By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
While talking with Tom Ryan, the man behind Smashburger, I heard how the original Smashburger service model — in which customers wrote down exactly what they wanted on their burgers by checking boxes on a sushi bar-style paper menu — was abandoned rather quickly once the company realized that a) a simple, straightforward menu with a few basic options worked better in a fast-casual environment, and b) no one liked filling out paperwork just to get lunch.
But at the Counter, the "Build Your Own Burger," paper-menu-and-golf-pencil system has been one of the draws since the place opened last August in the Vistas at Park Meadows. Letting diners custom-build their burgers has allowed the Counter to set itself apart in this already burger-heavy town. The toppings are high-end — horseradish cheddar, dried cranberries, hard-boiled egg, imported peppers and more than a dozen scratch-made sauces — and the almost infinite possibilities keep people coming back.
I'm one of those people. Occasionally, I'm willing to go through a little additional hassle and pay a little more money in order to score a serious burger several steps beyond the standard 1/3-pound, cheese-and-basics served almost everywhere else. For example, last week when I visited the Counter (which I first reviewed in November 2008), I went for the 2/3-pound all-natural Angus patty, cooked a nicely bloody medium-rare, with horseradish cheddar, thin-sliced Bermuda red onions, thick-cut slabs of honey-cured bacon and horseradish mustard — a cheeseburger designed by me and delivered to me at the bar exactly in accordance with my specifications.
8401 Park Meadows Center
Littleton, CO 80124
Region: Southeast Denver Suburbs
Every now and again, I like that kind of power. I like the responsibility that goes with it. I like being the captain of my own cheeseburger destiny. I was even okay with paying a couple bucks over the normal bar-room price (for a total of about eleven) to get exactly what I wanted, because when my burger arrived, it was a real burger, a big, heavy, serious hunk of meat with some weight to it, bearing the hallmarks of a kitchen that really knows what it's doing.
No, it's not the kind of burger I'd go for every day. It's not the kind of thing I could conceive of eating for lunch if I had any other plans for the rest of the day. But a year out from its momentous opening at Park Meadows, the Counter is sticking to its guns and offering an burger experience that makes a worthy, occasional detour from your standard, workaday cheeseburger operations.