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First Encounter with The Counter

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I’m sure we all remember, back through the mists of time, being told we could “have it your way.” But at a new-to-Texas “better burger” concept known as The Counter, we’re told we can have it at least 312,120 ways. That, apparently, is the math behind a place that lets you BYOB (“Build Your Own Burger,” with a trademark TM, no less) with a creative clipboard for choice after choice after choice.

In addition to the choices inherent in Building Your Own Burger (must I say TM?), there are choices in side dishes that begin and end with the traditional “You want fries with that,” but travel many places in between. If you buy into the Counter timeline, in fact, your fries will show up as a starter, along with things like onion strings and fried dill pickles. The photo above shows Parmesan Fries (involving cheese melted atop a garlic aioli – a word the fast-food boys tend not to use), plus the excellent onion strings with ranch and apricot dipping sauces, both good.

In keeping with The Counter’s origins in southern California, much effort goes into being, or at least seeming, more healthy than the pleasures involved might imply. Sometimes “health” is merely using better beef and other meats to build the burgers, going so far as to promise “humane” treatment of the animals involved. Other times it’s a platter of quite tasty grilled vegetables.

Still, it’s a safe bet that the demographic that accepts paying more for healthy, humane, sustainable or organic food also loves to throw the calorie counter out the window and splurge on dessert. One of the better choices for said splurge is this oversized chocolate chip cookie served a la mode.

My favorite sweet finale, though, is this apple crumble, which combines the finest aspects of terrific Texas apple cobbler with some sort of Girl Scout streusel-dump cake thing, the kind some Mom probably made. All these treats are available at The Counter, brought to the Houston market by Aisha Waliany and her family, operating as NextGen Ventures, Aisha being the NextGen. The debut location on Washington Avenue will be joined in August by a second in the Market Street entertainment district in The Woodlands.

Photos by Sara DeMers

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About John DeMers

I've been a journalist and author forever. My favorite single word in the English language is "foodandwine." This spirit drives my 45 published books and my weekly radio show heard in Houston, Dallas and Austin.

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