The Counter, Chicago, IL

I usually avoid writing about chain restaurants, but after a recent trip to Chicago I’ve decided to break my rule a few times for restaurants we don’t have back home in Michigan.
The Counter is an casual customer burger chain with a wide selection of options for everything from the bun, to the meat (or meatless), to the toppings. We visited the location in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. It has a few more “gourmet” options than most create-your-own burger options in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, such as Bagger Dave’s or Great Plains Burger company. I loved having such a wide variety of options; part of the fun of a custom burger joint is trying something a bit different than what you’d get at Mickey D’s.
The weight of the burgers noted on the menu is AFTER cooking rather than before, which is a departure from most restaurants and makes for really big burgers. Even the 1/3lb, which I got was a bit much for me and it was the smallest choice. I went for a beef burger with a pretzel bun and topped with herbed goat cheese, tomato, sauteed mushrooms and Dijon balsamic dressing. I though it odd that the sauteed mushrooms were considered a “premium” topping (an extra buck) since most places throw that in as standard. I thought the herbs in the goat cheese spread were a bit overpowering, but a nice change from cheddar. The Dijon balsamic dressing was really good! It went better with the sweet potato fries I ordered than their mayonnaise concoction. The pretzel bun was tender and flavorful a strong improvement over most boring hamburger buns.

Service was decent and the food was good overall. I’d make another trip if I were back in the Lincoln Park area.