My SO and I finally made it to Umami Burger La Brea today. We live within walking distance, but after hearing so much about their "growing pains" we decided to let them work it out for a while. When we saw that they'd opened other branches we figured the early problems were taken care of and decided to partake of what most people described as a pretty special burger.
There was a line outside when we got there around 1-ish. We chose to sit at the counter and avoid the wait. The manager (or who I can only assume was the manager as he wasn't a server) seated us, that is, after he finished checking the box office results on his phone.
Once seated, we waited, and waited and waited, my SO tried to catch the manager's eye, a server's eye. They all purposefully averted his gaze. Seriously, it was ridiculous, I guess the manager had to drill down on those "Avatar" numbers. Finally our server shows up, we ordered a couple burgers, ketchup and mustard (it's a separate order there and they make a big deal on the menu about how you only get one with the order of a side, go figure) fries, onion rings a salad and a couple sodas. The two different sodas we wanted were sold out. We switched our orders.
About 15 minutes later our burgers arrived. No condiments, no salad, no fries, no rings. The bus boy who brought them said our fries were coming. We waited, and waited and waited. We started eating our burgers. They were quite good, nice char, interesting combo of flavors on both the "Manly" burger and the Umami burger, although I could have done without the extra slathering of grease on the bun (the meat was juicy and the bun was soft, why cover the outside of the bun in grease which only necessitates making a hash out of your single napkin -- and good luck getting another, we asked, I kid you not, 5 times for the ketchup and mustard we'd ordered initially and got nothing but various shades of attitude from various servers and busboys for our trouble. And we're not demanding, entitled a-holes, we're patient, polite and friendly, it kind of makes it all even more galling.)
10 minutes later, fries arrive. No rings, no salad. The couple next to us got an incorrect bill, the people at the next table had rapidly cooling fries with no burger. We asked again for ketchup (we were up to time 4 by now and our server told us we "had" ketchup motioning at the Chinese style soup spoon that came with the fries. When we said we'd like some for the burger as well as the mustard, he sighed and disappeared into the kitchen, seeming very put out.) New people cam in and when they ordered the soda selection had dwindled to ginger ale and iced green tea. It was around 1:45. How do you run out of all your sodas? It's not even like it's a perishable item that you want to order sparingly, which I would understand.
We inquired about our salad to the same busboy who'd brought our burgers and promised fries, the server was AWOL. The surly busboy asked which salad it was? We said it was the regular salad on the menu. We didn't have menus so we couldn't specify beyond "green." He sighed and disappeared. We were halfway through our burgers, wanting to enjoy them with our sides but also aware that they weren't getting any hotter. Finally rings arrived, and, you guessed it, still no salad or condiments. Five times was the charm on two more soup spoons full of mediocre, unsweetened tomato sauce-like ketchup and good Dijon mustard. We canceled the salad, got a sneer. When the bill came we were charged for the salad.
It's a really good burger, I'm not going to take that away from them (the onion rings were nice, but I can understand people who don't like the super fluffy batter and those who think the fries are too "baked potato-y" I prefer shoestring fries myself, but they were okay) but it's so obvious that whoever is in charge hasn't given nearly the thought or care to the basics of customer service that they did with the menu items. I would understand being able to get away with this if you were, say, the only dim sum place in all of North Dakota, but they're a hamburger place (and a pricey hamburger place at that) in Los Angeles, during a recession. We have options, LOTS of them! And now they've expanded when they obviously haven't even come close to mastering the basics at their original location.
Somehow for a quarter of the price and none of the attitude there are burger joints all over town that manage to get you a burger and fries with condiments all at the same time, relatively quickly, with a smile . Maybe they don't have Lardons or Shitake mushrooms or even Parmesan Frico, but ya know what, I think I can live without 'em.
850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036