Several years ago at lunchtime I was in front of a shopping center in Marine Del Rey sitting at a broken traffic light. After three or four cycles without moving I noticed at the far end of a nearby parking lot a Counter Burger. I'd planned on having lunch at an In-n-Out which was about a half mile away but it seemed liked I wouldn't ever get there.
I turned into the parking lot and walked into the Counter Burger which was empty. Surprised, I looked around and made a decision: I'd fight the traffic and go to In-n-Out. Ten minutes there and another fifteen in line, still it was worth it.
A year later in Silicon Valley I saw another Counter Burger, this time with a line out of the door. It struck me as really strange since the Marina Del Rey outpost four hundred miles south had been empty at lunch. Still, once again, I went to a nearby In-n-Out.
Tonight, having walked or driven by the new Counter Burger in Reston Town Center a half dozen times, all with lines out the door, my wife and I decided we had to try it. Besides we were at Hell Burger on Thursday night and it seemed like a good reference point. I must note that at 6:30 this evening Counter Burger-a burger joint-was taking reservations since there were 30 to 35 people waiting to get in.
Remarkable. We walked in and sat at the counter.
I wish I could write that there is a good reason for the lines at Counter Burger. That the hamburger was a revelation, that I made huge mistakes in passing over this place for In-n-Out and that Thursday we should have been at Town Center for a hamburger rather than Arlington.
But I can't.
The whole time we were there I missed Hellburger and In-n-Out even Hamburger Hamlet and the Silver Spring Charcoal House and a lot of other places. This was a decent $6.50 1/3 lb hamburger with good toppings (correctly cooked) and a truly bad roll along with frozen french fries and decent onion strips. It just wasn't THAT good. Nothing about juice spurting out when I bit into it (Wilmington Charcoal Pit) or the great "glop" of melted cheese, grilled onions and "spread" that In-n-Out is famous for. There was just nothing that singled this out for an exemplery burger.
The one thought that did occur to me is that there is a real demand for a good burger place in Reston Town Center. But Counter Burger isn't it. Their milkshakes did look good, though. Of course for $4.50 they should have been.