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Aug 2, 2009 06:52 PM

Counter Burger, Reston: 72 hours after Hell Burger

Several years ago at lunchtime I was in front of a shopping center in Marine Del Rey sitting at a broken traffic light. After three or four cycles without moving I noticed at the far end of a nearby parking lot a Counter Burger. I'd planned on having lunch at an In-n-Out which was about a half mile away but it seemed liked I wouldn't ever get there.

I turned into the parking lot and walked into the Counter Burger which was empty. Surprised, I looked around and made a decision: I'd fight the traffic and go to In-n-Out. Ten minutes there and another fifteen in line, still it was worth it.

A year later in Silicon Valley I saw another Counter Burger, this time with a line out of the door. It struck me as really strange since the Marina Del Rey outpost four hundred miles south had been empty at lunch. Still, once again, I went to a nearby In-n-Out.

Tonight, having walked or driven by the new Counter Burger in Reston Town Center a half dozen times, all with lines out the door, my wife and I decided we had to try it. Besides we were at Hell Burger on Thursday night and it seemed like a good reference point. I must note that at 6:30 this evening Counter Burger-a burger joint-was taking reservations since there were 30 to 35 people waiting to get in.

Remarkable. We walked in and sat at the counter.

I wish I could write that there is a good reason for the lines at Counter Burger. That the hamburger was a revelation, that I made huge mistakes in passing over this place for In-n-Out and that Thursday we should have been at Town Center for a hamburger rather than Arlington.

But I can't.

The whole time we were there I missed Hellburger and In-n-Out even Hamburger Hamlet and the Silver Spring Charcoal House and a lot of other places. This was a decent $6.50 1/3 lb hamburger with good toppings (correctly cooked) and a truly bad roll along with frozen french fries and decent onion strips. It just wasn't THAT good. Nothing about juice spurting out when I bit into it (Wilmington Charcoal Pit) or the great "glop" of melted cheese, grilled onions and "spread" that In-n-Out is famous for. There was just nothing that singled this out for an exemplery burger.

The one thought that did occur to me is that there is a real demand for a good burger place in Reston Town Center. But Counter Burger isn't it. Their milkshakes did look good, though. Of course for $4.50 they should have been.

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  1. I have to wonder how much of the "meh" factor is the usual opened-a-month-ago settling in, or whether Counter Burger is more sizzle than steak. Actually, the whole high-end burger thing is starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Every gourmet slider I have just makes me want a bag of White Castles or Krystals that much more, although that's probably just the Little Tavern nostalgia settling in. Now there's a local franchise, along with Hot Shoppes, that should be resuscitated. I'll still give Counter Burger a try at some point, maybe in a few months or when they open their downtown DC location.

    1 Reply
    1. re: monkeyrotica

      Mr. Marriott is probably wishing he hadn't sold ALL the Hot Shoppes after all!

    2. I have to say I have similar sentiment in general with monkeyrotica about the whole high end burger trend.

      But for Counter specifically, I only went once but it was a late Sunday morning. Not too busy and the food was really good - including the burger. I've heard the turkey burgers are to avoid, but I got a 2/3 pounder that was cooked just right.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dennis S

        Apparently some people think high-end burgers are a still lucrative business model. In addition to another Counter Burger, another gourmet burger restaurant is coming downtown in 2010.

      2. I noticed a new burger place going in on Washington Street in Alexandria--sign says BGR-- which google tells me is this

        I like burgers just fine but wonder if we need yet another gourmet burger joint.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tcamp

          I'm going to go ahead and say that I think BGR is one of those "worth it" high-end burger joints. I really enjoy the one in Bethesda. The burgers aren't cheap, but they give you a bang for your buck with delicious toppings, very large patties, and a burger-of-the-month that is not worth passing up.

          Granted, I haven't yet been to Ray's Hellburger, so I may be biting my tongue pretty soon...

          1. re: emmaleeb

            emmaleeb- AGREED 100 percent about BGR in Bethesda. Maybe I have seen you there!