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Food on the 4th of July: The Counter - Los Angeles

The Counter
Cuisine: North American
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Wholly cow! The Counter serves up LA's best burger in a bun, opines California correspondent, Bradley Tuck
This weekend, across the USA, millions of Americans will celebrate throwing off the shackles of colonialism, and the birth of the nation by burning a thin slab of ground beef, slathering it with ketchup, pressing it into a saw-dusty bun, and washing it down with, arguably, some of the worlds worst beer. Myself, I’ll be heading to The Counter, purveyors of, in my opinion , the best burger in Los Angeles.

The ‘best burger’ argument is a sure way to lose friends in a city that has its share of good burger joints. ‘Father’s Office’ in Santa Monica is oft touted as the winner in the beef and bun stakes, but I can’t agree. Sure, it’s a fine creation, coming as it does with apple-wood smoked bacon compote, caramelized onions two cheeses and rocket salad, but you can’t make any ‘substitutions’. In the ‘home of the free’ and the land of the overindulged, I say that’s downright un-American! And why I’ll be poring over the mind-boggling menu at The Counter and heeding their call to ‘Build Your Own Burger’.

The Counter isn’t a one off. It has numerous franchises across the states, but it manages, with its retro-cool décor, modern music and young attractive staff, to feel like a fresh start-up. The beef is certified natural, humanely raised and handled, Angus. You can choose from ten cheeses, twenty-eight locally sourced toppings, and eighteen made from scratch sauces. On my first visit I have to admit, I was a tad timid, and did a classic onion, mayo lettuce tomato mix. Boring. The burger was just perfect though. I like it pink in the middle and crispy and rich on the outside. Next time around, on the advice of a friend who’s a regular, I pushed the boat out.

Having at least some care for my arteries, I opted for the modest 1/3rd pound beef patty. Medium rare. Danish Blue cheese.I could have gone with the Gruyère, or indeed the horseradish cheddar - next time, maybe. On top of that I feverishly ticked carrot strips, grilled onions and tomatoes. ‘Corn and bean salsa’ looked tempting but I wasn’t feeling ‘South of the Border’ that day. Next, the sauce. With eighteen to choose from, and imagining a bun beginning to resemble a Volkswagen stuffing contest, I chickened out and just got the caramelized onion marmalade. A side of French fries, onion rings and sweet potato fries combo rounded things, and no doubt my waist, out.

To say that the burger was an epiphany would be an understatement. Flavours and textures sang together in my beautifully composed, thank you, bun. Granted, I had to eat it with a knife and fork, it was that unwieldy. Any feelings of ‘glutton guilt’ that I may have had dissipated when a server skimmed past holding aloft what looked like a medium sized handbag. It was the full 1lb burger. All eyes followed it to it’s resting place, an improbably slender girl wearing sunglasses indoors. Welcome to LA.

The Counter
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30 June 2009
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