On my debut visit to The Counter, back in April (April 5 to be exact), Rob Schneider walked in to grab a giant bag o’ takeout, and the starstruck young things went nuts, with groups asking to have their photo taken with him. He amicably obliged. The guy behind the counter said Schneider owns a home nearby, as does Adam Sandler, and gets burgers to go pretty often. I didn’t know if counter boy was insinuating that Sandler comes in too.
This first Honolulu location of a California-based chain (from Crows Nest, Australia to Salt Lake City) is famously owned by the famous—partners include restaurateur/chef D.K. Kodama and Lost cast member Daniel Dae Kim. The March 28 grand opening saw Kim’s colleagues, press and a lot of Kahala Mall workers sampling burgers, fries and shakes.
Overall, it’s, well, it’s a burger chain. What more is there to say? It’s Johnny Rockets made over by a Dwell reader. And with booze. It’s a product of the oughts, with burgers made of “100% natural freshly ground Angus beef” that’s hormone- and antibiotic-free to assuage the nearby Whole Foodies (but I bet the animals are still raised in ways Michael Pollanites would not approve of), along with a veggie burger (but no Tofutti cheese!) and grilled vegetables. And if you’re wheat or gluten intolerant, you can scratch the bun and have your burger in a bowl. The Counter is the compassionate, accommodating burger hut.
Here’s what the basic cheeseburger looks like when it’s not spritzed and shellacked for a magazine cover.
I’m sure you already know you can choose from dozens of toppings and sauces, from roasted corn and black bean salsa to apricot sauce. But I like burgers—meat + bread. If I want black bean salsa, I’ll go to a Mexican restaurant. If I want apricot sauce, I’ll go to…uh, where the heck would I go for that? So I ordered the “old school” from the list of “signature burgers.” And it was good. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever had, but it was good—and better than overrated Kua Aina, which packs its patties so tightly that the meat turns out dry and bricklike. Urk. The bun did it’s job (you can choose English muffin or honey wheat too).
I’ll join the bandwagon that raves about the sweet potato fries. The sugary starch made savory by the crusty outside. You pretty much can’t stop eating them. And you can get ’em “50-50” style with the onion strings—good house-made thinly cut and lightly battered onion laces.
The owners customized the chain menu a little for us islanders with a side of kim chee (Daniel Dae Kim is Korean! Geddit?!), a “signature” loco moco burger (although how can it be a signature if it just opened? Don’t dishes develop a following over time then become a signature? Yes, this is a pet peeve!), and fruit punch (heh).
Business is still brisk, but you don’t have to wait in line all the time. The Counter is a good go-to place—drop in here for a burger avec fromage bleu et une Stella before seeing that cool French film at the Kahala cinema. It beats Carl’s Jr.