Second Helpings

Old School Burgers could give the new guys a lesson in burger-making

Park Burger, which I review this week, has almost a Sideways feel — what with its wine list and stocked bar, its air of excess and guilty luxury. The toppings even include brie, one of those old-school, upscale benchmarks.

But there ain't no brie on the menu at Old School Burgers, a homegrown chain with three outposts in the Denver area. These old-fashioned burger joints offer exactly one kind of cheese: gooey and yellow. And the menu lists no specialty burgers, no guacamole burgers, no Frenchys, only the basics: burger, cheeseburger, then doubles and triples (yeah, triples) of both. The name says it all: Old School Burgers.

And these burgers are good. I mean, seriously, addictively, order-a-second-because-you're-gonna-want-one good. More than anything, they remind me of a certain California-based burger chain that will remain nameless but got famous for doing nothing but burgers, and doing them very well. According to Old School's website, a couple of guys here decided they wanted to give Colorado a better burger — and so now, rather than having to drive all the way to Vegas for my nearest shot at a double-double, I can just run right down the street and get the next best thing at the South Havana Old School. The double-meat, double-cheese with bacon is a solid sandwich —- about the size of a hand grenade and nearly as heavy. Wrapped in waxed paper, it's got a weight that goes beyond the mere combined mass of ingredients. It feels like it's got some history.

And it does. At Old School, the notion of times-gone-by extends to the way the grub is prepared and handled in the kitchen. Old School has no freezers, no heat lamps. The fries are cut in-house from actual potatoes, and everything is made fresh to order: no par-cooking, no reheating pre-prepped ingredients. Granted, this makes an order take a little longer (when I was there last Thursday night, my burger took about ten minutes, even though I was the only one in the place), but it's worth it. My burger was excellent, the meaty, juicy patty topped with that gooey cheese, fresh lettuce and raw onions, the house's "secret sauce" and a couple strips of thick-cut bacon.

It was nothing fancy, nothing you'd show off to your foodie friends. But when your brain shouts "cheeseburger," this is what it wants: an archetype that's never been improved upon, one of the very best burgers in town.