Reality Check

Reviews of fast food burgers and a look at how the real life version compares to the advertised beauty shot.

Reality Check: Bison Burger at The Counter

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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

If you've exhausted all 300,000 possible configurations for building your own burger at The Counter, or are just looking for a way to trim fat, calories, and cholesterol, you might want to try the latest addition to the permanent menu: bison.

The certified organic, 100% grass-fed meat is sourced from Blackwing Quality Meats out of the Dakotas. It's the protein of choice on the signature burger for the month for February, and comes topped with smoked gouda, organic mixed greens, Bermuda red onion, roasted red peppers, sprouts, marinated artichoke hearts, and Kalamata olive aioli for $14.95. A top-it-your-way patty starts at $12.95 (for the 1/3 pound size).

I kept things simple, opting for only the standard burger toppings (American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickle slices) so the flavor of the bison wouldn't be complicated by aggressive toppings. At first glance, it was a pretty impressive looking burger: nice and fat, with good charring. The patty had a decent amount of moisture and the flavor was fairly good, like a sweeter, slightly gamier version of grass-fed beef—similar enough to a standard burger patty to not totally alienate traditionalists, but still different enough to stand out.

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One thing I like about The Counter is unlike most chains, you can actually get a burger that's pink in the center, but this particular patty was squarely rare, with the center wet and cool to the touch. I ate the slightly-more-cooked half while staring at the slimy center of the remaining half, and couldn't bring myself to finish the rest.

Had the bison burger been cooked properly, I'd feel more confident recommending it but honestly, paying $12.95 for a burger (à la carte!) that is that far off the mark gives me pause, and I think some righteous indignation is justified...no...required.

If your main motivation when you go out to eat a burger isn't to treat yourself to something delicious (and ignore the caloric implications), that might be enough of a reason to give it a go, just cross your fingers it'll come out of the kitchen cooked properly. But if you care about flavor above anything else, give it a pass. For $15 (the price with fries) you can get a much better burger somewhere else.

What do you think? Is $12.95 for a burger with no fries or anything on the side a crazy price, or would you happily pay that much for a healthier patty?

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax.

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