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The Counter and Urban Plates?

Any info on these two places under development at the Del Mar mall? I noticed a full bar at the Counter, which is supposed to be a burger place. It's apparently a franchise.

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  1. There's been a Counter in Carlsbad for a couple of years. Didn't care for it the first time I was there shortly after it opened, maybe I just had too many options on my burger, but I had a tasty one a few weeks ago after a stop at the Wine Loft. http://www.thecounterburger.com/Carls...

    1. Very excited for Urban Plates to open. Was a big fan of the executive chef at his last restaurant, got a sneak peak at the menu. San Diego has needed a place like this, fresh organic food from local growers. Counter Burger is a franchise, UP is not.

      6 Replies
      1. re: sydneyduck

        "San Diego has needed a place like this, fresh organic food from local growers."

        Hmmm...so I guess places like the Linkery, Tender Greens and JSix (among quite a few others) that have been serving fresh, organic food from local growers don't count?

        3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

        JSix Restaurant
        616 J Street, San Diego, CA 92101

        Tender Greens
        2400 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106

        1. re: DiningDiva

          You're right dining diva, those are great places that were not meant to be discredited. I guess I should have said we need more places like that. Either way, always excited for new restaurants.

          1. re: sydneyduck

            hit up Urban Plates a few weeks ago. Food looks fresh and tasty, but what I got was very underseasoned. Had the caramelized onion pizzette and sauteed button mushrooms. Both were "ok," but needed more depth of flavor. A hit of kosher salt woke both of them up, but so far, I think Tender Greens is much better. Maybe I'll have better luck w/ other dishes.

            Tender Greens
            2400 Historic Decatur Rd, San Diego, CA 92106

            Urban Plates
            12857 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130

            1. re: daantaat

              I had the same impression, daantaat. I went there a couple of weeks ago after a movie at Cinepolis. The vegetarian curry was disappointing - it was okay but on the thin and bland side. The steak salad was better but I think it could have packed more of a flavor punch.

              1. re: Katherine H

                ok, then it wasn't just what I picked or my imagination!

        2. re: sydneyduck

          Who is the executive chef and where was he previously?

        3. Finally tried The Counter last weekend. They have a big variety of fries and burgers including custom burgers. I chose their more standard burgers to try out, the 'Old School' and 'Counter Burger'. I also got cheddar fries and a vanilla milk shake.

          First off, this place has a big line at 6pm Saturday, so it will be busy. But I ordered to go from the bar so didn't have to wait in line - went shopping at Jimbo's before picking my order up. The Counter's original branch is apparently Carlsbad, and this is it's first branch.

          The Old School is a straightforward cheeseburger, and the counter has onion strings on top, sauteed mushrooms, and provolone instead of cheddar. Both burgers were perfect - my wife loved the grilled mushrooms and all ingredients were top notch. It compares well with Burger Lounge, another of our favorites. I'm sure there will be people who prefer each one but it's just been our first time and I won't call it just yet.

          The shake on the other hand is out of this world. Best ever. I know we had a thread on this a while back, but the bartender made a perfect shake. Smooth enough to drink right away, but with an ice cream texture.

          They have a big fries selection with onion rings, plain fries, cheddar fries, chili cheese fries, parmesean rosemary fries, and potato fries not to mention non-fry sides. The cheddar fries were great, first time I've had them like this.

          As far as burgers go, you can make your own and there are actually too many choices. I had no idea what I should choose from this list, so I decided to play it safe with a signature burger from their list. To give you an idea, they have 30 toppings (4 are included, with premium toppings being extra). It goes from Bermuda Red Onion to Sun-Dried Tomatoes. But they do have grilled pineapple and avocado which are a favorite when I want a Hawaiian burger.

          Prices are on the high end, but it was dinner worthy and we loved it. Doesn't hurt that it's next to Jimbo's locally - and the closest Burger Lounge for us is almost 20 minutes.

          They have a full bar where you can eat, and plenty of space.

