DJ's Berkeley Cafe (this week's review) blows the current economic bell curve by being not just full, but overflowing at a time when most restaurant owners would strip naked and hang coupons from their ding-dongs just to get a few more people through the door. A five-page wait list for Saturday brunch? That's awesome — and well-deserved, too. But DJ's ain't the only place in town doing a healthy business.
The Cherry Cricket can swing a wait list, and it can do it on a random Wednesday afternoon — not just during the weekend rush. When I was there two weeks ago, would-be customers were stacked up on the pavement out front, packed like sardines into the little holding area back by the bathrooms and video games, and at least two deep at the bar. As at DJ's, there's a good reason for this overwhelming popularity: The Cricket is a great goddamn restaurant. The burgers are hands-down the best inside Denver city limits — simple bar burgers with no frills, cooked precisely to order so that a bloody mid-rare is still cool and pink and bleeding in the middle, with toppings that score big points (I particularly like the whole strips of roasted green chile). And while the green-chile sauce/stew that comes out of the kitchen is no better than decent, the white chile (with beans and chicken and a thin, soupy broth) is amazing. Even the wings are good here.
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Add to that the fact that the Cricket's bar is the perfect place for a beer (Genny Cream Ale in the bottle) and a shot (Jameson, neat, in a proper glass) during the day, or several beers and several shots after dark. It's a neighborhood place because it is (always) full of neighbors, but also a destination because wise gastronauts come from all over the city for a burger or a chili cheese dog. Chefs love this place. So do waiters and bartenders and lawyers and bums and office workers and hipsters pretending to slum it. And me? I'd move in if I could and live the rest of my life in a haze of Genny Cream and green-chile cheeseburgers — absolutely content and never wanting for anything more.