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Hold the Beef: Step Up to The Counter

By John DiGilio in Food on Jul 20, 2011 3:00PM


Hold the Beef is a monthly series exploring Chicago's vegetarian burger scene. If you know any veggie burger joints that we should check out, post them in the comments!

While it may seem logical to our omnivorous friends that the best place to go for any type of burger, even a meatless one, is a place that specializes in burgers, most vegetarians will tell you that burger joints can actually be among the worst for this kind of fare. For the sake of getting those greenbacks from green eaters, these places will often slap something meat-free on a bun and try to pass it off as a veggie masterpiece. We've eaten enough uninspiring vegetarian burgers in our day to know how it goes. Luckily, one of Chicago's trendier burger bars actually bucks this particularly unfortunate trend. You can count on The Counter to get the meatless patty right.

Famous for its build-your-own-burger approach that features a massive list of patty and topping options (not to mention its celebrity following), The Counter is a more recent addition to the happening corridor of shops and eateries that separates Lincoln Park and Lakeview. It's been holding its own in an area that seen a number of restaurants come and go in recent years. So it has got some staying power. But does it have what it takes to fill a vegetarian who is not shy about spending his or her time among the meat eaters? When we heard that their burgers ranged in size from 1/3 to a whole pound after cooking, we had to take our vegetarian challenge to their actual counter.

We stepped up to The Counter on a busy Friday evening and immediately found ourselves surrounded by hungry college boys rabidly tearing into some of the largest burgers we had ever seen. It was like something out of a nature documentary as they stretched their mouths to ingest sandwiches that were seemingly stacked impossibly high. Intimidated, we took our seats, grabbed an order pad, and set to creating a veggie burger to match the beef bricks around us. We opted for a 1/3 pound veggie burger topped with Danish blue cheese, raw onions, lettuce, pickles, and roasted garlic aioli. Let's just say that the finished product was every bit as decadent as the order sounds.

The Counter's veggie patty was thick and moist. We were comforted to see actual bits of corn, greens, and black beans right in the burger. It was not one of those unrecognizable pucks of dry, vegetable protein that we see in so many other meatless burgers. With all of the toppings we choose, it was overwhelming and delicious! For good measure, we added in some of the deep-fried pickle chips. Their tart, crispy goodness was a great accompaniment to the burger. It was like being on a picnic sans the outdoor scenery and charring flesh on the grill, of course. By the end of our meal, we were almost too full to move. The Counter definitely lived up to its reputation for us and we had one heck of a meal to work off.

The Counter is located at 666 West Diversey Parkway.

Other articles in this series: