One of the most awesome things about this job is that I never have to worry about who’s buying the cheeseburgers. I just have to worry about finding new cheeseburgers for my boss to buy.
That’s no knock against Denver -- God knows, this city has more burger joints than any normal human could reasonably expect. But after six years of diligently hunting them down and then compulsively cataloging them like some kind of obsessed lepidopterist stomping the Congo, I have begun to run out of species. Burger bars? Check. Car-cult burger joints? Check. Weirdly historic hamburger stands with a creepy/incestuous backstory? Check. Next-gen, fast-casual, cutting-edge gourmet burger restaurants hoping to become the next Mickey D’s? Check and double-check and triple-check, because Denver seems to be some kind of proving ground -- a Mile High mad scientist’s laboratory where every streetcorner and main drag offers another opportunity for testing one’s kooky notions about cheeseburgers against the blade of unforgiving demographics and microcosmic expectations. The burger joint is Denver’s truest projection of its soul, and our appetite for burgers appears bottomless. Every place, no matter how harebrained or goofy, seems to find loyal fans who will, if pressed, erupt like soccer hooligans when someone dares to impugn their favorite.
We like to say that the cheeseburger was invented in Denver. And while that particular bit of historic trivia might be up for debate, it doesn’t much matter -- because the cheeseburger has certainly been re-invented here a hundred times over.
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Still, after years of looking for burgers and eating burgers and scrapping over burgers and comparing these burgers here to those burgers over there, I thought I’d seen ‘em all. I’d had old-fashioned burgers and newfangled burgers, historic burgers and arts nouvelle burgers. I’d had burgers made of fungus and others topped with truffles (gross, by the way). But while I may have seen every possible variation of burger, I now know there are still new variations of burger restaurants to discover.
Because last week, I finally ventured into Hamburger Mary's -- the first gay-themed burger restaurant I've found . And about time, too. Hamburger Mary’s had been a San Francisco fixture for decades when the original spot closed in 2001, but today there are about half-a-dozen more Mary's locations scattered around the United States. And last year, Denver got one of them. Our Mary’s is certainly cut from the original mold -- an unabashedly gay theme restaurant following in the ruby-slippered footsteps of the original. And the burgers are awesome. You can read all about them in this week's Cafe review.
Also on tap in the July 24 issue: A lament for Mee Yee Lin and a visit to Marczyk’s Fine Foods for booze, stroopwaffles and a lesson on Charolais beef, some of the most expensive (and most delicious) you’re ever going to find. -- Jason Sheehan