Monday, March 07, 2011

The Burger Babes Have It Their Way at “The Counter”

Spring may be just weeks away, but we’re getting a little cabin fever down at the old office and it’s still too cold to eat outside. Food trucks are cool, but grabbing your takeout with frigid fingers as a wicked wind roars down 52nd Street is not. I consult Zany.

TW: (sounding hungry and desolate) I’m going stir crazy. Somebody spotted me downstairs at Subway the other day and threatened to expose me on CNN. We need a new lunch adventure!

Zany: (with an efficient, “take no prisoners” tone) Call Marie Antoinette. We need a strategy session! We need flavor!! We need variety!!! We need real utensils!!!! Let’s move!!!!!

Zany is the General MacArthur of the lunch hour.

For lunchtime maneuvers, we journey out into Times Square in search of hot food, eaten indoors. Our target is The Counter just below 42nd Street, which promises fresh, 100 percent natural Angus beef hormone and antibiotic-free burgers, customized our way.

Some math genius in the promotions department has determined that there are 312,210 combinations available at The Counter. This has Marie Antoinette a bit intimidated.

“That does not bode well for the most indecisive person ever – moi!” she says without uncertainty.

Following a brisk walk through Times Square – where there may be more pigeons than people – we pause to look at the multi-media show in The Counter window, where burgers, buns and toppings multiply before our eyes. There’s something oddly captivating – and even thrilling - watching this burger constantly regenerate, but then, it is Times Square, so food porn is acceptable.

We push through the glass door and leave the cold air behind us. The warm, lip-smacking aroma of flame-broiled beef envelopes us immediately. We take a seat at the counter. There are tables, but somehow it seems appropriate to eat at the counter at The Counter. Zany notes that it’s a nice compromise between eating standing up on 52nd Street and sitting down like grown-ups. The décor is ultra modern – clean, white counters and blinding, bright lights. It’s a bit like having a cheese burger in George Jetson’s kitchen. We are lucky we arrived when we did. Within minutes, the place is jammed and there’s a line out the door.

We are each presented with clip boards and pencils and a long list of options to build our orders. Think of it as a multiple choice burger.

It’s just five steps to a better burger – meat, cheese, toppings, sauce, and bun. While we wait for our burgers, Marie Antoinette and I each indulge in a shake. Hers is Peanut Butter. Mine is an “adult” coffee shake with a shot of Kahlua. (Don’t raise your eyebrows. I’m an adult) As the shakes are delivered, Zany swipes her index finger through the dollop of whipped cream atop Marie Antoinette’s shake.

M-A is horrified. “Are your fingers clean?” she demands.
“I just walked through Times Square,” says Zany. “Of course they’re clean.”

Zany is a fried pickle chip connoisseur (it’s a genetic thing) and she approves of The Counter’s approach. The golden fried coating is hot and crispy, with cool, crunchy pickle concealed within.
Three mountainous burger platters are placed before us. Marie Antoinette scores on originality, with kind of a Switzerland-takes-Texas creation, with a brief stop at Coney Island. Her burger consists of beef on Texas Toast, Gruyere cheese, tomato, mixed greens, Applewood smoked bacon, fried onion rings and a side of horseradish mayo.

My burger is built on a foundation of Texas Toast – beef, Tillamook Cheddar, grilled onions, Applewood smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, lettuce and red relish. I try to wrestle the small tower into my mouth, but I am quickly facing an architectural disaster. I am forced to resort to knife and fork, and deflect the scorn of my comrades-in-arms.

The Zany Burger is beef on a bun, Tillbrook Cheddar, dill pickle chips, tomato, mixed greens, and Applewood Smoked Bacon. She cuts her burger in half and reveals a perfectly cooked, pink center, which she garnishes with a smear of chipotle aioli. She sighs with supreme satisfaction and takes a bite.

“This is why I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to work out,” says Zany. “Right here.”

