Sunday, April 6, 2008
2901 Ocean Park Boulevard,
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Adequately Fed: $15
2/3 lb. Beef Burger**** topped with:
Fifty-fifty Sweet Fried and Onion Strings****
(Out of Five Stars)
After my trip to Father's Office, I've been meaning to explore this Santa Monica upscale diner to try their famous burgers. Having already been overwhelmed by the Office Burger's lavish toppings, the Counter proved its burgers could be just as elaborate.
Located near the Santa Monica airport, this restaurant actually has very little around it. This means ample street parking and even a lot. With the state of Los Angeles transit, parking is the little necessity far too often overlooked. The decor is a modern take on a Fifties diner, the eponymous counter running along the side of the restaurant. Paintings by a local street artist adorn the walls, images of street art graffiti and Nikes. Apparently, there is a monthly featured artist, as well as monthly special shakes and burgers. One wall consists of an innovative glass-paneled garage door allowing outside dining inside. Arriving at 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon, there was a wait of about twenty minutes. Once seated, our server did not come for another 5-10 minutes. Be aware that this place is busy.
This place's claim to fame is the customization of your burger order. Each diner receives a clipboard which lists the burgers and available toppings. Beef, turkey, chicken, and vegetarian burgers are available. The list of toppings is exhaustive, filled with common items such as tomatoes to the more unconventional grilled pineapple. Along with an extensive list of sauce, this menu makes the diner feel in control.
The sweet potato fries were thick and fried to a crisp, delicious exterior. Onion strings were mediocre, reminiscent of the Awesome Blossom at Chili's or any other casual dining restaurant. A deep fried onion has the highest ratio of delicious first bite to greasy, bloated feeling afterwards. The fifty-fifty comes with three sauces, barbecue, horseradish mayo and buttermilk ranch. All three tasted fine, the barbecue especially outstanding. The ranch was too thin for a sauce.
I ordered the 2/3 lb. burger topped as listed above. In retrospect, 1/3 lb. would have been more than generous and a whole pound would be suicide. With all the toppings, the burger was a mountain of beef and accompaniments. The bun had a crunchy, lightly toasted consistency and the toppings were fresh. I admired that the sauce was served on the side to dress how you please, a good way to avoid oversaucing, a plight so common in American restaurants. I'm always suspicious of any dish which relies on sauce to convey flavor. The Angus beef itself was juicy and superior to the beef used at Father's Office. Grilled to medium doneness, I savored each bite before letting it slide down my throat. With beef that good, the burger should really be simpler. Too many toppings detract from the beef, which is really what makes a great burger.
Besides the burgers, there is a wide selection of beers and wines for a burger restaurant. Admittedly, it is an upscale restaurant playing up cheap food as gourmet, but nonetheless, the drinks are impressive. For the non-alcoholic, they serve shakes and malts.
Recommendation: Order the 1/3 lb. burger with simple toppings. Anything more is just excessive.