Do You Think The Counter Burger is Serious Eats?

Photo couresty of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

If you thought our assessment of The Counter in Times Square was a bit lukewarm, it’s nothing compared to J. Kenji Alt’s evisceration of the popular chain on A Hamburger Today. From a burger purist standpoint, it’s tough to disagree with much of what he says- but it doesn’t change the fact that if you like putting a bunch of shit on your burger, you could possibly find something to like about The Counter. He also admits that he thinks the concept itself is “stupid”, so what chance did it really have. What do you think? Is The Counter a “stupid” “TGI Friday’s-like” waste that only a tourist could like, or is there something that Serious Eats is missing? Feel free to sound off in the comments…


  • like Asia Dog. putting a bunch of shit on your hotdog. meh

  • I only had Counter once, and it was for free during their pre-opening bash, but I loved it. I keep meaning to go back but that means going to Times Square…and I HATE that.

  • If you’d paid $15 for it, you’d have hated it. It’s style over substance, which explains why it’s still open. Plus most people really don’t know what bad food is.

  • J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is japanglish for “elitist schwantz-gobbler”

    with a hyphen, of course

  • agree with steve on asia dog. That’s why I can’t stand a chicago-style hot dog either. You can’t cover a regular ol’ hot dog with stuff to make it better. Frankly, I think gray’s has the best dog in the city.

    COMPLETELY agree with the assessment of Counter. Horrible concept combined with poor execution on the patties. Why people go to restaurants for the toppings confound me. If the burger can’t stand on its own, then it’s not worth going to… but to each his own I guess.

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: their meat is disgusting and their idea that putting a bunch of shit on a burger to make it interesting is a terrible idea.

    You can put as much cheese, veggies, and other crap on top of a hockey puck but you’re still eating a damn hockey puck.

  • Oh, so we’re doing negative reviewing now as long as it comes via a corespondent? Interesting…

  • I don’t know, I haven’t been to Counter, but isn’t the point of a restaurant that stays open… that there’s something there keeping it open? I understand what tourism is, but isn’t there something positive to be found about this place? “It boxes all the tourists in” or something.

    Yes, I am basically saying, I don’t see the point in skewering the place; you don’t like it, but clearly some people do (or I guess, perhaps, they get enough tourist business that they don’t need repeat visitors; given the location, that is possible). I know – shocker – I seem to be saying “why bother negatively reviewing them” ha.

    • yeah, I actually agree with this. That was sort of my mindset when I reviewed Qi Thai

      Basically – it royally sucks when you compare it to other burger places (or in Qi’s case, Thai), but they’re clearly catering to tourists, which is fine if that’s their target market.

      I’d be more upset if a Counter or a Qi opened up in a ‘foodie’ neighborhood like the East Village, but then they couldn’t get away with serving watered down gimmicky stodge for long.

    • So if you don’t like a place, you shouldn’t review it? that makes zero sense. You should review a place, good or bad, so people can make informed decisions. There are already too many shills out there so its good to have legitimate opinions.

      I don’t really care about the concept, but I think the burger itself is exceedingly bad and all the toppings in the world can’t fix that, and thats what the review says.

      • No, what I meant is actually: the place is for people who apparently like lots of toppings on their burgers. If you aren’t one of those people, you probably won’t like the place. I just find it pointless to go to a place that advertises how great its toppings are and then complain about how bad the meat is, which seems to be what the review is (Serious Eats won’t work for me).

        Or like going to a mac&cheese place and then complaining that you don’t like cheese so everything sucked. You knew what you were getting yourself into. I don’t think it’s helpful to say a place sucks just because YOU don’t like the very premise upon which it is based. It’s much more helpful to say a place sucks, and this is why… and the “why” isn’t “I hate that it’s all about toppings for a burger, even though that’s what it advertises.”

        (I don’t feel like I’m being very clear; sorry. It’s 1am. I’ll try again tomorrow if this still doesn’t make sense.)

      • It sort of reminds me when people will give a steakhouse a one-star review on Yelp due to the “lack of vegetarian options”… I understand Yvo’s point. As a reviewer, you should be able to judge a restaurant/dish without putting your own preferences into it.

        i.e. Scott Conant is a horrible judge on Chopped because his aversion to raw onions gets in his way of providing an unbiased judgement of the food (sorry..personal rant).

      • Your steakhouse analogy is so much better than any I came up with last night. Thanks! HAHAHA

        and yes, I try to say “Well, *I didn’t like this, but this is why, and that might be the very reason someone else WOULD like it.”

      • I think I found your problem, chris82: you think Yelp is a useful review site.

      • Dave…I see your point. Though you can’t really read deep into the yelp reviews, it has generally treated me pretty well. Except, and quite possibly relevant to this thread….Burger Joint.

        I was so disappointed this place was generally rated so highly. It was after my trip to Burger Joint, I realized how to successfully get people to pay 8$ for a 4$ burger…curtains and writing on the walls….and cash only.

      • Yeah, Burger Joint skates at high prices thanks to its location. However, the difference is the quality of the meal’s components. In addition to very good fries, I like the burger a lot. When it’s prepared just right, it’s every reason I wish I had access to an outdoor grill. It’s simply tough to justify paying $15 or so for one smallish burger, fries and a soda.

