Most Thanksgiving-themed burgers rely on two main components (besides a turkey patty) to get their point across: cranberry sauce and stuffing. In my experience, they are often the burger's downfall, which makes the whole proposition of using them as toppings shaky at best. Pre-made cranberry sauce is almost always too sweet, and stuffing from a boxed mix is almost always too mushy. Put together, that equals a weirdly sweet turkey burger with a mushy bread-like substance that looks like it's been pre-digested. In a word: gross.
Thankfully, The Counter went a completely different direction with November's burger of the month, a Thanksgiving-themed creation dubbed Not Your Granny's Turkey ($10.50). It's a good-looking burger, to the point that the real-life version (pictured above) looks even better than the promo shot.
From top to bottom, it's stacked with maple-glazed ham, sweet potato hash (which looks like a thin, smashed latke), a seasoned half-pound turkey burger, cranberries, red onion, and spinach on a brioche-style bun. Warm rosemary cream sauce comes on the side.
The sweet potato hash, sliced ham, and cranberries all have an inherent sweetness, but in each case, it's balanced by starch, salt, or tartness, so the overall flavor profile of the burger is more towards salty, savory, and mildly herbaceous than sweet. The chosen preparation for the cranberries also made a big difference. Instead of cranberry sauce, the burger is constructed with cranberries that taste like warm, rehydrated Craisins. They're sweet and tart, with the chewy texture of dried cranberries, not the slimy feel of sauce out of a can.
Spinach was an excellent choice for roughage. The heat from the turkey wilts it slightly, making it taste like an integral component of the burger. Whereas lettuce would have tasted out of place, the spinach is at home as it would be on a plate with a turkey dinner. The soft, pillowy bun was great too.
The first few bites were tasty, but it tasted like something was missing. Then I remembered the creamy rosemary sauce, which, to my surprise, is served hot and tastes a bit like Southern gravy. You could pour the contents of the container on top of the ham, but I liked using it as a dip. The sauce brought more moisture, upped the overall flavor of the burger, and united the ingredients.
Really, the only thing I'd change about the burger is to add more cranberries. The distribution on mine was uneven, causing some bites to be cranberry-free. I'd also take an extra handful on the side, just because they were that good.
My experiences at The Counter have been hit and miss, but after trying just about every burger on the menu, including beef, veggie, and bison, I finally found one I'd definitely order again. Try it!
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 San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax