All throughout July, I've been taking my kiddo on some foodie adventures at home and while we travel on summer vacation. He's a simple guy, just like any other eight-year-old and sticks to a strict diet of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, cheese pizza and anything loaded with sugar. But the one thing I've noticed, is that he's always DEAD on when it comes to analyzing good/bad food. He's the perfect food critic...brutally honest, not easily impressed and always hungry. Restaurant owners CRINGE when they see me walk in the door with him, because they know he'll have no mercy upon them.
Tuesday we visited The Counter downtown. We parked at a meter, something he hadn't seen before, so he was immediately intrigued as I maxed it out with my collection of quarters. We both LOVED The Counter's location, right on the corner of Adams and Central, in the heart of downtown Phoenix. We were in the midst of skyscrapers, the convention center and the Metro Rail. We were immediately entertained.
We walked in and sat at a booth that was right in front of the Metro Rail stop, so it was fun to watch the train as it emptied and filled with commuting passengers over and over. Judging from the look on the kiddo's face...this place was already getting a thumbs up.
Tammy was kind enough to take great care of us. We chatted for a bit about the history of The Counter. The only franchise location in Arizona, The Counter is a chain with locations spread nationwide, most of them located in California. This particular location has been open for several years, and gets busiest around lunch time on weekdays with the corporate and convention crowds.
Their menu is simple and fun. Make Your Own Burger. Pick your meat, your bun, your cheese and just about anything else you can imagine. They have over 80 ingredients to choose from, so you can load it up, or keep it simple. And the burgers aren't just beef. Proteins include all natural beef, turkey, chicken breast (grilled or fried), organic bison, mahi mahi or their greatest culinary accolade, the "Impossible Burger." A plant based burger that boasts the taste, texture and even the color of an animal-based protein. I was immediately both grateful and skeptical. I try to watch what I eat every chance I get, but I often pay for it in lack of flavor. I knew the kiddo was going to go for the simplest of simple with beef, cheese and bun, so I decided to buck it up and jump into the void (the MEAT void, that is).
Here's a quick video on the science of the Impossible Burger:
As we waited for our custom built burgers, the kiddo started with a milkshake. Just like the burgers, The Counter encourages customers to build their own milkshakes. I was waiting for the kiddo to order an AMAZING looking beverage with TONS of whipped cream, three kinds of sauces oozing off the sides, cherries everywhere and six different kinds of ice creams and fruits. NOPE. Vanilla ice cream and bananas. NOTHING ELSE! I could tell that Tammy and the rest of the staff REALLY wanted to dress it up for us, but they knew the boy would drop the hammer if it wasn't perfect. They brought it out, and it was flawless. Vanilla ice cream and bananas. Blended to perfection. Not even photo worthy. The kiddo sucked down every ounce with NO EMOTION WHATSOEVER.
"Good." He said. That was all. The emptiness of his glass said otherwise. I didn't even get a taste, but I'm assuming it was delicious.
Our burgers arrived soon after my dairy disappointment, so my mood was immediately elevated when I saw our burgers. I wanted to dive into my self-branded "Southwest Mess." An Impossible Burger, loaded with heat: Cheddar Jack Cheese, fresh jalapeños and Chipotle Aioli along with some roasted red peppers and avocado. I threw it on a gluten-free bun, just to top off the healthy factor and see if my tastebuds would approve.
The kiddo was super simple, as expected. Beef, cheddar, brioche bun. Ketchup and mustard on the side. He DID order sweet potato fries, which surprised me. He ate them all, but I did get a taste, and they were DELICIOUS. His burger was great. The meat was perfectly cooked and was full of flavor. He ate half, only because his belly was full of vanilla bean ice cream and bananas.
I bit in to my Impossible Burger expecting the same, flat flavor of meatless patties and the same rubbery texture. I immediately knew they had made a mistake. This was clearly meat. It had the rich, deep flavor of beef. The texture was exactly the same. And the cool, pink center was clearly the skillful accomplishment of a cultured carnivore culinarian.
Again I was completely mistaken. This Impossible Burger was everything The Counter had boasted. I ate every single bite, intertwined with my perfectly crispy shoestring french fries and heavy ketchup. I wanted another, and another, even though my stomach was completely at capacity.
We waddled out out with the kiddos leftovers. Our hunger was depleted just like the time on our parking meter. We beat the meter maid, loaded up and drove off. It was the first of our many visits to The Counter.
I would encourage each and every one of you to go to The Counter and try any of the burgers, but please, please please. Give The Impossible Burger a try. It's amazing. Make sure you check in on Yelp and get a free side dish too!
Note and Disclaimer: Restaurant reviews are NOT paid. At times restaurants do trade complimentary meals in exchange for photos and/or reviews, but those reviews are NOT expected by the restaurants to be positive. I choose however ONLY to document my positive experiences. If I encounter a meal or a restaurant experience that I don't think is a good one, I simply don't publish the result. This website is all about GOOD FOOD and GREAT PLACES!