Mar 8 2010

Top 10 Burgers in Denver – Misses: Steve’s Snappin Dog’s “Smashburger”

jko

I tried the “Smashburger” from Steve’s Snappin Dogs the other day, fully expecting to be blown away. This thing gets rave reviews from people on different boards, as if it’s the hidden burger-gem of the city.

It was decent – I’m not going to say it was bad, but it didn’t make the cut. Aside from the cheese not being melted, the burger was like a softball in the middle of an umbrella of bread. Reminded me of this clip from Eddie Murphy:

Here is a pic of the burger:

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Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)

Mar 7 2010

Top 10 Burgers in Denver: Deluxe Burger’s “Denver Burger”

jko

Deluxe Burger’s “Denver Burger”

Location: E Colfax

Price: $7.5

The Skinny: The story goes that one hot summer night, Deluxe,  a successful and well respected restaurant, had a few too many drinks at the bar, and armed with lines from VH1’s “The Pick Up Artist”, started throwing his game out there.  The bait lured barfly Mod Livin, a stylish, modern furniture joint, single for 9 years and hanging out on the streets of Colfax.  Sparks fly, birds chirp, and Deluxe moves in months later.

Feb 26th,, 2010 – the birth of this union: “Deluxe Burger” – dubbed by the owners as “Love in a Bun”.  ½ rock solid food, ½ hip, mid-century design.  The result is an excellent, sweet, spicy and messy affair… much like love itself.  (And yes, that’s Shakespeare rolling over in his grave.)

On this occasion I got the “Denver Burger” – a spice and flavor guarantee with melted cheddar, sautéed chilies, onions, pico, and smoked jalapeño aioli.  That’s right, jalepeno and chilis – pico and onion.  Redundant?  Perhaps.  Especially with the pico.  You already get onions and tomato in the burger – having pico there gave only slightly more acid, but not much more flavor.  It also made the burger a bit of a mess, with the pico soaking into the bun.  Even with a sloppy bun, it was still terrific – the subtle heat from the spicy, mouthwatering aioli mixing well with the sweet onions and house-ground beef patty.

And that’s the other thing to mention about Deluxe Burger – everything, yes everything is homemade – from the fries down to the condiments and pickles.  An impressive feat, for sure, but on this visit it was the fries and condiments that were the most out of sync.  Chef-owner Dylan Moore is too good to let that go on, and I’d expect this to get smoothed out over the next few months as they find their stride.  Overall, a very strong burger.

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Rating: 0 (from 14 votes)

Mar 4 2010

Top 10 Burgers in Denver: My Brother’s Bar’s “Johnny Burger”

jko

My Brother’s Bar’s “Johnny Burger”

Location: Riverfront

Price:  $6.5

The Skinny: The secret to this burger is the use of pickles.

It’s an absolute dynamite cheeseburger: perfectly cooked meat, soft grilled onions, and 3 cheeses, including jalepeno cream cheese on the bun. With all of that, it’s practically begging for an acid, and that’s where the pickles take it to another level. Served alongside the burger is a tray of extra condiments, including pickles, that you jam into every bite. It’s the delicious combination of fat and acid, sweetness from the pickle, and spice from the jalapeno that makes this burger the best in the city.

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Rating: +22 (from 24 votes)

Feb 27 2010

Top 10 Burgers in Denver: Jack n Grill’s “The Kathy”

jko

Jack n Grill’s “The Kathy (Albuquerque Burger)”

Location: Federal

Price: $7

The Skinny: The Travel Channel is in love with Jack n Grill. The kind of love that only food obsession can bring – that maybe a 13 year old girl understands.  I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if they dot their “I’s” with hearts while scribbling the restaurant’s name in their diary.  Maybe it’s the portions, the greasy spoon vibe, or the visible family behind the enterprise – whatever it is, they’re swooning.  They featured the place on “Man vs Food”, as restaurant owner Jack Martinez challenged the network to eat his 7 pound burrito (winner: burrito).  They list the spot as one of the top 10 places in the country to pig out, and in the top 15 on their “101 tastiest places to chowdown in America” list.  Obsession like this piques my interest – what’s the fuss about?

Answer: Size.  Sheer, circus-like size.  And their ability to pull it off and still make the food taste oh-so greasy-good.

The burger comes out all huge and freakish – like a mini basketball with meat in between.  It’s nearly embarrassing when served, except for the fact that every dish in the diner is somehow this same size.  After you manage to get your mouth around the son-of-a-bitch, it’s really an excellent burger.  Perfectly cooked meat, the outside seared to a deep brown hue, and the inside pink and tender.  This version, The Kathy, gets a topping of green chili and cheese – good mates for any burger, including this one.  If I had one complaint, it’s that the bun-to-meat ratio was a little slanted towards too much bun, but only by a little.

