Cheap Eats: Ballard

The all-American burger gets a gourmet kick in the bun

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There are those who love The Counter, a burger franchise with 23 locations across the nation, and those who claim that the one-third-pound burgers ($8.25, with an extensive variety of toppings) are an abomination of what’s traditionally seen as an affordable all-American meal. Factor in an order of “Fifty-Fifty”—crumbly-crusted onion straws and crisp sweet potato fries ($5.95, large enough to feed two hungry dudes)—and drinks and your bill is going to add up to more than the cost of a meal at Dick’s Drive-in—but it will be better, too. The burgers are towering and tasty, made with meat that is hormone- and additive-free, and veggies that are organic whenever possible. The best deal is the house-made chili—a gut-busting, robustly flavored portion for a mere $4.95—made with the same natural Meyer Ranch beef The Counter uses for its burger patties. The dish comes topped with a squiggle of sour cream, melted cheddar cheese and notes of paprika and onion powder. The beef burgers—I specified medium-rare on all visits—came juicy and pink in the middle, and there are poultry and veggie burgers for the more cholesterol-conscious. Lunch and dinner, Mon.–Sun. Ballard, 4609 14th Ave. NW 206.706.0311 $

Originally published in April 2010