Finally, after months of walking by the empty shell of the restaurant it was about to become, Counter Burger at Reston Town Center (RTC for those in the know) is open for business!
Last Friday I “had some shopping to do” and had heard that this long anticipated restaurant had opened its doors to the public. Thus, I recruited my friend and dining partner, Erin, to join me on a shopping and dining excursion. We were not disappointed.
First things first: the name. I’m not really certain if it’s called The Counter Burger because they have a huge, soda shop like counter in the middle of the restaurant or because it is unlike (haha, counter to) any other burger place around. Both would fit the bill, here.
Upon entering its doors, you’re immediately taken aback by its bright and shiny interior. The place is very welcoming, in a retro yet non-retro kind of way. Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and old school Madonna sing to you as you accept your clipboard from the hostess and step back to read about your options. The music was definitely upbeat and dance worthy.
According to the website, there are over 312,120 different burger combinations. An eighth grade math teacher could totally use this joint to teach permutations (wow, look how I pulled that out of nowhere). The best thing about this place (aside from the sweet potato fries–to be discussed later) is that there are choices. Lots and lots of them. So many that, for a moment, you may become overwhelmed.
But then you get over it, because their ordering process is so…ordered. It is just one big checklist, handed to you on a clipboard and with a cute little putt putt golf type pencil. The first thing you pick is your protein (as a fan of Top Chef, I appreciated them calling it this). Your choices are between beef, turkey, veggie, or grilled chicken (I, personally, wouldn’t consider a veggie burger a protein, but no one asked me).
Next, you pick a cheese–they have a lot of “different” choices, such as horseradish cheddar (which they were out of), gruyere, feta, goat cheese, and the traditional American and Swiss.
After you get your cheese on, you have a choice of up to four included toppings. These include everything from sprouts and sliced carrot to olives to roasted corn and black bean salsa to hard boiled eggs. If you’re a burger purist, there’s also lettuce and tomato and red onion. The choices, though, are astounding, and to choose four things that actually all went together (as opposed to, “oooh, that would be cool on a burger”) was more difficult than you’d imagine. From there you’re directed to the premium topping options–sauteed mushrooms, fried eggs, homemade guac…you get the picture. These selections were an additional dollar each.
Next, you move to your sauces. If you think you had hard choices before, think again. Hard not only because there were so many options (ginger soy glaze, mayo, peanut sauce, Southwest Casesar, red relish, spicy sour cream…) but, also, because you had to make sure your choice “matched” all the other flavors you had already selected. (One thing to note: all sauces are served on the side “In case,” according to our waitress, “you end up not liking them.”) Erin and I both agreed that, as their restaurant consultants, we would have suggested starting with the sauce and then proceeding with the options backward. But, alas…
Finally, FINALLY, you pick a bun–English muffin, hamburger bun, or honey wheat bun (there’s also an option, for the carb conscious, for a burger bowl).
Ok, so Erin and I went. To. Town. I was more traditional in my choices. I chose the 1/3 lb burger (beef, please!) on a regular hamburger bun (carbs be damned!). I topped it with cheddar cheese, red onions, tomatoes, pickle slices, and lettuce. My sauce choice was the country buttermilk ranch. Ranch? Yes, because I was a forward thinking consumer and knew that that flavor would blend well with what else was to come…the fries.
But first, Erin’s burger! After choosing the beef, Erin went non-traditional. Her burger consisted of gruyere, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, lettuce, and garlic aoili spread. On a regular bun.
Both burgers were fan-tastic. Cooked to our liking (medium), they came out piled high with our toppings and were almost too big to manage. Almost. The bun was fresh and soft and embraced the meat and the toppings quite nicely (that’s one thing I can complain about with regard to Ray’s Hell Burger–their buns need help!). There was just the right amount of toppings. Erin and I both found, though, that after a while it was too much, so we opted to take one side of our bun off, which led us to think that maybe, maybe, next time we’d get the burger bowl.
As our sides, we shared a half portion each of the onion strings (delicious! Flaky and tender and bite size) and the regular fries (decent, but not spectacular). These came accompanied by the buttermilk ranch (see how I just arrived at a taste junction?) and the sweet bbq sauce. We also had a single size portion of the sweet potato fries, which came with a horseradish mayo. Now, I know. On the surface, this sounds like a disgusting combination. But boy oh boy, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the best part of the meal.
And, because it’s important to me, I’ll have you know that Counter Burger serves Coca Cola products. They also have milkshakes (the milkshake of the month was of the cherry pie variety). We didn’t even venture to look at desserts (not because we were full, though, but because the gelato place next door just opened, too, and we didn’t want to be tempted).
The service was excellent. Our drinks were constantly refreshed, they got our order perfectly right, and the food was delicious. For a place that had just opened three days prior to our visit, this was something we did not expect. A spilled drink here, an overcooked burger there…but, fortunately, we had a perfect meal (except for the slight lapse in time between getting our meal and the arrival of the sweet potato fries). I can’t wait to go back and try a different combination. Maybe I’ll go in with the goal of coming up with the weirdest combination ever. Or maybe I’ll just get a cheeseburger with L,T, M and call it a night.