The Counter: Build your own burger 

Gourmet fast food in Roswell

After being "anti-established" in California in 2003, the Counter Burger (850 Mansell Road, Roswell, 678-461-9661, www.thecounterburger.com) received rave reviews from numerous national publications and the hallowed endorsement of Oprah Winfrey. The upscale burger joint has more than 125 locations throughout the United States – the Roswell store is one of the first on the East Coast.

The Counter distinguishes itself among other customizable burger spots with retro-modern digs, regional wines and beers, and its use of freshly ground Meyer's Red Angus beef shoulder, a certified humane all-natural beef. To build your dream burger, grab your checklist affixed to a clipboard, choose a patty listed by post-cooked weights (1/3 pound, $8.50; 2/3 pound, $10.75; and 1 pound, $13.75) and pile on toppings that run the gamut from grilled pineapple to boiled eggs (one cheese, four toppings and a sauce are included in the price). Signature burgers such as the basic "Old School" ($8.50) or the "Unique Veggie" burger ($8.50) are another option if your burger muse is out to lunch. Kicking it low-carb? The tres L.A. "Burger in a Bowl" ($9.50-$14.75) is served on a bed of lettuce instead of that pesky bun. Kids will love the mini-burgers, two sliders on soft white buns topped with American cheese and served with fries ($4.95).

Starters range from average to great. Fried dill pickles are drowned in heavy panko breading, and the accompanying sickly sweet apricot sauce is an odd pairing. On the other hand, crispy french fries ($3.50) tossed in a tasty BBQish seasoning and served in a swank square white dish become a hearty meal when meaty beef chili, sharp cheddar cheese and finely minced red onion are added ($5.50). The "Fifty-Fifty" is a combo of perfectly dry and well-seasoned shaved sweet potato fries and light-as-a-feather homemade onion strings ($5.95). If you have room for dessert, the restaurant serves a bevy of all-American sweets such as apple crumble ($4.95), floats ($4.25) and milk shakes ($4.95).

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