Located on University Ave., Umami Palo Alto is the newest culinary experience to come to Palo Alto by offering a new take on the classic burger.
I first learned about this place from my friend Refugio Garcia, local freelance writer and avid burger enthusiast. Having opened only a few months ago, we were down for our regular evening of beers and burgers.
For our meal we started with Truffle’em Thin Fries along with Thin Fries while for our main meal we ordered a Manly Burger and a Truffle Burger. All of this enjoyed with a few bottles of Stone Pale Ale and Coke.
Neither one of us are fans of thin fries but we did appreciated how well it was cooked and salted. The burger was exactly to my standards with quality meat that was properly marinated and grilled. Helping the flavor was the bacon, truffle cheese and mix of veggies that took me to burger nirvana.
Despite serving a perfect burger, Umami Palo Alto has a lot of issues with the atmosphere and presentation that keeps it from becoming a good burger joint.
The most obvious would have to be the “fish out of water” decor. Walk in and you will be stumped to see the place decorated with book shelf’s packed with some of the greatest works of literature. This kind of decoration may work if this was a classy coffee shop, not a burger joint.
Its understandable that they have an urge to be original and attract the Palo Alto crowd; but there is a major difference between cliche and traditional. So obviously who ever planned the theme could not tell two apart.
With its unusual choice of decorations resulted in attracting a crowd that is out of place at a real burger joint. The crowd was mostly made up of either obnoxious vegetarians or food snobs whose idea of a “good burger” can be described as blasphemous.
The next issues has to do with the poor presentation of the meal. When our burgers were served it was just a burger on an empty plate – that is it! For restaurants in Palo Alto, presentation is everything and so it comes as a total shock when such a good burger is given a very bland presentation.
Finally to top-off all that is wrong with the setting; the final nail on the coffin is the moment when you realize this burger establishment has no bar. Sure they have an good selection of beers (like every restaurant in Palo Alto) but no bar. Also fountain drinks was not an option and we were forced to pony-up $3 per soda bottle.
The service at best was mediocre as our waitress only attended to us just to take our order and to bring out our order. Also most the waiting staff gave a vibe that feels like they are Stanford students who are upset that their parents forced them to get a job and they lacked the tech skills to join a start-up.
With great burgers but an empty meal presentation and an out of touch atmosphere makes Umami Palo Alto only good for an exploration by burger enthusiast. After that its back to the many other burger joints in the area that actually have a burger atmosphere.
Final Score: 2/5
Written for Digital Journal
Original Article: Review: Umami Palo Alto is a burger joint without the burger experience