          Can't wait til Urban Plates opens!

          1 Reply
          1. re: royaljester

            Royaljester, you wrote that "The Counter's original branch is apparently Carlsbad." Nope.

            The Counter is a chain whose first restaurant was the Ocean Park location in West Los Angeles. I believe Carlsbad may be the first location in the San Diego area.

          2. I tried The Counter last week, and it was pretty much what I expected, after hearing about it on KCRW's Good Food podcast a few weeks ago. Definitely not a destination eatery, but a decent place to go considering the surrounding competition. The Counter seems very similar to Burger Lounge, with the overpriced menu and the way they are able to make their "natural" beef taste so bland. At least they will cook their burgers with about the right amount of pink inside. Meh.

            1. Place link added to CH database for Urban Plates (including website with menus)

              Urban Plates
              12857 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130

              1. They have some great salads - my wife and I are addicted to their bbq chicken salad. All entrees are $10, lots of beverage choices (wine, beer, good soft drinks including ginger brew, etc..). Great service. It's also dog friendly.

                Located in Del Mar Highlands just off Del Mar Heights (5 fwy):

                The concept is pretty unusual and ordering is an interesting experience. Imagine a soup plantation where you pick up your food in the line itself, except instead of everything pre-made there are a dozen cooks waiting to take your order.

                Two are in charge of salads. You order from the person who will toss your salad and they immediately start on making it. To give an example of what they have, the desert bbq chicken has: organic romaine, free range chicken, organic corn, black beans, onion, organic avocado, grilled onions, jack cheese, tortilla strips, red bell pepper, chipotle lime dressing with organic agave. All the ingredients are excellent and delicious on their own!

                Besides salads they have a carving station, a pizza station, and braises (think beef Bourguignon without the Bourguignon lol). Kids meals are a steal at $5 (drink included). There are also cakes and pastries which are pretty good on their own. It's seat yourself.

                Including UP, a total of 5 unique restaurants have opened in this plaza this year. Others include the Counter, Taverna Blu (new concept by Daphne's owner), Burlap (Malarky), and two other wine bars. I tried Burlap twice and their phramen (pho soup + ramen) is excellent.

                6 Replies
                1. re: royaljester

                  I really like Urban Plates, and think it's much better than Tender Greens.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    We are also surprised that Urban Plates get much less praise compared to Tender Greens (which is not bad but way overhyped)

                    1. re: honkman

                      Been to UP three times now and have been pleasantly surprised each time. Salads are good and the sides are really quite wonderful. Worth a visit and the wait in line.

                      1. re: honkman

                        It seems to me that there is a lot less hype about Tender Greens than when it opened, but it could be that I've tuned it out as well.

                        My wife has eaten lunch at Urban Plates a few times and was fairly impressed.

                        1. re: RB Hound

                          We eat at both TG and UP semi-regularly. Both are pretty solid.
                          There are minor quibbles like sometimes getting things a little underseasoned at UP or all the specials/sides/desserts I wanted to try running out at TG, but their staffs are generally competent and the food well prepared.
                          Also, while neither has a huge craft beer selection, they always seem to have something worth trying.

                          I guess the trick is to figure out which one doesn't have 100 other people trying to go there at the same time you want to go.

                          1. re: The Office Goat

                            My biggest gripe with UP is that the tables are fucking sticky.

                  2. The Counter in Del Mar is not bad....you couldn't pay me enough money in the world to return to the location in downtown under any circumstance including if my life depended upon it. .

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: El Chevere

                      +1 on that. I had a salad from The downtown Counter about 3 months ago. It was made with shredded lettuce. I mean, corner deli, hole-in-wall, mega-cheap, low end, shredded lettuce. And yes I know it's a burger place and I ordered a salad and whatnot, but good god, shredded lettuce? Burger Lounge and Smash have excellent salads.

