Stacy checks out The Counter on a media tasting!

The Counter is a build-your-own gourmet burger chain that started in California and has expanded throughout the U.S. to now have over 100 stores. The Houston location first opened in September of 2010 and since then, hungry Houstonians have been flocking to the Washington Corridor to create tasty and unique burger combinations. Upon entrance, you’re greeted by their friendly staff, seated, and handed a clipboard with over 312,120 possible combinations. It can be a little overwhelming but chances are, put everything on your burger and you won’t go wrong.

Their ingredients are extensive, fresh, and with their Market Select feature, locally sourced and sustainable. Which is what I was there to try and which changes every couple of months. So far they’ve done a Greek lamb burger, a salmon burger, and their current selection – a pan fried, panko breaded chicken breast. Should you suck at making decisions, you can just check off “Market Selection” for every category on the menu, which means you’ll be getting the restaurant’s signature version. But feel free to choose some, none, or all of the recommended toppings. That’s the beauty of The Counter – creating a burger as unique as you! Of course, I opted to follow the flock and order my burger as suggested – with pineapple chipotle salsa, lettuce blend, tomatoes, smoked Gouda, peach bbq sauce, on a Gluten Free Houston’s hamburger bun.

But before we get to the burger, we’ve got to talk appetizers, right? And The Counter has plenty of yummy snacks to choose from. My dining companion and I went with an order of their regular fries, and then a “fifty-fifty” order of onion strings and parmesan fries. All come with sides of house-made bbq and ranch – come on, what more could you ask for?

And these fries are some of my favorite in town. Thin, crispy, perfectly seasoned, and when dipped in either one of those sauces, an absolutely addictive treat. Same goes for those perfectly crisp onion strings, which I much prefer over thicker, actual rings where usually, one bites results in the separation of onion and breading. That’s never good. But my favorite among this trio of starters had to be the Parmesan fries. They’re mixed with parsley, rosemary, and garlic aioli. I wouldn’t recommend them if you’re on a date (unless he/she has an olfactory impediment) but for any other occasion, you’re missing out if you don’t order these. They‘re a tad greasy, but when you’re at The Counter, even if you do go with one of their “burger bowl” salad-like options, you’re not really there to be overly health conscious. It’s an indulgence, people. And a damn good one. Worth every calorie.

When my Market Select burger came out, I knew I made a good choice. The scent alone was intoxicating! That pineapple chipotle salsa with bits of tomato, onion, and cilantro immediately aroused my senses, and my taste buds! This burger was a perfect mix of sweet and savory, especially with the pineapple bbq sauce that came on the side. I at first tried not to be so generous with it, but it soon became obvious that this burger was meant to be bathed in pineapple bbq sauce! That’s just the way to do it, folks.

Of course, that panko breaded chicken breast was good enough to stand on its own. It was crisp, tender, juicy, and oh so flavorful. My only complaint was that the gluten free bun wasn’t up to par. It was dry and somewhat unstable, crumbling apart as I tried to take bites. Next time, I’d go with a regular or onion bun. Or that Texas Toast described on the Market Select menu that I saw no sign of? Oh well. Trust me, I have no qualms about my meal.

I’ve eaten at The Counter before, usually opting for a traditional beef burger with Gruyere (my favorite), mushrooms, and veggies, etc. I’ve never been disappointed but this time, even my expectations were exceeded. And what better way to cap this fantastic meal off than with a milkshake? I’m not even a milkshake person but consider me a convert after having now tasted The Counter’s Market Select Peach Shake. I’ll leave you with what I said as I took my first sip – “It tastes like home.”

The Counter is a modern interpretation of the classic malt shop – with booze. And with virtually every topping imaginable to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Much like my now growing waistline.

The Counter
4601 Washington Avenue
Houston TX 77007
713 966 6123

*Editor’s note…below excerpts from their press release:
HOUSTON (July 13, 2011)—Houston’s favorite gourmet burger restaurant, The Counter Custom Built Burgers, announced today a second location in Market Street in The Woodlands, set to open in August. This will be the second location, since the hip burger bar opened along the Washington corridor last year.

“We’re thrilled about bringing The Counter concept to the residents of The Woodlands,” said Aisha Waliany, Franchise Partner in Houston based NextGen Ventures. “The Woodlands is a dynamic and growing market, where customers expect excellence in an upscale atmosphere,.We are confident that our Woodlands guests will embrace and enjoy our unconventional approach to the burger experience!”

Located at 9595 Six Pines Dr. in the bustling entertainment district of Market Street, the 2700 square foot The Counter restaurant will feature industrial design, breezy outdoor patio, and large roll-up “garage door” windows. A mix of classic rock, hip-hop, jazz and top hits provides the soundtrack within the sleek and industrial-designed restaurant.


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