The Ten Best Burgers in Denver — 2015 Edition
The Cherry Cricket is still among the best.
Last week, Gretchen Kurtz reviewed the Cherry Cricket, one of the city's most legendary hamburger havens. "Nowhere on the menu did I see shout-outs to local purveyors or mentions of house-ground or dry-aged beef," she notes. While meticulous sourcing or expensive ingredients can elevate a burger from good to great, the Cricket is proof that basic is sometimes just right.
Whether you like them old-fashioned or new-fangled, simple or over-the-top, there's a burger for you. Every year, something new and delicious shows up to knock off upstarts and old-timers alike. Choices aren't easy; almost every white tablecloth eatery and greasy spoon in town turns out a burger, whether smashed, char-grilled, pan-fried or otherwise. We've narrowed it down to the ten best in Denver; here they are in alphabetical order, with the top slot reserved for our Best Burger as awarded in our Best of Denver 2015 edition.
The burgers at the Cherry Cricket offer old-school goodness.
10) Cherry Cricket
2641 East Second Avenue
A Cherry Cricket burger is an old friend in a sea of newcomers. In her recent review of the timeless joint that has held its own in wave after wave of development in Cherry Creek North, Gretchen Kurtz writes that her plain burger "was the same as ever, a replica of burgers we grew up eating." And how could that be anything but the purest of compliments? The Cricket does best what it has done for decades: it turns out, juicy, char-infused burgers that serve as conduits to our fondest food memories.
Finley's mixes shredded short rib in with the ground beef.
9) Finley's Pub
375 South Pearl Street
This little pub in West Washington Park doesn't get the attention of the burger big boys, but it's quietly turning out one of the best in town. Finley's ups the beef quotient by mixing shreds of slow-cooked short rib in with the ground chuck before forming the patties. The result is a toothsome, unique burger made even more craveable with the addition of bacon, cheddar and a velvety Bearnaise sauce.
Go with the TAP burger, or build your own.
8) Highland Tap & Burger
2219 West 32nd Avenue
The burgers are big at Highland Tap & Burger, with the TAP burger coming in as the biggest. Two kinds of cheese drape over a patty piled with root-beer pulled pork and hoola-hoops of batter-fried onion — and the menu has the audacity to suggest adding a fried egg. If you're a little more staid in your aspirations, stick with the build-your-own menu. The third-pound, fresh-ground patties are more than good enough to stand on their own.
There's almost as much bacon as there is burger on the Humboldt burger.
Still from Westword video
7) The Humboldt Burger at Humboldt
1700 Humboldt Street
Humboldt won our Best Burger award last year not for what it puts on its burger, but for what chef DJ Nagle puts in it. This is a bacon burger, but the bacon is ground in with the beef so that each bite is a smoky, juicy combo of pig and cow. Of course the toppings are top-notch too, with a dollop of sweet onion jam and sharp Tillamook cheddar in the middle of a fluffy but not oversized brioche bun. And a few frizzles of fried onions replace the crunch lost by cooking the bacon in with the beef.
Larkburger may be a chain, with thirteen locations statewide, but it's our chain, getting its start in the mountain town of Edwards before hitting the Front Range with a Boulder store in 2009. Larkburger stays true to a fast-food ethic with a simple menu, quick service and paper-wrapped burgers sided with cardboard cartons of fries. But that's where the similarity to fast food ends; Larkburger stands above the competition when it comes to nailing the perfect temperature every time (the menu even tells you how much pink to expect at each level) and making the beef the star of the show. Unless you're feeling fancy, skip the truffled aioli and stick with the classic Lark for an unadorned burger at its best.
Chef/co-owner Joshua Bitz cranks out a lavishly messy burger at Meadowlark Kitchen.
5) Meadowlark Kitchen
2705 Larimer Street
Quite the opposite of the other Lark, this newcomer — marked only by a steel-plate logo alongside its namesake bar in the RiNo neighborhood — makes a name with a saucy, salacious sandwich that starts with a sweetish brioche bun and builds to a teetering pinnacle with cheddar sauce, candied bacon, onion rings and a jiggly poached egg. Don't even attempt to pick this one up with your hands; just note as everything comes together that somehow the fresh ground beef, complements of Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, still shines through as the focal point of all the flavors.
The making of a Denver classic at the original Park Burger.
4) Park Burger
Four Denver Locations
With some of the city's tastiest burgers now sizzling in four Denver neighborhoods — Highland, Platt Park, Hilltop and now River North — there's almost no excuse not to have sunk your choppers into a satisfying sandwich at Park Burger. Rather than misshapen monsters, the third-pound patties are pleasingly filling, even with extra toppings. The croque burger, with ham, Swiss and a fried egg, sets just the right balance of refined flavors and lunchtime overindulgence.
This is exactly the kind of place where you can get away with ordering foie gras on your burger.
3) Ste. Ellie
1553 Platte Street
Ste. Ellie earns points for its deeply meaty dry-aged beef patty and punch of pucker from a Real Dill pickle, but also because the burger comes in at a surprisingly affordable — considering the exclusive vibe of the Platte Street speakeasy — $8 ($9 if you want cheese). And while other accoutrement (house-made bacon, kimchi or a fried egg) are available, stripped down is the way to go here, unless you're up for a decadent double-down, in which case have the kitchen throw on a buttery disk of foie gras torchon and let the good times roll.
TAG does ridiculous constructions too, but the simpler creations shine.
2) TAG Burger Bar
1222 Madison Street
TAG's burger list ranges from the stripped down Old School to the exercise in excess Andrew Jackson (with shaved black truffles, the meat of three different animals plus an egg and brie); we recommend something in the middle to let the Angus beef, with the requested temperature always dialed in, speak for itself while getting just the right boost from restaurateur Troy Guard's penchant for tasty toppings. The Congress Park does it for us, not only because it's named for the quaint neighborhood where the restaurant resides, but because the kitchen's piquant guacamole and tangy Buffalo mayo team up as a fun an messy duo that brings out the best in the beef.
A half-pound patty plus a layer of Italian beef makes the Ditka burger a seriously hefty sandwich.
1) Jimmy's Urban Bar & Grill
1530 Blake Street
While heavyweight burgers can often skew toward stupid, Jimmy's Ditka burger manages to be unapologetically beefy while remaining surprisingly smart and balanced. Jimmy's channels Chicago bar food brilliantly, so it's no wonder the classic Italian beef sandwich translates so well into burger form at this downtown tribute to the Windy City. Juicy slices of slow-roasted beef top a hand-made, half-pound patty, but a fistful of tangy giardiniera lightens the load and pungent provolone adds extra punch. For its knockout Ditka burger, Jimmy's wins this year's Best Hamburger.
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