      • User has not uploaded an avatar

        Yvo, you are just wrong. Just because the concept is all about toppings, that doesn’t mean that you should *expect* the meat to be terrible. At the end of the day, it’s still a burger place. A better analogy would be a coffee shop bragging about the quality of the chocolate in their mocha when the actual coffee in the mocha is shit.

      • @ Dan – I don’t know… a better analogy might be a coffee snob, who hates blended coffee drinks, writing a horrible review of a Frappucino. Or, ordering a Frappucino without the whipped cream and ice and syrup, and going on and on about how the coffee they use is shit.

        I don’t love The Counter, and completely agree that their burgers are kind of not good. (I wrote as much when I tried it in L.A.)

        But it’s super popular, even among friends of mine who are into food… because if you like crazy toppings, it’s the best place in Midtown (and L.A. for that matter) to get a burger like that. It would be better if their burgers were better, but it’s not completely horrendous just because their patties aren’t as good as {insert your favorite burger place here}

      • People like different shit. That’s what makes the world go round. Otherwise we’d all have the same name, drive the same car, and eat the same thing.

        This applies to burgers as well as caviar.

      • I don’t think you should expect anything you pay for to be terrible. But I think complaining that a place focuses on its toppings when they advertise they’re topping-centric is just silly.

        And pretty much everyone’s analogies are better than mine, as Zach’s is also more apropos than my mac&cheese one. Goodness, I want mac&cheese.

      • User has not uploaded an avatar

        To be honest, I don’t even care for burgers much. I just like to hate on shit. I think it’s kind of funny that there is such a thing as a “burger snob.” Speaking of Kenji and the AHT crew, I once wanted to take an out-of-towner out for a burger and tried to use AHT to figure out where to go. The website was surprisingly unhelpful for this task.

        Zach points out an interesting fact. A lot of people here are saying, “Oh, this place will survive off of lame tourists,” but The Counter already has a strong business in CA that is NOT based on taking money from lame tourists.

  • @vdub: I’d still go again and pay. I REALLY enjoyed it. I’m seriously pissed at myself for not going back, but Times Sq. plus typical long line=Hillstone for my high end burger needs.

  • Can I also say that people rave about Jackson Hole, and I completely feel that those burgers are all about the toppings? I don’t particularly personally enjoy them, but friends of mine, and lots of other people totally love them. So I don’t get it – and with Counter, you go in KNOWING that is their ‘gimmick’, their pull,… so if you don’t like lots of toppings or for the toppings to be the focus, isn’t it on you for being that stupid to go there thinking you’d enjoy it? Seriously?

    It’s much like going to an ice cream place and ordering balsamic ice cream and not liking it, and then saying “Well, I don’t like balsamic vinegar” – except instead of blaming yourself, saying the place then sucks. :P

  • now i want a burger.

  • Dont forget the Emperor’s new clothes syndrome. Loads of office drones pack that place, including ones from my office who enjoyed it. Jackson Hole are ice cream scoops of tallow disguised as burgers. Truly disgusting, but people think juicy = great.

  • Just go to Five Guys! Forget these other topping-pushers.

    I don’t mind Jackson Hole’s meat mush. I wouldn’t go out of my way for it but have enjoyed it when ordering it for free as late night dinners. It’s not great but it isn’t the worst burger ever.
    A really good burger that I had the pleasure to enjoy a few months ago was Paul’s!

    • Do you guys even know WHY you like burgers in the first place? It’s possibly the worst method you could employ for the purpose of celebrating meat. Give me a break.

      This fanatical assessment of burgers is even more ridiculous than people who take bacon mania literally. It’s all supposed to be a joke!

      And I’ll bet the majority of you people love eating the goose shit they serve at White Castle anyway.

      I don’t know why I’m raging (and possibly trollin’)… I think it’s because burgers are like my 2nd to last choice for what I’d want for lunch. There are so many better, more flavorful, more satisfying options out there.

    • For topping-centric burgers in the city, my vote goes to Cheeburger Cheeburger in Forest Hills.

      Dean — a well-made burger doesn’t screw you out of the meaty goodness of the original cow. I think “celebration of the technique” is some serious overstating of the “art” of making a burger, but that perfect char, juicy ground beef, a little vegetation and cheese to complement….

  • I only had jackson hole once. I got a giant chili burger. I remember it being so damn greasy I had to eat it with a fork and knife. I have never bothered to go back, but I didn’t quite hate it enough to say a return trip is completely out of the question.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Blarney Stone burger = cheap + good

  • A hockey puck is a hockey puck. It doesn’t matter what kind of spin you put on it. It’s still a dried out piece of rubber

  • I have to say, risking backlash, I personally love The Counter percisely for their toppings and sauces. Shake Shack doesn’t make a good burger but people still flock to it. The toppings make The Counter burger what it is. Try the soy ginger sauce with crispy onion strings and avocado – awesome. Also, they serve possibly the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had (possibly because they’re so deliciously fried as to negate any nutrient benefit of the sweet potato vs the real potato, but I’m still going to tell myself they’re healthy) and the chipotle mayo dipping sauce that they come with is addictive.

    • Sorry, but the Shack *does* make a good burger. You may not like the wait/hype/price, but the meat is tasty (one of the better-flavored patties in the city) and well-cooked every time. Plus the veggies on it (lettuce and tomato) are always fresh and have actual flavor.

  • The Counter really isn’t that great. The lukewarm reviews are well deserved, and it’s expensive for lunch. Let the tourists and flies have it. There’s much better choices for lunch out there.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.