National Hamburger Day is Sunday, May 28, which falls on Memorial Day weekend this year — the perfect time to celebrate the all-American meal. Whether you like your burger old-fashioned or newfangled, simple or over the top, there's a burger for you. From white-tablecloth eateries to greasy spoons, here are the ten best hamburgers in Denver right now, listed in alphabetical order.
5280 Burger Bar
500 16th St.
This burger joint on the ground floor of the Denver Pavilions has been turning out some top-notch sandwiches over the past few years (and some great housemade ice cream, too). But a new roster of tempting treats has pushed the eatery to even loftier burger heights. There's the Perfect burger, with habanero bacon jam, Gruyère, pickled red onion and roasted-garlic aioli; the Vaquero, with guacamole, chimichurri, queso fresco and mango-habanero aioli; and the Truffle burger, with truffled aioli, mushroom duxelles (that's a flavor-packed paste, if you're not familiar with culinary lingo), Parmesan and arugula. They're all balanced, chef-driven creations packed with flavor, but without ever approaching stunt-food status.
2641 East Second Avenue
A Cherry Cricket burger is an old friend in a sea of newcomers. The Cricket does best what it has done for decades: turns out juicy, char-infused burgers that serve as conduits to our fondest food memories. After closing for six months because of a kitchen fire in late 2016, the Cricket came back strong in April, and fans flocked to the old-school institution for their favorite burger. Welcome back, Cricket Burger!
3495 South Downing Street
Taco Tuesday is a legitimate draw at many bars around town, Mexican or otherwise. But Cochino Taco throws a wrench into the Taco Tuesday machine by making its burger a special that day. Owner Johnny Ballen, who's also a partner in the Squeaky Bean downtown, designed this gutbuster, which sports a ladleful of queso, poblano chiles, fried jalapeño shards and a pile of "lettuce fluff" — Ballen's catchphrase for the fine-shredded iceberg found on diner burgers across the country. A six-ounce patty gets a simple griddling on the flat-top, and then the whole mess is presented with a mound of tater tots. With something this good on the menu, we're wondering why Ballen didn't name his Englewood joint Cochino Burger.
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 by the addition of bacon, cheddar and a velvety Bearnaise sauce.
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-marinated pulled pork and hula-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. You can also get a great selection of burgers at the new Sloan's Lake Tap & Burger, at 1565 Raleigh Street, including one topped with a mini-patty of foie gras.
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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.
2705 Larimer Street
Quite the opposite of the other Lark, this hip-hop-themed RiNo original — marked only by a steel-plate logo alongside its namesake bar — 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, compliments of Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, still shines through as the focal point of all the flavors.
Four Denver Locations
With some of the city's tastiest burgers now sizzling in four Denver neighborhoods — Highland, Platt Park, Hilltop and 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 indulgence.
Stoic & Genuine
1701 Wynkoop Street
This lunch-only burger is a big surprise from a restaurant that specializes in seafood. What makes it so great? "We just try really hard not to screw it up," says chef Jorel Pierce. "Great ingredients, handled and cooked simply with salt and pepper. " Those ingredients are the key: S & G grinds New York strip trimmings for the twin patties and tops them with American cheese — possibly the best cheese for a burger despite its humble origins. A buttery bun, lettuce, tomato and onion are the only other additions; ketchup, mustard and mayo come on the side. The result is an explosion of beefy flavor with no other distractions. Despite its heft, the burger quickly disappears in a few bites because you just can't set it down. It's almost a shame that such a great burger lurks on a menu filled with delightful and creative seafood offerings, but on your next lunchtime visit to Union Station, resist the urge to splurge on seafood and take a chance on the beef instead.
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, and 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 and messy duo that brings out the best in the beef.