Question: How many ways can you eat a burger?
This seems like it would be pretty easy for most to answer…with cheese, without cheese, add pickles, maybe toss on a fried egg, or what about a little chili? Okay, so it is not as easy as originally thought! The combinations are endless in these days of custom burgers and the places that are letting you do it your way, are popping up everywhere. You can say so long to the old two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. One "custom burger" spot that has been on our radar a while is The Counter - Custom Built Burgers. So when given the opportunity to check out their new burger and beer pairing, we were excited! This new offering pairs their specialty craft beers with a selection of sweet and salty beef mini-burgers that vary in toppings. Given the beer and burger pairing will only be available on Thursdays after March 18th, we wanted to be sure we didn't miss out!
To start off our meal, we went for their top two starters. Our initial desires to stay clear from fried foods that day didn't work out as well as we had planned. Since you can't have burgers without fries, we opted for the Fifty-Fifty. The Fifty-Fifty is their selection of Pom Fries (Parmesan French Fries with Rosemary, Parsley, and Garlic Aioli) and Sweet Potato Fries. You are given a half portion of each (if that is what they call a half portion; it is Texas) so you can enjoy both a savory and sweet option. The Sweet Potato Fries were heavenly; soft center with a crispy exterior...as perfect as you can get! The Pom Fries were good too, but we ride on the side of simplicity when it comes to our fries. The horseradish and garlic aioli was a great addition and made the Sweet Potato Fries prime for dipping. The Fifty-Fifty can be ordered three ways which allows you to incorporate their Onion Strings if so desired. We also tried the Fried Dill Pickle Chips, which were panko-crusted giving them their "lighter" taste and perfect crunch. You thought you would never see "light" and "fried" in the same sentence, huh? Welcome to Urban Swank...that's how we roll!
Now on to our beer and burger pairings...
1. Brown Ale, paired with a beef mini, with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon, roasted garlic aioli
2. Amber Ale, paired with a beef mini, organic mixed greens, fresh mozzarella, bruschetta mix, balsamic glaze, basil pesto
3. IPA, paired with a beef mini, lettuce blend, roasted corn and black bean salsa, jalapeno jack cheese, fried jalapenos, chipotle aioli
3. Hefeweizen, paired with a beef mini, with brie organic greens, julienned basil, tomato, apricot sauce
Now we must admit we are not really beer drinkers; but were very excited to taste all the “specialness” (word used to describe how great this pairing was by general manager Jenni Gomez) this pairing had to offer. We were also advised to try the pairing a few different ways: first bite the burger then sip the beer, next sip the beer then take a bite of the burger, and finally bite the burger and sip the with beer with a little burger still in our mouths. Here are our favorites and the those that were "not so much":
Favorite - IPA, paired with a beef mini, lettuce blend, roasted corn and black bean salsa, jalapeno jack cheese, fried jalapenos, chipotle aioli
This burger left me with an extremely happy mouth! The sauce gave it a very southwestern taste which I loved; so I decided to add more sauce to intensify the flavors. The extra sauce pushed the spicy factor and gave me the desired heat I was looking for in this burger. Yes I am somewhat of a hot-head (Urban Girl don’t go there).
Not So Much - Hefeweizen, paired with a beef mini, with brie organic greens, julienned basil, tomato, apricot sauce
I really did not care for the Hefeweizen beer that much because of the favor and it had too much of a bite on the end note. However, that little extra bite was exactly what was needed with this burger and the light apricot sauce.
Favorite - Brown Ale, paired with a beef mini, with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon, roasted garlic aioli
This was the most "traditional" in comparison to the other burgers. The fresh ingredients solidified this mini burger and everything blended perfectly. It was great to find the mini burgers were cooked at the correct temperature as I find that some establishments unintentionally overcook these burgers due to their size.
Not So Much - Amber Ale, paired with a beef mini, organic mixed greens, fresh mozzarella, bruschetta mix, balsamic glaze, basil pesto
The Amber Ale was my least favorite craft beer. It was the strongest of the four beers and had the largest "hoppy character". It had way too much bite for me. The mini burger, although my least favorite, had great flavor. The basil pesto topping is a must try.
The meal ended with the presentation of the Slap Somebody Award. The Caramel and Chocolate Brownie blew our socks off! This dessert is cooked to order and requires around 8 minutes of prep time. Ladies and gents, this was not your average Brownie a la Mode. Filled with larger than life chocolate chips, a soft center and perfectly crunchy edges, the Caramel and Chocolate Brownie is one for the record books. After a few bites, we actually asked the waiter to remove it from our table and discard of all the remnants. This was dangerously tasty and a wonderful end to our visit at The Counter. We would have never expected such an awesome dessert at a burger joint, but we are talking gourmet burgers, so we rest our case.
Our conclusion: The best way we found to eat a burger is…with lots of napkins and to make sure we wear something with elastic in the waist! Given the 300,000 ways you can build your own, we are looking forward to our next visit when we get opportunity to develop our own creations! The Counter also offers their "Burger Bar" which is a great option for parties, the office or anywhere you want to enjoy and share a custom built burger. The Counter - Custom Built Burgers is located in The Woodlands and The Heights (we visited The Heights location). The Counter is definitely worth adding to your burger list and with the myriad of ways you can sculpt your custom burger, it may be on your list for many years to come!
~ Urban Swank
*This was a media tasting and the items reviewed were complimentary.