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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Counter, Crows Nest

EDIT: The Counter is now closed

I'm not sure whether I'm filling out a census form or taking a test.

The Build Your Own Burger concept at The Counter is either a blessing or a curse for hungry customers. On the one hand, the five-step process gives you the opportunity to customise your burger with the exact toppings you like, down to the size of burger patty, the type of cheese and which sauce you'd like.

On the other hand, the myriad of options can be dizzying. The first step is easy enough - which meat (beef, turkey, veggie or chicken) and which size: 150g ($13.50), 300g ($16.50) or the grand pooh-bah 450g ($19.50).

Then things start to get a little tricky. Step Two involves ten different cheeses (choose one or pay $1 for extra cheese). Step Three covers toppings (choose four from eighteen options) with ten more premium toppings available at an extra cost.

Step Four only gets harder. Choose one sauce from a list of 17. No wonder I start peeking at everyone else's list like it's a flashback to a high school maths test.

For those who are flailing at the mere thought of so much choice, seven signature burgers take the stress out of choosing your own fillings.

The counter at The Counter

The clipboards

Our waiter

Our waiter checks each order as he collects the clipboards, stacking them one on top of another so they form a precarious ladder. We are a large group for dinner tonight but we only have to wait five minutes for our drinks, and ten minutes for our entrees to arrive.

Apple pie thickshake $5.00

The apple pie thickshake has my name written all over it. It's not quite as cinnamon-y as I'd expected, but there are satisfying chunks of real apple and bits of pastry, even though they do necessitate facial contortions as you try to suck up the thick drink through the narrow straw.

Suze orders the peanut butter shake, a rich drink which ends up being overly sweet about a third of the way down. Had they not run out of banana, I'd have ordered a combination of peanut butter and banana together.

The 'Fifty-Fifty' $6.50
Onion strings and sweet chips served with three dipping sauces

The Fifty-Fifty is what I'd been looking forward to. For $6.50, it's a generous serve of crispy onion strings and deep-fried batons of sweet potato. I rejoice in both, the sweet potato starchy and almost caramelised, the onion strings soft and sticky with a crunchy batter.

Sweet potato fries

The Fifty-Fifty is served with three dipping sauces (barbecue, garlic aioli and thousand island) but to be honest, none are really necessary.

Mini cheeseburgers $11.00
Plate of four topped with cheddar, red onions, pickles and red relish

In hindsight, Steph and Lisa take the most sensible option of the evening, sharing a plate of mini cheeseburgers, the slider-style burgers covered with an ooze of melted cheddar cheese cut through by pickles and a dice of red onions.

Suze's 150g beef burger $13.50
with grilled pineapple, grilled bacon, cheese, onion relish,
garlic aioli and avocado

Suze exercises caution with the size of her burger patty (150g and the smallest available) but loads it up with two types of cheese, bacon, garlic aioli and avocado.

Melted cheese strands

Karen's 150g beef burger $13.50 with honey-cured bacon $1.50
grilled pineapple, onion relish, mixed baby greens

Teresa's 150g veggie burger $13.50
with Greek feta, sprouts and mixed baby greens

Karen and Teresa also wisely choose the smallest patty. They, too, are defeated.

Are you sensing a pattern here?

My 300g beef burger $16.50 with honey-cured bacon $1.50
with sharp provolone, grilled pineapple, dill pickle chips, grilled onion,
beetroot, mixed baby greens, roasted garlic aoli

I, of course, have chosen the 300g patty, confident in my appetite and determination. What I hadn't factored, was that once you add the bun and the toppings, the 300g patty becomes a monster-sized burger.

Cross-section of my burger

I could barely finish half of this.

Want more gratuitous burger shots? Read on...

Simon's 300g beef burger $16.50
with grilled onions, Gruyere, mixed lettuce,
roasted red pimento
and horseradish cheese

Billy's 300g beef burger $16.50 with extra fried egg $1.50
with Gruyere cheese,
grilled onions, jalapenous, roasted corn & black bean salsa,
sweet red hot capsicum on hamburger bun with country buttermilk ranch sauce

Cross-section of Billy's beef burger

The boys have all ordered the 300g patty, all the boys bar one...

