Some mornings come earlier than others. Yesterday's didn't come early at all. It came so late, in fact, that I missed the farmers' market. So LA and I had to find something else to do. Hmmm, what to do on a very warm Saturday? We headed on down to South Park. (Cue Les Claypool.) We did have ourselves a time, too.
The food court at the mall wasn't appealing to either of us. We passed on McCormick & Schmick's since they do steak and seafood, and I really don't want to deal with LA going into anaphylactic shock over lunch. He didn't feel like Mexican food, and M5's menu didn't appeal to him. That brought us to The Counter, for "Custom Built Burgers". The Counter is a small, mostly West Coast chain with a menu consisting, unsurprisingly, of mostly burgers. The restaurant is small and industrial, with high ceilings, visible ventilation, and a lot of blue paint. Too much blue paint, in my opinion. Even the staff wears blue t-shirts. While we were waiting for our food, we got to watch the World Cup. If you call periodically glancing at the monitors above the bar "watching the World Cup".
LA went the easy route and ordered the Hobo Pack. The menu describes this as "an assortment of grilled vegetables topped with fresh herbs". While it didn't specify which vegetables, LA was told that it did contain mushrooms and he would not be able to order it without them. He ordered it anyway, deciding that he would just pick them out. What he got was a parchment packet filled with an assortment of grilled vegetables. I saw corn, red peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms. He loved it and said he would start making it at home. Minus the mushrooms.
I like to make things difficult for myself, so I custom built my burger. While options are good, too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. For my burger, did I want beef, chicken, turkey, or veggie? 1/3 pound, 1/2 pound, or 1 full pound (post-cooking weight, not pre)? Did I want it on a bun or on a bed of lettuce? If I wanted a bun, did I want a regular bun, whole wheat, or an English muffin? Those were the easy choices. I was allowed one cheese, but had to pick from among 11 different options. I could have up to four toppings from a selection of 20. I can't imagine picking carrot strings, hard-boiled eggs, and pineapple as toppings for a burger, but obviously someone else can. Mustard and mayo aren't good enough for The Counter's patrons. I still had to choose from among 20 sauces. My mind was spinning by this point, and I wished I'd just picked the BLT from the standard menu. Before the headache kicked in, I settled for a 1/3 pound beef burger with Tillamook cheddar, bacon, dill pickle chips, scallions, and organic mixed greens, with garlic aioli on an English muffin. Oh, and the fries are extra. But what's a burger without fries? So I got those too.
The burger arrived perfectly cooked and one inch thick. Some may say that I have a big mouth, but I encountered some difficulty consuming the burger. I think "nibbled" best described how I ate my burger. The fries were shoestrings, sprinkled with seasoned salt. They were very good. I used the garlic aioli as a dipping sauce. Aioli is really just a fancy word for mayo, so I was expecting garlic-flavored mayo. I didn't detect even a hint of garlic. I also didn't detect a hint of cheddar on the burger, although I could see it was there. The bacon was a little on the undercooked side, but tasted fine. I was most happy with the scallions. They gave the burger an unexpected kick that was lacking from the cheese and the aioli. A tasty burger, yes. Worth the price? Not really.
I know this is South Park, where I should be happy to pay more for the privilege of appearing wealthy or trendy. The waitress told LA that she is a vegetarian. I said that of course she is. All servers in a place like that are vegetarians. It may even be a rule. She was friendly and polite, but more interested in chit-chatting with her friends than taking care of her tables. This also may have been a rule, since only one server spent more time serving customers than talking to coworkers. I wasn't unhappy with the experience at The Counter; just not impressed. The food was good, but not good enough for me to make another trip. I don't need 20 sauces and 11 types of cheese. I can get a burger with much less hassle anywhere, for the same price or less. And not have a headache when I leave.