A Choosy Encounter at The Counter

Posted June 26, 2008 in Eats

In a day and age when options are endless in each and every facet of quantum society, it’s perhaps fitting that The Counter Custom Built Burgers at Dos Lagos in Corona should make a menu that leaves you tapping a pencil on your head trying to figure out what next to do. The “Build Your Own Burger” sheet contains five excruciating steps for an indecisive diner, the first of which is the most perfunctory and obvious: Choose a Burger. There’s beef, turkey, veggie and grilled chicken. Fine. But then do you want a bun, or your burger in a bowl? Am I hungry enough for the 1/3-pound patty ($8.95), the 2/3-pounder ($10.95) or the 3/3-pound patty ($12.95)? Should I order it on a bed of lettuce, and cut out the carbs? We’re still on the first freaking step, and already paralyzed with choices.


But in the end it’s hard for even the most inept among us to screw things up, as everything is fresh at The Counter—all morsels of meat are lean and never frozen, all toppings are in league together and most combinations turn into tasty personal coalitions. Think dried cranberries won’t fit well with homemade guacamole and peanut sauce? You’d be surprised.


On my lunch visit I started with a basket of sweet potato fries ($4), although it was hard for my mind to stay off the fried dill pickle chips that I didn’t order, having had a memorable experience with them at the Penguin in Charlotte one time. The sweet potato fries are vermilion as Indian carrots, very colorful, but there’s nothing unique enough here to raise your eyebrows too high. They accompany well, and that’s the idea. Then I got down to brass tacks. I opted for the 2/3-pound turkey burger, with horseradish cheddar (cheese is the frame for Step 2, and the gruyère was tempting), a lettuce blend, grilled onions, carrot strings and spicy pepperoncinis (you can select four toppings in Step 3), in a caramelized onion marmalade (Step 4) on a honey wheat bun (Step 5, where alternatively you can go with an English muffin or a regular hamburger bun). What was presented was not the spilling tower of inaccessibility that you’d expect with all those toppings, but a very manageable burger that is refreshingly easy to bite. 


And I can tell you this: It was good. It was really, really good. One of those goods where you chew slower to savor the tastes that are coming together into something heretofore never conceived. The regular burgers are served up medium (or “deep-pink,” as our server aptly described it) at 135 degrees, and the hand-formed turkey burgers are tumble-apart juicy. I hadn’t the courage to use ketchup or mustard or any of the standard dressers; it just seemed suddenly unimaginative to do so. 


The restaurant itself is sort of an odd blend of skateboard art (for sale, paintings on decks), metallic accents and ale taps (Fat Tire and Blue Moon among them) in a diner setting. The Counter anticipates having a liquor license in September, so this appearance may vary soon. There are somewhat obtrusive flat panel televisions on the walls to watch CNN or sporting events. It’s not exactly charming, so much as utilitarian modern, a good place to have a glass of wine with a stylized burger. Shakes, malts, pies and an apple crumble (among others) are available for dessert, however this here patron is not built with the appetite of AJ Liebling and could do no such thing. But, having no room for dessert only means that you’ve made the right choice—which is more of an inevitability than a triumph, I think.


The Counter Custom Built Burgers, 2785 Cabot Drive, Suite 110, Corona, (951) 277-1711; www.thecounterburger.com. Open daily, Sun.–Thurs., 11:30AM–9PM, Fri. and Sat. 11:30AM–11PM. A meal for two, $30 approx. AE, MC, V



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