The Ten Best Burgers in Denver | Westword

Best of Denver

The Ten Best Burgers in Denver

From My Brother's Bar to Bodega, these are the burgers we're craving right now.
Though it's better known for its pizza, Fat Sully's was our 2023 Best of Denver pick for Best Hamburger.
Though it's better known for its pizza, Fat Sully's was our 2023 Best of Denver pick for Best Hamburger. Fat Sully's/Instagram
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Did you know that Denver is the birthplace of the cheeseburger? That's on no less an authority than the stone marker in front of the Key Bank outlet at 2776 Speer Boulevard. The location was once home to the Humpty Dumpty Barrel restaurant, "Colorado's first drive-in," which Louis Ballast owned when he registered the trademark for the cheeseburger on March 5, 1935.

Whether Ballast was actually the first to add melty cheese to a beef patty or not, this city is home to a lot of really good burgers, served everywhere from classic spots that have been around for decades to new additions that have powered through (or started because of) the pandemic. There are even burgers worth a drive past the city limits.

All of them were fair game as we cooked up our latest best burger list — with the exception of a handful of pop-ups, because we want to make sure these are all options you can get anytime, all year long.

But you should definitely seek out the ultra-thin, lacy smashburger-style patties from Twan's Burger, which sets up shop at Finn's Manor in RiNo, and Snipeburger, an offshoot of King of Wings. Also worth a summer stop are burger nights at Marcyzk's, when the local, high-end grocery shop cooks up charcoal-grilled burgers using house-ground Niman ranch beef in its parking lot (the full schedule is listed on its website).

So what makes a burger the best? You could argue about the quality of the beef or what comprises the ideal combination of toppings. Execution matters, too — getting just the right char or caramelized edge on a smashburger-style patty. Brioche bun or potato? Toasted or not? Thin patty or thick? Single or double? What about pork — or even shrimp burgers? Variations abound.

But there's also something ineffable about biting into a truly standout burger, something that can't be over-analyzed. You just know it when it happens: when the beef patty, toppings and buzz of the place where you're eating it all combine into an experience you'll want to have over and over again.

An experience you'll find at these ten spots in Denver (and beyond), listed in alphabetical order:
click to enlarge a bacon cheeseburger in front of bottles of ketchup and mustard
The 49th uses a blend of beef and elk for its patties.
Molly Martin

The 49th Food & Spirits

4550 South Kipling Street
In a strip mall just past the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution is Denver's only Alaskan-themed restaurant. The 49th is a low-key neighborhood favorite with a friendly staff that knows its many regulars by name. There's a wide variety of choices on the menu, most of which are named for towns in the Last Frontier, but the burger section deserves your full attention. Each is made with a blend of beef and elk, resulting in a still-juicy patty with earthy notes from the game meat. Burgers are built on buttery brioche buns and come in seven variations plus a burger of the month. Start your adventure with the Denali, loaded with bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar and zesty horseradish mustard that cuts through the richness, then keep on exploring, because like Alaska itself, there's a lot of good stuff packed into this place. 
a hand holding a cheeseburger with pickles
The Lights Out burger is a hell of a deal.
Fat Sully's/Instagram

Atomic Cowboy/Fat Sully's

Multiple locations
Atomic Cowboy, Fat Sully's and the Denver Biscuit Company are the three-in-one concept that has grown to seven locations and is known mainly for towering biscuit sandwiches and giant slices of pizza. But all of the Colorado outposts have an unexpected addition to the menu: the Lights Out Burger, which is our 2023 Best of Denver pick for Best Hamburger. It's hefty, with two smash burger-style patties, aged American cheese, housemade pickles, a layer of minced onions and a tangy burger sauce, all loaded on a garlic butter-toasted brioche bun. The resulting burger, a hell of a deal at just $8.95, is greasy in all the right ways and completely impossible to put down until every drippy bite is gone. Bonus: This baby is only $6 during happy hour, which is available at most locations from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
click to enlarge a cheeseburger with tomato and pickle wrapped in red and whit checkered paper
Bob's Atomic is a fun pit stop in Golden.
Molly Martin

Bob's Atomic Burgers

1310 Ford Street, Golden
At this no-frills joint across from Coors Brewery, hungry patrons write their order on a piece of paper attached to the small bag that the order is delivered in. All you need to do is check the boxes for free additions like tomato, onion and pickled jalapeños, or premium picks that will cost a little extra, including bacon, green chile, guacamole, cheese or a fried egg. Then you'll be given a name from pop culture that's called when your food is up. Burgers arrive properly juicy and dripping with grease, so be sure to grab extra napkins — and add on a side of onion strings, too.
click to enlarge a double cheese burger on yellow paper
The mixed fries are also a must at Bodega.
Molly Martin


2651 West 38th Avenue
Since chef/owner Cliff Blauvelt opened this Sunnyside spot last August, it has amassed a ton of fans who come here for fast favorites like the breakfast burrito and the chili crisp spicy fried chicken sandwich. It was our 2023 pick for Best Breakfast, but we'd eat its Double Bodega Burger any time of the day. For $15, you'll get two smashed patties, both American and cheddar jack cheese, housemade dill pickles and "the fanciest sauce" on a brioche bun. Don't forget to add on a side of Bodega's fries, which are a mixed bag of potato cuts.
click to enlarge a double cheeseburger in front of a bag of Lay's chips
The buns are steamed at Bud's.
Molly Martin

