While searching for the best burger joint in Orange County California The Counter was at the top of our list of burger places to visit. With plenty of stand-out reviews, awards and national recognition (after capturing the No. 15 spot in a July 2005 GQ Magazine feature “The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die” as well as The Counter being mentioned on The Oprah Winfrey Show just a few months later in February 2006 giving it the “Oprah Effect”) we had high expectations for The Counter – And our experience did not disappoint!
We visited The Counter in Newport Beach on a late Monday afternoon. While Mondays are notoriously slow for restaurants The Counter maintained a steady flow of customers (The Counter can get very busy during peak hours and on weekends). The Counter in Newport Beach opened in July 2010 and is the second Orange County location (the first OC location opened in Irvine’s Woodbury Town Center in November 2007). The Counter in Newport Beach is conveniently located in Westcliff Plaza Shopping Center on E. 17th St. and Irvine Avenue.
The atmosphere at The Counter was very fun, casual, upbeat and energetic with a sleek industrial design to it. The décor consisted of just a few artistic paintings on canvas hung on the walls. The inside was very modern and clean and popular music could be heard inside. There was a good size bar inside with a couple flat screen TV’s for entertainment.
The Counter offers a super fun and interactive “Build Your Own Burger” experience. You choose your burger options! And with over 300,000 burger combinations to choose from table conversations about building your own burger can never be dull (no matter how many times you eat here). For the party-poopers, indecisive or for those who simply want to go with a burger with preselected toppings there are a few Signature Burgers on the menu to choose from (such as the delicious “Counter Burger”) and a unique burger of the month (be sure to ask your server what the burger of the month is).
We ordered a “Counter Burger” Signature Burger ($10.50), 1/3 lb. “Build Your Own Burger” ($8.50), a Trio ($6.50 and not on the menu which came with fries, sweet potato fries and crispy onion strings) and a strawberry shake ($4.95). All the portion sizes were good and more than enough food for the two of us to share!
The Counter Burger (a Signature Burger with preselected toppings) came with 1/3 lb. of high-quality beef (hamburgers at The Counter are made from 100% natural, never frozen, freshly ground Angus beef which is hormone and antibiotic free and humanely raised and handled), provolone cheese, crispy onion strings piled high, lettuce blend, sautéed mushrooms, tomato and a side of sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. This burger was amazing and one of the best burgers in Orange County we’ve had! It was big, flavorful and cooked to perfection (cooked medium rare with the perfect pink color inside we like). While we hesitated on going with the sautéed mushrooms that come with the Counter Burger we decided to keep them on – And we’re so glad we did! The combination of the sautéed mushrooms with the melted provolone and crispy onion strings added to the deliciousness of the burger.
For the “Build Your Own Burger” we selected off the menu 1/3 lb. beef, Danish blue cheese, lettuce blend, tomato, purple onions, Dijon balsamic dressing and the hamburger bun. The blue cheese had excellent flavor, the veggies were super fresh and the burger was cooked medium (slightly pink inside) and exactly the way we wanted it. While not a Signature Burger on the menu this made-up combination was a delicious blend of ingredients (if you like blue cheese and balsamic you will love this combo).
The Trio (not on the menu) came with fries, sweet potato fries and crispy onion strings and was served with three different sauces for dipping. All were excellent, served fresh, hot and each had the perfect light crisp on the outside. The fries and onion strings were good dipped in the yummy sauces or as is.
The hand scooped and spun strawberry shake we ordered was excellent! The Counter shake is one of our favorite to date! The shake was creamy, thick (but not too thick to suck through a straw), made from real ice cream, and topped with a generous amount of whipped cream!
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at The Counter in Newport Beach – Good size portions, friendly service, casual and fun atmosphere and high-quality burgers. It’s a good price for a high-quality upscale burger (with top-quality, never frozen, freshly grounded 100% angus beef) cooked to your specification (unlike most burger joints where burgers are often frozen, dry and cooked medium with a brown center). If you like burgers and you’re in the Orange County area, we agree with the 2005 GQ magazine feature, the gourmet burgers at The Counter (along with their fries and shakes) are a “must try before you die!”