The Counter: Build your own burger in Walnut Creek
1699 North California Boulevard (Corner of Cole)
I am not quite sure what it is about southern California that makes it the center of American's hamburger culture, but it can certainly and firmly make that claim. The drive-in was invented there, in the homeland of McDonald's, Bob's Big Boy and In n' Out. And now, yet another new idea is sweeping over the nation: build your own burger. But wait, you may say. Red Robin, among others, has had that idea for years. Roam Artisan Burgers just opened in Lafayette. True, but The Counter takes it to a whole new level. For one thing, they have an idea that is unique, as far as I know: get your burger fixings as a salad, over quinoa. Even if someone else has had that idea, I have not previously seen a place with the variety of meats and toppings offered at The Counter. There is even a "market menu" featuring a daily special meat, topping and bun. You can get bison, lamb, hamburger or veggie burger. Six kinds of cheese. Raw onions or fried onions. You build your burger on a form, which your waiter whisks away and converts into a delicious meal. Everything was quick, delicious and perfect. I didn't try the fries, but the looked good, and I did enjoy the pumpkin shake. Plus, the magic of franchising: a different menu, a different atmosphere, the thrill of a startup. I really enjoyed it.
I will note in passing that a cherished tradition of my youth has spread more widely. A tavern on Fremont Street near my home in Portland, Oregon served the Stanich Burger, most clearly distinguished from other burgers by the addition of a single friend egg on top. I notice this option appearing every more frequently on hamburger menus, and at both The Counter and Roam. It makes a burger extra delicious; if you haven't tried it, do!