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Applebee's is looking for the ultimate Colorado burger -- with Stinkin' Green

When the homegrown Smashburger decided to create a burger for Colorado, as it already had for Idaho (topped with potato chips) and Minnesota (topped with cheddar bar cheese and garlic-grilled onions), it came up with an iconic combo for the Colorado Smashburger, adding grilled fresh green chiles, grilled onions, cheddar and pepper Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo to the burger, and putting it all on a toasted chipotle bun.

Now Applebee's, which is based in Atlanta but has used its store at 410 South Colorado Boulevard, just up the street from the original Smashburger, to introduce a new look and other innovations that will be rolled out across the chain, has launched a contest to elect a Colorado burger. The contestants, created by restaurant teams across the state, have been narrowed to five, and it's no surprise that most feature green chile -- not just because that's a favorite Colorado dish, but also because Bronco Mark Schlereth, who markets his own Stinkin' Good Green Chile, is part of the project.

"I know Colorado, and I know good burgers, and the ones at Applebee's put the puck-like patties sold at many other local restaurants to shame," says Schlereth, who'll be at the South Colorado store on the afternoon of July 30, when the winner will be announced.

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In the meantime, you can try the five finalists at Applebee's outlets around the state (and also order a side of Stinkin' Green Chile to augment any dish). They are: the Mountain Stack (created in Grand Junction), which tops a burger with applewood-smoked bacon, habanero cheese, crispy onion strings, lettuce and tomato, along with drizzles of blue cheese dressing and wing sauce; the Big Hog (Fort Collins), which adds spicy Asian pork, habanero cheese, Stinkin' Good Green Chile and sour cream; the Fajita Burger (Fountain), with green and red peppers, habanero cheese, chipotle mayo, tortilla strips and green chile; the Chipotle Burger (also Grand Junction), with black-bean salsa, chipotle mayo, habanero cheese and green chile; and the Chimichanga Burger (Arvada), with Jack-cheddar cheese, roasted veggies and a beef patty wrapped in a tortilla and fried, then topped with green chile, sour cream and pico de gallo.

Does Colorado taste like any of those? Or would it make more sense to just grab a jar of Stinkin' Green and a spoon?

By the way, Colorado is the first state to get a state-inspired burger at Applebee's -- but if it's as big a hit as the new look, this contest could spread across the country, too. Just don't expect other states to top their burgers with green chile.

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