The Place: The Counter, 6416 Irvine Boulevard, Irvine, (949) 336-7272; www.thecounterburger.com.
The Hours: Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Deal: $2 mini-cheeseburgers, half-off starters (does not include mini-cheeseburgers), $2 off draft beer and wine.
The Scene: Located in the newer Woodbury Town Center, the first California franchise (the first corporate being Santa Monica), is smack in the middle of a bustling plaza and surrounded by apartment home communities. Neighborhood business is expected, but businesses in the Irvine Spectrum area are only a five minute drive away from custom-built meals. Upscale, yet unpretentious, they fit right in.
The Sauce: The seven or so on tap is an eclectic mix of tastes specific to this location. From a coriander-tinged Shock Top and German Hoegaarden ale, to the Eureka-based, award-winning funky brews from Lost Coast, it's a medley of tastes. More classic flavors can be found in Stella Artois, Stone IPA and Widmer Hef. For winos, if you prefer international vineyards, stick to white. Cupcake from New Zealand (I kid you not) pours a Sauvignon Blanc crisp with a citrus bite. Louis Jadot Chardonnay is prim and proper with some earthy qualities. Their red selection is all California dreaming--Alexander Valley, Mendocino, Napa and Monterey are represented. Duo Cabs, Merlots and Pinot Noirs might be reason enough to conduct a leg comparison
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The Food: An order of happy hour mini-cheeseburgers is two, so pair that up with some surprisingly good sweet potato fries. The more hardcore might prefer fried dill pickle chips. Parmesan-style french fries include parsley, rosemary and garlic aioli. Healthier options include a turkey chili, grilled vegetables and a side salad with choice of greens. Pretty darn good, as far as apps go.
The Verdict: Only available for the past month or so, The Counter has the heartiest deal in a plaza of chains. Throw in a sandwich or dessert option, and we'd be sold. Guess we'll stick to liquid nourishment.
The Grade: B