Bud's Cafe & Bar

5453 Manhart Avenue, Sedalia
Just a short drive from Denver, in an area that's full of options for outdoor recreation, Bud's is a place that doesn't mess around. And after more 75 years in business, it doesn't have to. Although it was recently passed on to its fourth owner since opening in 1948, thankfully, nothing has changed — including the very succinct menu. There's usually a full house at this small roadhouse pit stop that's popular with bikers and anyone else who appreciates a no-nonsense burger served by equally no-nonsense waitresses. The only food available at the cash-only joint: a selection of candy for snacking and bare-bones burgers, available in a single or double, with or without cheese, served on a steamed bun with pickles, onions and a bag of Lay's on the side. There's ketchup and mustard on the tables, too, but as the tabletop menu says, "No French fries, damnit." The most expensive option, the double cheeseburger, is just $7.80.
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The McCastle is perfect with a cold beer.
Molly Martin

The Castle Bar and Grill

6657 South Broadway, Littleton
The Castle is the kind of place you can walk into for a quick burger and walk out of three hours later knowing the bartenders' names (and a whole lot more about them). The building's exterior is, indeed, vaguely shaped like a castle, but any threat of a lame theme stops there. This is a classic with a massive sunken bar surrounded by captain's chairs that basically beg you to stay a while — and why not, with drinks this cheap? But regardless of how buzzed you may get, you'll recognize that the burgers ($11.50-$14 with a side included) are top-notch, whether you get one smothered in green chile, loaded with barbecue sauce and cheddar, or delivered in the more classic McCastle style. Plus, the entire burger lineup (including its stellar patty melt) is buy-one-get-one-half-off on Tuesdays.
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The burger at Dalton's looks simple, but a lot of thought went into each component.
Molly Martin

Dalton's at RiNo Country Club

3763 Wynkoop Street
You can play a round of mini-golf at this bar, which opened last year, but what you'll really want multiple rounds of is the burger ($14, or go for a double, worth a few extra dollars). It may look simple, but a lot of care goes into each component, and the result is a completely crushable meal that you'll be thinking about long after. Chefs Alex Whiteman and Colin O'Niell grind meat in-house for the ideal fat ratio, which results in a thin, flavorful patty with lacy edges. It comes on a potato bun that's shipped in from Philadelphia, along with Cooper sharp American cheese. The pickles are also made in-house, as is the "7 hour" sauce, which gets its name from the excessively long, booze-fueled cooking session during which it was created. Minced onion adds a little bite, and the burgers come with crispy, seasoned waffle fries.
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Pair your burger with beer at the Mighty Burger.
Molly Martin

The Mighty Burger

5768 Olde Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada
In 2017, Denver Beer Co. partnered with the founders of Lucky Pie, who launched a new burger concept out of a vintage airstream trailer that's parked inside of its Arvada taproom. The standard Mighty Burger is $12 and includes a 1/3-pound patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and American cheese on a super-squishy bun, plus a side of fresh-cut fries. Extra toppings like pickles, crispy onions, mushrooms, avocado and roasted chiles are available for an extra cost, and you can also throw in dipping sauces like lemon garlic aioli, spicy ranch and truffle mayo for your fries. Plus, you can chow down while sipping a cold beer at the bar or on the patio, where misters ward off the summer heat.
click to enlarge a cheeseburger with a sesame seed bun in front of an old fashioned cocktail
My Brother's Bar is a true Denver classic.
Molly Martin

My Brother's Bar

2376 15th Street
The only thing as legendary as the history of My Brother’s Bar, which dates back to the 1870s and includes a stint as a hangout for Neal Cassady and the Beat Generation, is its burgers. Though it has an extra-large back patio — a pandemic-era development that's stuck around — nothing beats bellying up to the bar and settling in with a cold beer and your burger of choice ($9.50-$13 for a single, $14.50-$22 for a double), whether that's the JCB (with jalapeño cream cheese), the even cheesier Johnny Burger or the original, unadulterated Steerburger, all served on a simple toasted sesame seed bun. The burger hits the table wrapped in butcher paper, sans plate. It's accompanied by a condiment caddy bearing ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, sliced onion, dill pickles, relish and peppers; lettuce and tomato will cost you an extra buck.
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Split Lip's slugburger is messy in all the right ways.
Molly Martin

Split Lip, An Eat Place

3560 Chestnut Place
How many pickles is too many pickles? At Split Lip, our 2022 Best of Denver pick for the city's best hamburger, the limit does not exist. This venture started as a series of pandemic pop-ups from longtime hospitality pros who've now turned to creating a menu of crave-worthy, hyper-regional dishes full-time inside Number Thirty Eight. While Split Lip offers several burger options (all $14.50), the Mississippi Slug Burger was the OG fan favorite from its pop-up days and remains a lesson in cheeseburger perfection, dressed simply with American cheese, "sawse" and, yes, a fuck-ton of housemade pickles on a soft sesame seed bun.
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