our Father’s Office burger fix. This is Zorn’s favorite burger of all time. I don’t agree (stay tuned to cornedbeefandrice to see what my favorite burger is!). The whole french roll thing throws me off–aesthetically and on principle. Let’s backtrack a bit. According to Zorn, this is the first gourmet burger to present itself on the culinary scene, care of chef Sang Yoon. Dismayed at my lack of enthusiasm for F.O., Zorn made me read this interview on how Chef Yoon was inspired by French Onion soup and was trying hard not to make a burger blah blah. Well, I guess in some sense he succeeded because in my mind this is more of a sandwich than a burger. But, potato-potahto, or, burger-boigah, I suppose. The meat is super juicy and flavorful, with a very satisfying mouthfeel of soft rare beef, sweet, caramelized onions and crunchy, bitter arugula. The french roll is great for soaking up all the meat juices, but honestly, I can’t get past it…I feel like I’m at Phillipe’s eating a french dip or something.
Beyond the burger, we also got a duck confit salad and cod fritters. The fritters were impressive in presentation but lacked in flavor so I would pass on that. The duck confit was really tender and delicious and seemed to be a bit of a play on Peking duck.
For as much as I gripe about the french roll, I really do like the Father’s Office “sandwich.” This is simply an instance in which I cannot agree that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.