The Counter – Restaurant Review

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I visited The Counter some years ago, soon after they opened, with a bunch of coworkers.  The service was slow, the prices were higher than we expected, and the quality was so-so.   I’ve passed it by many times since, with the eventual realization that... it had survived.  Usually when it’s a “one and done” visit, I can connect the dots to a “For Lease” sign within 6 months.  Wrong!

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With hungry college pests kids in tow, it was time for a revisit.   The interior may have been remodeled if my memory holds, and it’s pleasant enough despite metal chairs that add to the din.  They’ve retained the bar and have a modest selection of craft beers on draught.  

Their niche is that you get to create your own burger.  They have a few menu selections, essentially a tailored sandwich for each meat option, where’s the adventure in that?   This is where you go for a custom burger, so grab your pencil and get to work.  You do this with a clipped order sheet within the menu, and it takes some time to figure out what you what you want. 

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This is a one page affair with a plethora of options, so it goes without saying that there is fine print.   

Meats – well, I came for a burgers, and if there’s a default definition of “burger,” it says “beef.”   Happily, there are no small numbers to the side that represent an upcharge to “hormone and antibiotic free” beef.   $12.50 for a half pound burger... sigh.    By the time you add a side order of fries for $3, a soda for $2, tax and tip,  you’re summing at $23 per person for... an admittedly higher quality combo than at your fast food vendor of choice.  But is it $15 better?

Cheese – pick one of ample options, good deal.  Gouda is gooda on burgers, and a decidedly different option than my spicy jack tendencies.

Choose a Sauce.  Hmm. 

“Google?” 
“Yes.”
“I need some help here.  What are all these options?”

Pesto.  Maybe.  Good on pizza.  Probably with chicken.  Sigh.  You can’t really choose a sauce until you know what else you have going on.  The sauce question is misplaced in the selection order.

Unlimited Toppings – I like the sound of that!  Can I take selected options and make a side salad of them?  Oh, and “Google? It’s me.  Hi again.”  Some of the premium toppings are of interest, but at $12.50, I’m holding a line in the sand.

Buns – pretty straightforward, but watch for the upcharges.

Order taken, then wait... And wait.  Hey, it’s a custom burger.  Mucho detail.  And Wait.   *yawn*  Well, at least World Cup soccer is on.  And this must be the normal pace, because the waiter doesn’t seem to bothered about it.  This is not a place for a quick bite.  If you’re with others that want to enjoy extended conversation, this works.   If you’re on a schedule, you best have a smart phone to text your tardiness.  

Skipping forward in time...

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It’s very nicely presented.   While waiting, you probably enjoyed seeing what other assortments got stacked.  The waiters should probably parade these around like a fashion show before delivering them to the intended table.  There’s a lot of variation.

So, here we are.  The quality of the ingredients was excellent.  The sauce menu should have indicated that these are provided on the side by default; I might have tried something more interesting... and should have.  Pesto had no place on the assembly before me and was left unused.

I ordered the pineapples thinking that I’d enjoy them on the side.  After a few bites of the burger, I put them back on and they sweetened the flavor appreciably.  Don’t be afraid to order too many things and mix and match after tasting, says me.

I’m not sure if the crushed peanuts even made it to the burger, but they were a “what the heck” check off anyway.  The croutons... I was looking for a little crunch, but these were too thick to allow the hopeful notion that thuntitled-56-4is should be a hand-held burger.  They became my side salad, of sorts.  They crunched nicely.

Stepping back a bit, with this many ingredient options, it helps me appreciate what chefs go through when they list a specialty burger on the menu.  There has to be both a certain cross section and balance of flavors and texture, without throwing in the kitchen sink... Perhaps this is why I probably keep searching for the perfect burger.  There’s just too many options. 

I was pleased with mine, nonetheless.  I tend to favor spicy ingredients or sauces that overwhelm the flavor of the meat to the point where the burger becomes a tasteless substrate.  That would be a waste of all that hormone and antiobotic-free care given to the, um, cow that donated to the cause.   My choices didn’t do that here.  Go me.

I might try this again sometime to further tweak some preferences, but...  there’s plenty of perfectly good selections at other “quality” burger establishments, and they tend to 1) cost $1-$3 less and 2) include a side order of fries.  I understand that maintaining the host of ingredients that The Counter offers carries a cost, but so does $23 x (insert # of people for whom you’re paying).  Ouch.

So, we have a lengthy wait, a minimalist and somewhat noisy interior, prices on the high end of the burger wars and....

I hate skinny fries.  I know some people like them, and the picture makes it look like you get a lot of them.  Go to Fuddruckers.  Six of their steak fries would equal this batch.  Okay, seven then...  but seven satisfying bites into fried potato goodness rather than nibbling like a hamster. 

4 of 5 STARS

 

 

$5 less and it would be five stars, warts and all.  It’s good for an occasion, but money is better spent elsewhere.

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