450g beef burger $19.50 with honey-cured bacon $1.50
with grilled pineapple and mixed baby greens

Richard's capacity to eat is a force unto itself. The 450g beef patty is not for the faint-hearted, the over-sized disc of meat hanging over the edges of the bun. Incredibly, he manages to eat almost all of this, leaving only only a couple of bites on the plate.

Howard faces early defeat with his 300g beef burger

Overall we found the burger patties reasonably juicy but it's easy to get carried away by ordering too many toppings on the bun, creating a mishmash of flavours. I'd presume that if you're ordering a side of fries and a thickshake, the 150g patty would satiate most appetites - Richard excluded, of course.

View Larger Map
The Counter on Urbanspoon

The Counter
EDIT: The Counter is now closed
118 Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9436 2700‎

Opening hours:
Tuesday and Wednesday 11.30am-9pm
Thursday and Friday 11.30am-10pm
Saturday 12pm-10pm
Sunday 12pm-9pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Burgers - Grill'd, Crows Nest
23 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/02/2009 03:24:00 am


  • At 12/02/2009 7:43 am, Blogger Follow Me Foodie said…

    Wow! I think that is perhaps the best looking burger I've ever seen. Seriously I think I'm drooling over my keyboard. I hope it was worth the price, because that is an expensive burger! It looks so good though...but with your photography skills how can it not?!

    The buns aren't too thick, the ratio of ingredients looks right...so when's the cheapest time to visit Australia?!?...I'm searching for flights.

  • At 12/02/2009 7:53 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    I adore these "build your own" kind of places but ultimately end up overdoing it! I see the cheese trend in every burger! Thanks for sharing Helen!

  • At 12/02/2009 8:12 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    450g burger looks ginormous! Excessive much? LOL. Love the mini burgers though, so tasty. Great photos; the beef patties look amazing!

  • At 12/02/2009 9:23 am, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    The list of toppings looks amazing, but it would be hard not to mismatch them - there's just too many things you wouldn't want to miss.

  • At 12/02/2009 9:35 am, Anonymous YW@brunchlunchmunch said…

    Wow... so many options!! Definitely gonna take me at least half an hour to decide what I want with my burger :)

  • At 12/02/2009 9:39 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    This is my favourite burger joint in Sydney. I can never finish a burger either. I love traditional vanilla malt shakes too - so '50s American diner :)

  • At 12/02/2009 10:16 am, Blogger Renee said…

    we've been there a couple of times and the 150g burger is more than enough! I love the onion strings, but I find the sweet fries a little soggy - I wish they were crispy.

  • At 12/02/2009 11:08 am, Blogger Rambling Tart said…

    Oh! I'm so happy to have found your blog! :-) I'll be moving to Australia next year and have been searching for foodies to read and inspire me. :-) These burgers are splendid - wow! :-)

  • At 12/02/2009 11:22 am, Anonymous aptronym said…

    I've only been to Counter Burger once so far, on a day when I needed a second lunch! Had the apple pie shake (which I enjoyed a lot) and the mini cheeseburgers but was a bit disappointed by them, they tasted too similar to over processed fast food examples. I also couldn't finish this second lunch! LOL.


    I haven't yet decided whether I want to give Counter Burger a second shot but if I did, there is no way I'd go above the 150g!

  • At 12/02/2009 11:29 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    Next time I go back and from there onwards, I'm never going above 150g. That was plenty big the way it was. Was annoying eating a 300g burger, as you couldn't take it all in one bite.

  • At 12/02/2009 11:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love the burger cross section shots... here is one of the best burgers I've had... filled with braised short rib and foie gras: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=869178&l=b339ead34b&id=631034914

  • At 12/02/2009 12:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The mini cheeseburgers look so cute!! Reminds me of the long gone White Castle's mini burgers.

  • At 12/02/2009 12:26 pm, Anonymous ladyironchef said…

    there have been a burger craze this year for us too, no less than 5-8 burger joints have suddenly open shop, and we are having all kinds of burgers serve.

    The thing with "customize" burger, sometimes it becomes too tedious that I will go "anything" and randomly choose. haha

  • At 12/02/2009 12:58 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    I don't feel so bad for choosing the 'wimpy' 150g patty when I was there now! =p

  • At 12/02/2009 1:33 pm, Anonymous The Extra said…

    I knew you would be a 300gram kind of girl!

