Every so often, I crave for a nice juicy hamburger. Most of the time In and Out suffices, but Pdho suggested we go check out The Counter for lunch. I believe it started out in Southern California in 2003, and they have built the franchise to 20+ locations all over the country but hugely concentrated in California. We ended up going to the one located in Santana Row in San Jose. There are other Northern California locations including Palo Alto, Corte Madera, Roseville and Walnut Creek, essentially all the nicer, more well-to-do areas in the Bay Area that could accommodate such a chi-chi burger joint. Pdho has gone before, so when he saw the $20 certificate for $10 from Groupon, he jumped right on it.
The appeal of The Counter is the ability to build your own burger starting from the bun type and size of patty to the type of cheese and additional toppings. In reality, even if you don’t go overboard on the customization, you’re still looking at a $10 burger, but you really do get quite a bit for what you pay for. The quality of the ingredients are top notch, and it really doesn’t look like they skimp on anything. The buns are fluffy and nicely toasted. The patties are 100% Angus beef. The vegetables are fresh.
I ordered a 2/3 lb patty (while Pdho ordered a 1/3 lb patty), but I doubt I would have been able to finish the 1/3 lb patty anyways. Even though Pdho mocked me for being such a piggy, I figured I would maximize the $20 gift certificate. Aside from the hefty patty, I stayed pretty simple and minimal by choosing a regular bun with American cheese and sauteed mushrooms. The burger was very well cooked and tasted pretty darn good. I ended up only being able to finish half of it, and even with that half, I felt like was already pushing it. Pdho’s burger was on a garlic roll and topped with Tillamook cheddar cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos. I think his might have been a little more flavorful because of the garlic roll and onions. Both really gave it some depth of flavor albeit some really stinky breath. Both burgers were pretty good all in all.
No burger meal is ever complete without something fried so we ordered a “fifty-fifty” which allows you to choose 2 half orders of any side orders, so we went with sweet potato fries and onion strings. The sweet potato fries were good, and the onion strings were okay. Neither were really great. I just like thicker onion rings.
Overall, I think the whole customization might be a little too much. Sometimes giving people too many choices can be overwhelming…. and to a certain extent, I was a little confused on what to pick. I worried a little bit about what to add to my burger, because I wasn’t sure of what would taste good. I liked the idea of the different toppings like bacon, guacamole, and roasted corn and black bean salsa, but I was hesitant of what it would taste like mixed all together. It reminds me a little bit of Mongolian BBQ. In concept, it sounds like a lot of fun to pick a whole bunch of ingredients and have it stir-fried together, but the end result is usually a hodge podge mess of food that doesn’t taste good at all. It’s kind of ironic actually. Nevertheless, both Pdho and I kept our burgers pretty simple, so I was pretty happy with the food. I can only imagine the creations that some people may order.
3055 Olin Avenue Suite 1035
San Jose CA 95128
PAFO Ratings for The Counter:
Price 3 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 ½ stars
Food 3 ½ stars
Overall rating 3 ½ stars