Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Counter

Even though I don't eat meatburgers, I still go to burger joints in search of a replacement for the beloved Cheesecake Factory Veggie Burger that is now discontinued.

This pencil is the most essential tool at The Counter.

Seeing Elmomonster's tantalizing photos of the burgers created at The Counter, my friend immediately decided that we had to try it. After investigating the menu posted on their website and discovering they have sweet potato fries, I couldn't stop thinking about The Counter for days.

Seeing Elmomonster's photos of The Counter's interior, I expected the dining area to be much larger than it actually is and I was disappointed to discover that the roll-up garage door is just a prop, unlike the ones at UCI's Pippin dining hall which actually open and let in fresh air.

There is an actual counter at The Counter, which also serves as the bar. In addition to bottled beers, they also have some on tap.

The Counter's website claims there are 312,120+ burger combinations you can create with their menu because you choose everything, from the meat of the patty and type of bread for the bun, to the sauce that comes on the side. When you are seated, you're given the above menu and a pencil to check-mark your choices. It can be overwhelming.

Devin loves french fries, I craved the sweet potato fries, and Eric had nothing against getting the onion strings, so our compromise was the 3x3, an item not on found the menu, but suggested by our server. These were amazing, all freshly fried, crisp, and bursting with flavor, especially the onion strings and the sweet potato fries. The onion strings were delicate and somehow had an exceptionally pronounced onion flavor.

Accompanying our 3x3 were three dipping sauces: sweet BBQ sauce, chipotle sauce, and ranch. The BBQ and chipotle sauces were very thick, liberally covering each dipped item, but when I dipped a french fry into the ranch sauce and brought it up to my lips, the watery ranch sauce dripped onto my black tank top.

You're not seeing double. Well, I guess you are because I requested that my veggie burger be cut in half since in my research before visiting The Counter, I sometimes found the burger's height to be a problem. This is my 1/3 lb. veggie patty with Tillamook cheddar, Bermuda red onions, mixed baby greens, sprouts, and tomatoes on honey wheat bread and with roasted garlic aioli on the side.

I was really excited about this burger because I asked our server if I needed to check mark a patty size and was told that their veggie patties come in all their available sizes (1/3 lb., 2/3 lb., 1 lb.). This was an indication that The Counter makes, mixes, and forms their own veggie patties instead of using the standard Boca patty or Gardenburger that many restaurants unfortunately believe are adequate "substitutes" for vegetarians.

I was hoping that this patty would be my answer to the now discontinued veggie burger from Cheesecake Factory (which was a delicious signature mix instead of Boca or Gardenburger), but I'm sad to say that it was not. The main component of this veggie patty was brown rice, and while I prefer brown rice over white, the high ratio of brown rice to the black beans, corn, red onion, red pepper, and herbs was bland and mushy. They essentially could have listed this "patty" as a thick vegetarian spread. The toppings that I chose for this burger rescued the taste and texture, especially the sprouts.

Devin's 2/3 lb. beef hamburger with Tillamook cheddar, Bermuda red onions, grilled onions, lettuce blend, tomatoes, and avocado on a white hamburger bun with mayonnaise on the side.

Eric's 2/3 lb. beef with Tillamook cheddar, Bermuda red onions, grilled onions, and roasted red peppers on a white hamburger bun with peppercorn steak sauce on the side. Eric ended up using the BBQ sauce that came with our 3x3 appetizer and deemed this combination better than using the steak sauce.

Both Devin and Eric commented that their burgers were extremely greasy, especially the buns. We were all expecting monstrous burgers, but these burgers were only large in height, and not even an unmanageable height. Devin and I were expecting more from The Counter, Devin more so because he hadn't eaten a beef burger in over a year. I am in love with the 3x3, but other than that, it will be a while until we return.

The Counter
6416 Irvine Boulevard
Irvine, CA 92620

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