Saturday, March 24, 2007
The Counter - Palo Alto, CA
The Counter recently opened on California Street in Palo Alto’s “second” down town. This is the second location with the first being in Santa Monica. The place has an L.A. feel with concrete floors, metal retro chairs and faux terrazzo counters and tables. Current hit music blasts from overhead. There is a full bar and always a line for a table at lunch, also much like L.A. I sit at the counter so I don’t have to wait for a table. There is also a full bar. Flat screens float above the counter.
All this would be a bit over-the-top if the burger weren’t great. And it is. The menu sports several suggested combinations for the burgers, but the real fun is the build-your-own menu. You can order 1/3 ($7.95), 2/3 ($9.95) or 1 pound ($12.95) burgers made from “all vegetarian diet” fresh Angus beef. (I hope after mad-cow that all beef is vegetarian fed, but at least this is going to be prion-free.) They also offer turkey or vegetarian versions.
Next you pick your cheese from 10 choices – gruyére, Danish blue, imported swiss. There are eighteen free toppings from which you can choose four, extras are 50 cents. These include pickles, bermuda red onions, grilled onions, jalapenos, etc. Then these are nine premium toppings for $1 each, like honey cured bacon, chili or fried egg. Next choose your sauce from 17 choices. So far I have tried the horseradish mayo, spicy sour cream and the peppercorn steak sauce, which you dip the burger in. Finally there are three buns. English muffin, hamburger bun and honey wheat bun.
My favorite combo in three tries has been 1/3 pound, gruyere, bacon, grilled onions and horseradish mayo. The burger is cooked to order, I had mine medium. It was just right. The beef is juicy, and flavorful. The onions are soft and sweet, but piled on a little higher than I like, but that is easy to correct. The bun is firm and in the right propotion to the burger. The burger has been delightful each time and I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s a five!
I also recommend the "Fifty-Fifty" of fries and onion rings ($3.95). The onion rings are micro thin sliced, and lightly breaded then fried brick style. They come out in clumps and taste great dunked in the ranch dressing provided. The fries are very thinly sliced and served with BBQ sauce. They are very good, but not as good as the o-rings. The whole thing is enough for two people, too much for just me.
The tab for Burger, Fries, O-rings and coke was about $16.
I was told that more of these restaurants are coming to the Bay Area. I think they will do quite well. (Update: There is now a counter is San Jose. Read the review.)
Burger - 5 spatulas (out of 5)
Onion Rings 4.5
369 California Street
Palo Alto, CA 94306