While I would dearly love to leave you in burger bliss, I must conclude with a bit of foreshadowing. There may be lean times ahead for our little lunch platoon …

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Fresh Local and Best said...

Lean times ahead for the lunch platoon? Hmmm... It has been really cold lately and much harder to schlep myself outside for lunch. I haven't been to the counter, but I'm intrigued by the numerous decisions dedicated to creating your final and very personalized product. I hope it gets warmer, I'm looking forward to leaving the office periodically for those old lunch time strolls.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

The Counter looks like fun. I'm thinking nap after those big burgers. Not sure I have could gone back to work. We go out for burgers once or twice a month, but have to hit the gym to make up the calories. If the burger is good, it's so worth it.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Very cryptic ending. And just when you had us all lulled into burger bliss.

Julia said...

Seriously, cryptic ending!

I love the idea of The Counter! Pickles and fried onion rings sound perfect to me...

lostpastremembered said...

Is another of your crew leaving??? I do love your adventures... where do you find these places???

I didn't know the COunter existed... although I shy from midtown as much as possible...but a whatever you want burger does sound like a reason to venture into the bright lights of Broadway.

Zany said...

That bacon inspired me this weekend - I went to the farmer's market and bought a pack of thick-cut bacon for breakfast on Sunday. I've had my sodium quota for the month!

Mad Me-Shell said...

Well, I have to say, Marie Antoinette has finally won my respect. Bacon AND onion rings on the burger?! It's like an edible fairy tale.

What is that dipping sauce that came with the fried pickles? It looks different! Reading this has made me quite hungry -- it's only breakfast time, but it's never too early for a burger, right!?

~~louise~~ said...

Seriously, you "guys" should star in your own reality show. I can't think of a name off hand, but, I will!!! What's a great tale without a cliffhanger...

312,210 combinations! Oh my! I don't do well with so many choices either. I'd need to begin with what I don't like (ie pickles) before choosing my burger garnishes.

I'm entertaining a warm "adult" coffee as we speak, Kahlua and all!!!

Marie Antoinette said...

Finally, Mad Me-Shell! I knew my carnivore nature would eventually tip the scales in my favor!

The sauce was some type of sweet and sour mixture, DE-LISH! It was an all around perfect Friday lunch.

Ford M said...

Did you walk back to the office or did someone have to roll you?

Merut said...

Sounds like a fun experience. Cabin fever is taking hold around the country I think.

I love how these burgers are served on Texas toast. Awesome!

Mary said...

I fear your office mates have become anorexic. You must urge them to eat more :-). I have a terrible weakness for hamburgers and would approach blimp-like proportions were they readily available. Have a great day T.W. Blessings...Mary

tasteofbeirut said...

You are an amazing writer; I can't believe I was reading this like a suspense novel. OK, I need a sequel now!

~~louise~~ said...

Hi T.W! If you're not traveling this week and you get a moment, drop by my blog. I'm having a give-away I think you may like.

I must say, it was a pleasure to revisit this post:) I may have a hamburger for breakfast!!!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

You must be psychic, Louise! I was just there!

Barbara said...

We have a burger/pizza place here that gives you an order form too....nice to order to ones taste but unlike NYC, it only costs $5! I am always appalled when I visit (my daughter lives there) and see your prices. For everything.

Anyway, used to love a good burger and fried anything (never had fried pickles though) with it. The Counter looks good...why are lean times ahead?

Velva said...

You know it's going to be a great lunch when the locals are lining out the door.

Spring is almost here in spite of the continuing frigid temps. I have experienced walking down a NYC in late Spring and was still cold-its all those buildings and sidewalks, it blocks the sun.... Still, NYC is one of my favorite places on earth.

~~louise~~ said...

So you were...Great minds:)

Anonymous said...

The food looks fab & grand but that 1st topped hamburger would be too much for me to eat!! That's a lot of food in 1 hamburger!!

I could eat the last hamburger. That's more my style!

When I visit USA one time, I must come to lunch here! that's for sure!!