  • At 12/02/2009 2:48 pm, Blogger Joanie said…

    This burger is divine and amazing!
    I can smell the good taste right from my apple...

    the patty was cooked so right!

  • At 12/02/2009 6:12 pm, Anonymous jude said…

    It seems that as usual there is no option of wholemeal bun. Always a problem with toast, burgers and similar bready things. And it's so easy! Braed freezes so well, but it's devilishly hard to get. I treat white bread as poison, and would probably order the burger without bun if there was no wholemeal option. Otherwise it looks great, apart from a lack of veg.

  • At 12/02/2009 6:28 pm, Anonymous Chris said…

    Wow. I salute all your appetites and have decided I shall go here...one day...when i haven't eaten for a week

  • At 12/03/2009 12:40 am, Anonymous billy@ATFT said…

    my heart weaken just by looking at all those burgers again.... but I am up for the fifty-fifty anytime!

  • At 12/03/2009 2:18 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Follow Me Foodie - The burgers are a little pricey, but I think they could qualify as two meals for some people! lol. And yes, you should definitely come visit Australia!

    Hi Peter G - Yes every burger has to have cheese. My personal must-have is beetroot. Oh yes :)

    Hi Joey - The 450g burger is insane. I think it might perhaps feed a small family. I think the mini burgers are a good idea, leaving plenty of room for the onion strings, sweet potato and thickshake!

    Hi Arwen - Oh I'm terrible at making food decisions, especially when faced with so many options :)

    Hi YW - I think I did take about half an hour! lol. It can all be a bit dizzying! But fun, nevertheless.

    Hi Christine - I love American diners too. Next time I'd definitely order the 150g patty, and even then I'm not sure I'd be able to finish it!

    Hi Renee - It's tricky how they have so many large options. I always go for the middle size by default! I think it's quite hard to have crunchy sweet potato fries due to their starchiness, although I do love crunchy sweet potato crisps.

    Hi Rambling Tart - Oh you're coming to Australia? Happy days! Hope you have fun exploring all the posts on Grab Your Fork :) There are plenty of great eats in Sydney!

    Hi Aptronym - I like the fact that you needed a second lunch :) And yep, I'm definitely ordering the 150g patty next time.

    Hi Simon - Yes even the 150g burger was a crazy height! I wonder if 150g burger patties are like half-pints or middies - do guys feel less manly for ordering them? lol

    Hi MissDissent - Wow, that's a crazy-looking burger. I can only imagine how rich and tasty that was!

    Hi Ellie - I've never had a White Castle mini burger :( On my next visit to the States I will definitely make it my mission to undertake plenty of burger research!

    Hi Ladyironchef - It's funny how food fads seem to spread. I can be overwhelmed by choice but then I can't give in to random choice either. lol

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - lol. You made the right decision. I had to learn the hard way!

    Hi The Extra - Would you believe I almost considered the 450g. lol

    Hi Joanie - The burgers provided plenty of great photos. It's amazing how long a food blogger can spend admiring them through a camera lens :)

    Hi Jude - Actually The Counter does offer the option of a wholemeal bun, but everyone seemed to go for the white bun :) They also have a muffin option or a burger bowl which removes the bread entirely and serves your fillings in a bowl.

    Hi Chris - I think a one-week preparation would be ideal. And ahh it's amazing how easily you can increase your appetite when in the company of others, especially food bloggers!

    Hi Billy - Yes the 50-50 was so good wasn't it? I admit I got hungry editing the photos too :)

  • At 12/03/2009 9:01 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Hahaha yes in hindsight I'm very impressed with our self restraint getting those mini burgers, even though I felt like a wuss at the time! I agree the apple pie is a little bland, and you definitely need a spoon to finish it - I don't know why they stopped serving them with spoons!

  • At 12/03/2009 9:52 am, Blogger Gastronomy Gal said…

    What a fantastic concept. I know that I would be ordering the 300 g plus the fifty- fifty and would definitely be defeated!

  • At 12/04/2009 1:29 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Stephcookie - No you guys definitely make the right decision! The apple pie was super thick - they need those extra large straws you get with pearl drinks. lol.

    Hi Gastronomy Gal - Sometimes it's worth it to aim high and just revel in the challenge :)


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