hamburger creations / the counter – del mar / san diego, ca
The Counter is an international chain of burger restaurants (their 2 Ireland locations make it international!) specializing in offering their customers the ability to custom make their own creations. The website boosts that 312,120+ different burger combinations are possible! You can control pretty much all aspects of your creation – you can make it a sandwich or a salad, you can choose from beef, chicken, turkey or veggie, your choice of cheese and toppings, a slew of sauces to choose from and multiple bun choices – ranging from the standard hamburger bun to a multigrain bun and even an English muffin.
If choices make your head spin, they also have a number of pre-built burgers and salads to choose from, though at this restaurant nothing is referred to as a salad, instead it’s “A Burger in a Bowl”.
I took Jake and the kids here one evening in early July. I figured that the kids would have fun selecting all of their own stuff to go on their burgers – a fun for all experience! And of course, I had a coupon from one of the many, many deal sites out there these days, helping to offset the costs of this grand, new adventure. Onward!
Everyone got their own clipboard to check off their selections. It was kind of hard to decide, actually! Some of the toppings were, uh, “interesting” to me. Such as dried cranberries, carrot strings, and hard boiled eggs. None of these items were ordered for my burger creation.
I was also kind of wishing for a sauce tasting since they had so many sauces to choose from. It didn’t occur to me ask. Just a few of the sauces available? Ginger Soy Glaze, Apricot Sauce, Basil Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette and Horseradish Mayo. The available choices was a little mind boggling. Eventually though we all placed our orders and waited for the goods to arrive.
Jake’s son has some kind of “free samples” radar because he immediately honed in on the fact that they were giving out milkshake samples. He started to squirm in his seat, wanting to go up and get some samples for all of us. Someone did come by though and offered us all samples of their “Birthday Shake”.
It has a lot of sprinkles in it. A lot. A bit sprinkle-happy, I think.
The first thing we ordered were some fries to share. We got one order of Cheddar Cheese Fries and one order of plain regular fries. The fries are the really thin cut fries – super skinny shoestring. The cheese fries simply had slices of Tillamook cheddar melted on top, quickly making a hard cheese crust on top of the fries. I don’t like it when cheese slices are just melted on top like this. It just makes it taste stale with hardened cheese on top. I was expecting melty cheese, akin to cheese sauce, and not just slices of cheese on the fries. I thought it was kind of a waste.
Here’s my burger: I went with a 1/3lb beef burger on a multigrain bun with mixed greens, tomato, bacon, scallions, fried onion strings and roasted garlic aioli sauce. I quickly discovered there was an extra item on my burger that I didn’t order: grilled onions.
Now, I love onions, but grilled onions + fried onions would be serious overkill. I took off all of the grilled onions before proceeding on and as more of our burgers came out, we discovered that there were more incorrect orders.
Here’s the innards of my burger, post grilled onion removal. It’s cooked to medium (though, looks kind of medium-rare here). I liked the overall flavor of the burger – it was moist and juicy and nicely grilled on the outside. I loved having mixed greens on my burger and I loved the roasted garlic aioli sauce – it added a nice garlicky kick that I really enjoyed. My scallions didn’t add as much flavor as I had hoped, just a hint, but with the bacon and onion strings in the mix nothing was too overpowering than anything else. Kudos to myself.
Here’s Jake’s daughter’s creation: burger with ham, boiled eggs and olives. She also got the Roasted Corn, not knowing that it was combined with a black bean salsa that had dreaded tomatoes in it. Because of the dreaded tomatoes, she said the order was wrong. I’m not sure if it was really wrong or if she just misunderstood what she was ordering. In any case though, she did enjoy her burger even if she spent some quality time removing the chopped tomatoes. I think she ate the ham separately, too…
Jake got this pineapple-bacon-burger thing. Pineapple on a burger sounds so weird to me, especially with bacon. Salty-sweet combination, I get it, but I don’t. Jake ate every bite.
For some reason I don’t have a photo of Jake’s son’s burger! His order was wrong, too. They put some weird coleslaw on his burger that he didn’t like or want and forgot to put ham on and he was quite sad about it. We got him to scrap all of the coleslaw off though and then our waiter brought us a side of ham on a plate and all was well with the world again.
Because of the burger mishaps, Jake said he wouldn’t want to come here again. I didn’t think it was that bad myself, I personally liked my burger but I do have to agree that that getting orders wrong on custom build burgers is kind of a downer.
We did alright though. See, there’s my big pile of uneaten, rejected onions.
All in all it was still a lovely evening out and we ate outdoors. We also happened to get there before the crazy dinner rush!
Since we were so close to the ocean and it was almost sunset, we rushed over to try and catch a glimpse of sunset.
Sadly, it was cloudy and we missed it. Instead we took a little drive up through Torrey Pines and went over to the hang glider port and hung out for a spell. A lovely, if sunset-free, evening for all.
The Counter: Custom Built Burgers
Del Mar Highlands Town Center
12873 El Camino Real Suite M4
San Diego CA 92130