                      1. re: Dagney

                        I went in the first week the downtown location opened when their ventilation system was not operating properly and nearly died of black lungs as I was searching the classifieds for an ambulance chasing law firm that specializes in mesothelioma cases...throw in the fact their staff is on the 9 year program at SDSU (or,in some cases, still working on their GED degrees) and they couldn't tell the difference between well done and raw if it bit them in the nose, and you can understand my strong feelings against this place.

                        1. re: El Chevere

                          'ventilation system was not operating properly and nearly died of black lungs as I was searching the classifieds for an ambulance chasing law firm that specializes in mesothelioma cases'

                          LOL...you know your search would of been expedited if you used Google vs 'classifieds' for that ambulance chasing law firm.

                          1. re: El Chevere

                            Never, ever, EVER eat at Soot Bull Jeep in Korea town. Since your lungs are already compromised that would finish you off in a NY minute...(although on the plus side you personally won't need to search out any law firms).

                      2. I went to Urban Plates last night with my girlfriend. I got the grilled steak plate and she got the Asian Chicken Salad, mine was pretty good, the meat was a little gristly but it was cooked very nicely, somewhere close to medium rare, which was unexpected. I got the organic mash potatoes and macaroni and cheese, both fairly good, next time I think I'm going to get roasted rosemary potatoes and beet salad though. I thought the bread that came with everything was pretty good. The braises looked fantastic and I regret not trying one, will do next time. My girlfriend loved her salad and brought the second half with her when she accompanied me to El Pescador today (I got the Chilean Sea Bass at the recommendation of the girl working there, quite satisfied but I'll leave that story for a time when it's relevant). She said "I'm going to go here (Urban Plates) for my salads from now on", which is fairly surprising because she loves salad and it's a bit of a drive from University City.

                        I went to the Counter a few months ago with my two best friends. I'm not huge on burgers, because I never order them at -nice- places where I would rather get a steak, so my most common burger stop is probably In-N-Out or Five Guys (which I understand aren't respected by foodies, but I can't justify "wasting" a nice meal on a burger, though I think I'll try out Eureka which is close to me). I swear I got a buffalo burger but I don't see it anywhere on the website, so it must be my delusion (this goes to show how unmemorable the trip was). So, that being said, I assume I got 1/3 pound beef with sharp provolone, jalapenos, lettuce blend, dill pickle chips, onion strings, bacon, ketchup, hot wing sauce, sweet barbecue sauce, and mustard on a hamburger bun with an order of french fries and sweet potato fries. I don't really remember what my friends got but one of them ate it all and was content (also satiated by prison mulch in Florence) and the other absolutely loves the place, he got some bowl of some sort and took home the last half of my burger. I thought it was alright, if I were to go back again it would mostly be for the sweet potato fries, which were great. I just think I had too much going on in my burger, the bun disintegrated pretty quickly. I think the meat was cooked pretty well so I would probably keep it simple, beef, American, ketchup, mustard (I know a lot of people really hate mustard on good burgers and think it detracts from the flavor, I just love mustard). The lettuce was kind of weird to me, I don't know much about lettuce because I've only recently started accepting it but I prefer the lighter colored lettuce that you find at crappier places like In-N-Out on burgers than dark salad type lettuce, this is also my problem with Burger Lounge's burgers. I didn't dislike the onion strings but I think they detracted from my burger as a whole, the hot wing sauce tasted good but I think it ruined the provolone, the sweet barbecue sauce was hardly noticeable and the ketchup+mustard were pretty standard. The burger was stacked too high for me to fit in my mouth, which I guess some people like but it just frustrates me. The french fries weren't great, I would highly recommend sweet potato fries if you like them at all. I'd say the Counter is worse than Burger Lounge (mostly because of Burger Lounge's onion rings and fantastic sodas, I am not too excited by Burger Lounge's burgers, the one in Coronado does them much better than the La Jolla one though IMO), but I also think I should try the Counter again and order something more simple.

                        Overall, if I were going to the Del Mar Highlands (correct me if that's the wrong name, I can't remember it), I would much sooner go to Urban Plates than the Counter.