And, I kid you not… I had the “small”.  There actually is a “large” version of this monster.  Kudos to he or she who can conquer it… Travel channel?

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Rating: -2 (from 4 votes)

Feb 21 2010

Top 10 Burgers in Denver: Bud’s Cafe and Bar’s “Double Cheeseburger”

jko

Bud’s Café and Bar’s “Double Cheeseburger”

Location: Sedalia

The Skinny: This is Burger Purity.  No lettuce or tomato, no secret sauce, no fries.  It’s just you and the meat, cheese, & bun.  And it’s absolutely delicious.

Buds is exactly the kind of place you think it will be.  Exactly the kind of place you hope it will be.  Way out in the middle of nowhere Sedalia, past a few tumbleweeds and in between the railroad tracks, there it sits – like a place out of Mayberry.  I wouldn’t have been shocked to see a few rocking chairs out front, or at least a 6 string being picked.  No such luck on this occasion, but at least the inside was a satisfying scene: locals, beer, drab booths from decades ago, and 40+ year old waitresses.  Just the kind of spot that is guaranteed to serve good food.

The burger itself is simple and classic: Two patties of a proprietary blend of beef, melted cheese, and two perfectly steamed buns.  The buns deserve special recognition – they straddle the fine line between being sturdy enough to hold their shape, yet soft enough to melt into the burger in each bite.  It’s a greasy, burger purists dream.

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Rating: +16 (from 22 votes)

Feb 19 2010

Top 10 Burgers in Denver: Larkburger’s Truffle Cheeseburger

jko

Larkburger

Larkburger’s “Truffle Cheeseburger”

Location: DTC

Price:  $6.75

The Skinny: To start off with, I owe Larkburger a bit of an apology.  While I was reviewing the top100 dishes in Denver, this was on the list, and at the time I didn’t think it was anything special – said it was no better than a backyard burger at a neighbor’s house.  The review turned out to be one of my most unpopular, getting thumbs down from most.  Curious, I decided to try it again – this time in the newly opened Tech Center location.  Was I wrong?

Yes.  Dead wrong – It’s a slammin’ good burger.

There is a lot to like about Larkburger, apart from their delicious food.  They use fresh ingredients, they recycle, they’re good stewards of the land.  They even constructed the restaurant out of reclaimed trees, which sounds admirable and decent, even if I don’t quite know what it means.  But naturally all of this would be meaningless unless they put out a great burger, which indeed, they do.

On this occasion, the burger was outstanding.  And it comes down to one thing: truffle aioli.  Owners Adam Baker and Thomas Salamunovich modeled the restaurant after a love of truffles, and it’s never better expressed than in this sandwich.  The incredible, earthy sauce drips throughout the burger, uplifting everything from the bun, to the cheese, to the perfectly cooked patty.  The meat, incidentally, was the biggest difference from my last experience to this one.  This time it was juicy and memorable, much better than my neighbor’s version in their mythical backyard.

Keep an eye out for LarkBurger.  Adam, the owner – a good and down to earth guy – told me they’re opening a new spot in Ft Collins soon, and Denver after that.

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Rating: +27 (from 37 votes)

Feb 16 2010

Top 10 Burgers in Denver: H Burger Co’s “H Burger”

jko

IMG00167

H Burger Co’s “H Burger”

Location: Downtown

Price:  $11

The Skinny: H Burger opened 11am Feb 13th, and by noon, we were there.  Who could resist the promising combination of high end burgers, chicness of Jet owner Pete Plum, and uber-creativity of mad food scientist, Ian Kleinman?

True to form, Kleinman’s stamp on the menu is immediately apparent: liquid nitrogen milk shakes , below freezing beer, and little creative nuances here and there.

We ordered the milkshakes, which, due to the liquid nitrogen, start out as ice cream, and slowly melt into a shake during your stay.  Very good indeed.  For the burger, we got the H Burger – Angus Beef, green chili, smoked cheddar, sweet bacon, and a side of secret sauce.  A few bites in, 2 things stick out:
1.  Wow…lots of flavor.
2.  Sweet pleasant heat

If there was one flaw with the burger, its that the accompanying components are so compelling they distract a little from the meat.  The spice from the green chili and bacon is wonderfully present but not overpowering, and the smoky cheddar does well standing up for itself.  I asked Kleinman about the choice to use smoked cheddar with the chili as opposed to the traditional white cheddar or jack –  his response was that he wanted to make it unique – a “Colorado” burger (and screw you, New Mexico).  The meat, in comparison, was a little ordinary.  Mine was slightly overcooked, an error easily forgiven by the newness of the joint, but not at all bad by any stretch.

Good first visit and I’ll definitely be back.  Not sure if it’s elbowing “My Brothers Bar” out of top burger spot in Denver, but it’s in the top 10.

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Rating: +1 (from 13 votes)