If you don’t have anything nice to say then you shouldn’t say anything at all, and I suppose that goes doubly for writing. I have been thinking about this golden rule while trying to carefully tow the line on this review. Close to my Westside digs a popular sports bar is renowned for its sandwiches and burgers, and in Los Angeles that’s no small feat. It was a bar burger—my stance on bar fare to this point has been clearly defined but I’m never one to turn down a burger. I carved out a little time with a friend since our schedules were similar, between work and drop-in hockey, and we had headed over to the San Francisco Saloon for a quick dinner.

Happy hour had just expired, the first of a few bad omens. We sat ourselves at a table, trading in the true bar experience for a later date. We looked over the menus that were caddied on the tables while the waitress swung by quickly to take our drink orders. We had a rough idea of what we wanted, respectively, but we were open to suggestions, so we polled our waitress. By the time she returned with the Newcastle and Boddingtons, we had our orders placed with her blessing: a hickory burger for my friend while I ordered the 49er burger.

We watched the multiple sports feeds piped through the bar, darting between basketball and baseball while we waited for the burgers. I pulled out my camera and readied everything for the arrival of the food. We wanted to get the ceremony out of the way early, to give us more time to digest before hockey.

A short wait yielded two burgers, both hefty, cut in half and pierced by toothpicks, sharing their oval plates with mounds of fries. Nearly identical. As I brought the camera to my eye, trying best to capture the sheer weight of the food, the waitress took an unexpected interest in my handiwork. I mentioned to her that I was a blogger and quickly put the subject to rest. She seemed leery.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8009/7408518692_439ca4bfe2_z.jpgWe dug in; pungent blue cheese crumbles dominated my burger, the sautéed onions and standard fixings were unable to muster enough to keep the flavors in harmony. Things were starting off amiss. The biggest sin (omen, if you are keeping score) however was overcooking—medium rare morphed into well done—the patty that made the rest of the issues easy to overlook. The fries quickly became my favorite item on the plate. I surveyed my buddy and he had similar issues, the hickory sauce was in complete control of his sandwich and the patty wore the same overcooked sweater.

It became an exercise in diplomacy as the waitress returned anxiously to see what the blogger had to say about the burger. I was almost in the clear before I let slip that the meat was horrifically overcooked—she apologized immediately and told me about their new cook (the trifecta of bad omens). I let the other issues slide and was not really in the mood to expound on cooking time because I knew that we had some hockey to play so we politely asked for the check and promised a repeat visit when the cook found his groove.

This was not the first time I had been let down by the chowhounds’ endorsements. To be fair though, the bar was getting a new cook up to speed but it appeared to be a choppy transition. I’m generally not in the mood to return to an eatery that has failed to hit some easy marks, fearing the ‘shame-on-me-moment’ for letting my guard down, especially with so many burger joints about that I have yet to try. But something made me believe that is was a fluke. A mulligan is in order and I will keep you all posted.