Burger joint The Counter is shaking things up with their calorie-loaded, alcoholic milk shakes. (Photo by Michael Ryan)

Part of the fun during the holiday season is throwing the diet plans out the window and not holding back on all things delicious. After all, January is the time to start eating right and exercising too. And February is the month to gradually forget about all that stuff and revert back to your old ways.
Whatever your intentions may be, hamburger paradise The Counter has healthy or full-flavored options, as well as some seasonal treats to make you feel all Christmassy inside and out.
The Counter is synonymous with the custom built burger. At The Counter you can have it “your way” — even more than Burger King! With a clipboard and pencil you select from a multitude of toppings, buns, meats, cheeses and sauces to make your burger an original. Not exactly a novel idea now, but it was a new concept in 2003, responsible for expanding the franchise from Carlsbad, Calif. to Kuwait.
But the original, and therefor the best, is right here in Santa Monica east on Ocean Park Boulevard.
Along with the not-so-standard burgers, there are some sweet treats as well. With X-Mas around the corner, an eggnog shake seems to be quite an appropriate option. Unfortunately, The Counter’s concoction comes sans the alcohol. However, there are some interesting shakes with booze to boot. The cherry chocolate pinot noir shake may be the only milkshake in the world with tannins on the glass. And the sweet peach shake with white wine and peach nectar offers a boozy treat and all the guilt too!

Buger joint The Counter is shaking things up with their boozy milkshakes. (Photo by Michael Ryan)

Those with more will power will be very satisfied with The Counter’s healthy offerings. Vegan veggie patties, grilled chicken breast and gluten-free buns are all options on the checklist. There is even an option to scratch the bun all together and put your protein in a bowl on a bed of mixed greens and baby spinach.
The greatest thing about The Counter could also be the burger joint’s biggest Achilles heal — the freedom to do to your burger whatever you want. All too often I’ve taken the clipboard and checked off a dozen or so toppings; a blueprint of doom that conjures a top-heavy burger with a bevy of clashing textures and flavors. Hard-boiled eggs, black bean salsa, Brie cheese, a fried egg, and tzatziki sauce, seamed like a good idea at the time, but lettuce, tomato, and mayo would have been the safe play.
Some people need order with their order like the institutionalized burger at The Father’s Office. The Office Burger has no substitutions and no exceptions. Other people don’t want to be tread on and therein lies the immense success of The Counter.
But with great freedom comes great responsibility. I acknowledge the almost endless options The Counter offers, but perhaps there should be some restrictions in place to prevent a burger abomination. And a pretzel bun too. The again, ‘tis the season for excess.

Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.

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