The Counter - Irvine
My son and I needed to get away for some quiet business consultation and he knows I'm a burger guy so he suggested The Counter in Irvine (at Sand Canyon & Irvine Blvd.). 2:00PM and the place was almost empty. Nice, clean space in a center I didn't even know was there (don't get to that specific area often).
I'd read some mixed reviews here, especially about the way they have out of control order-at-the-counter service during the day, but this location has table service all the time. So much for that issue.
Lots of build-it-yourself options....... 1/4lb burger was $9 with several toppings. I ordered swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce, grilled onions and grilled peppers. Medium rare was actually medium rare. Mixed side of onion strings and sweet potato fries was $5.50 (I think)...... reasonable portion and the SP fries were REALLY good.......... served with 3 different dips. My son had blue cheese, lettuce, grilled onions, roasted red peppers. Pic of son's burger attached.
This was a pretty good experience. Everything was done correctly. Only issue was bun integrity. Burgers with lots of soft and slippery toppings require a bun of more than average stability, which this didn't have. Then again, a messy burger can be more fun.
We'd go back.
Sorry. That should have been 1/3 pound for $8.50. If it helps any. Have to admit that the basic elements of a Double-Double w/fries and a drink will run $15 at The Counter. What's different is the size of the overall burger, the quality of the meat, the variety of quality toppings and the amount of fries you get. And..........I've never actually had a medium-rare burger at In-n-Out. The Counter patty was thick enough to actually be pink through the middle.
I would admit that, when in the market for a REALLY good burger and fries at $15, I would more likely opt for Brussels Bistro in Laguna Beach.
The counter makes a very good burger and very good fries. But it's not so spectacular that it's worth enduring the crowds. It's priced a bit more premium than it should be, but to me the most important reflection of the place is that I haven't had the desire to return.
I think it's one of those "If I have to explain it, you won't get it" things. Ask Padma Lakshmi or Audrina Partridge.
Actually........... I said "can be" more fun. There's a delicate tipping point at which oozing toppings, crumbling buns, and finger-licking turns from fun to something less.