Review - The Counter
Haven't seen any recent reviews on this place lately (aside from brief blurbs in burger threads), so I thought I'd add mine -
Went on Saturday a few minutes after 6pm. There were roughly 12 people waiting - not horrible. Thankfully you can have some beers or wine while you're standing around waiting. My friend and I managed to snag a couple seats at the counter/bar after maybe 10 minutes of waiting. The place seemed to get very very crowded as it got closer to 7pm. We had some beers and watched UCLA lose on the nice flat screen TV. Ordered fries - they came out and were satisfactory/average. Someone next to me got onion rings that looked really good - next time I'm either ordering these or I'm trying the chili cheese fries.
Burger of the month was ahi tuna. We decided to make our own. My friend liked his burger - something with jalapeños and the grilled onion marmalade I think... don't remember the details. I also liked my burger - 1/3 beef (which turned out to be plenty for me, even though I had been eyeing the 1/2 lb. and 2/3 lb.) on a honey wheat bun (more wheat than honey fyi) with Tillamook cheddar, bacon, and mixed greens. It was tasty. And I will definitely go back. Service was pleasant and quick.
But overall it was not really special - I don't think it was deserving of it's GQ magazine "burger you must eat before you die" ranking or whatever they wrote... I just feel like I've had better burgers and fries before, namely the Burger Bar at Mandalay in Vegas and at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, albeit for $14. Hell, I could cook a burger myself that would be just as good as the one I had at The Counter.
Bottom line - very good but overhyped. Not worth waiting more than 20 minutes to eat here.
I really like the sweet potato fries. I enjoyed the burger I had there; I think I had the tillamook cheddar, carmelized onions and greens. I had kind of odd service. Not bad, the waitress was just a little off. I live in the area so I'll definitely go back. Prices were pretty reasonable.
i saw this post and had to reply - i've been to the counter a few times, usually with a friend who insists on going because she loves the sweet potato fries (which are darn good). i agree with other chowhounders that the burgers are ok, but not amazing.
the reason i am NEVER going back to this restaurant is the service. the first couple of times we went, we simply had mildly poor service - slow, forgotten toppings/drinks etc. not good but i'm usually not so picky about this stuff. the last time i went however, was for dinner on a sunday. we were prepared to wait, but they had us (about about 25 other people) waiting for over an hour, while they cleared the entire restaurant before they did the next seating. they literally waited for every table to empty before they sat anyone else. some tables were sitting empty and bussed for over 30 minutes. than they sat all of us who had been waiting within about 5 minutes of each other. i've never seen anything like it, and it was very frustrating for a hungry diner with sore feet.
once they did seat us, the service was slow (maybe because they sat the entire restaurant at once?), they forgot a take-out order, didn't check to see if we wanted 2nd drinks, and had run out of the sweet potato fries that my friend had been craving.
I also agree that the Couter's burger is lacking in flavor, which is sad to me because I like the idea of choosing from all the toppings and they have been good about cooking my burger rare.
We tried the burger at Rustic Canyon and found it to be quite bad, so I'm hoping that you've been there more recently than we have and it's changed. As it was, ALL we could taste was the Point Reyes blue topping the burger. I love Point Reyes, and I enjoy blue cheese on burgers (Father's Office), but we ordered a burger because we wanted to taste the meat. No chance of that with the burger at Rustic Canyon. I also remember our burger being overcooked... Maybe it's time to try it again and ask them to hold the cheese or at least use a light hand?
I worked over in the big office park across Ocean Park from the Counter when it first opened up and thankfully wasn't nearly as crowded as it is these days. It sounds like it hasn't changed at all. The only thing other than what you mentioned that I noticed there is an apparent complete disregard for how the customer asks for burgers to be cooked. I went with a couple of friends, I asked for mine rare, another person asked for medium rare, and another asked for well done. Both of the rare/medium rare burgers came out burnt to a crisp while the well done one was still bloody. We sent 'em back and had ones that were a bit closer to what we asked for, but I left there wondering why they bother asking.
I haven't gone back for some time, but I have noticed they've single-handedly made it as hard as can be to find parking in that area.
I completely agree. I find the meat to be sorely lacking in flavor and very reliant on toppings to alleviate the blandness. A good burger shouldn't need any toppings to taste good, The Counter's falls short.
Thanks for the tip about Rustic Canyon's burger, I'll give it a try when I'm next there.