Thursday, November 26, 2009

I was befuddled by The Counter

The Counter taunted me for for weeks before it opened with images of perfect burgers piled with fixings of my choice. MY choice! I'm a Red Mill devotee, but was willing to consider defecting if the burgers demanded it.

K and I met there for Sunday lunch. Maybe it was the hour, but overall the place seems really kid-friendly, which makes sense considering the menu. It's just burgers, fries and shakes, right? But once I started trying to decide among the burger toppings, a burger no longer seemed so simple. Jalapenos, grilled pineapple, fried egg, red peppers, dried cranberries, bacon, gruyere, fried onion strings on a bun or English muffin or in a bowl?

Oh my. I couldn't think straight. Then I started to think they should have designed the burger for me. I didn't want to do it any more. And they have a few pre-designed options, but they all felt safe and lacked the tantalizing choices like roasted corn and black bean salsa. So I boldly went for: gruyere, caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce, avocado, garlic aioli. I know, not bold. K chose similarly traditional toppings, though she went for Russian dressing. You also can go halvsies on sides, so we split french fries and sweet potato fries ($4.95), forgoing the third choice, fried onion strings.

The fries were disappointing. A burger place should know how to do fries and The Counter's are not up to snuff. They were rather dry, and for thin fries, not very crisp. The sweet potato fries were much more satisfying, with a mellow sweetness.

But our burgers showed up piled as high with toppings as I hoped. They were quite intimidating to consider. The grilled bun was neither fantastic nor bad, just a pretty decent burger bun. The meat patty was quite thick, almost too thick and the meat was underseasoned. But the caramelized onions were beautiful, if slippery, and along with the gruyere and half an avocado, made up for the lack of flavor in the meat. The aioli also was served on the side, a nice touch.

I rather enjoyed my burger ($9.25) and K also had a banana shake ($4.95) that was thick with chunks of real banana. Nothing was really wrong with our meal except the fries. But it also was not the kind of place that ignites an all-consuming passion, like Red Mill with its incredible burgers and heavenly onion rings. Like its meat, The Counter is just a little bland.

The Counter
4609 14th Ave. N.W.

The Counter on Urbanspoon

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