With the smell of sizzling hamburgers soon to enshroud Cherry Creek once again, and with spring sunshine warming patios of burger joints all over town, now is the perfect time to explore the evolution of burgers in Denver. Here are the ten most iconic burger spots in the metro area, in alphabetical order, all of which have shaped the scene — from decades-old classics to newfangled newcomers.
Bud's Cafe & Bar
5453 Manhart Street, Sedalia
Yes, Bud's is many miles south of the Denver city limits, but you really can't call yourself a Denver burger lover until you've made the pilgrimage to this roadhouse for a taste of old-school in its purest form. A single or a double, with or without cheese — those are the options. And forget about fries; a bag of chips is all you'll need — and all you'll get. Bud's has been slinging juicy, greasy burgers since 1948 — the same year burgers stopped getting any better, anywhere.
The Castle Bar & Grille
6657 South Broadway, Littleton
For years, the sign outside this South Broadway stalwart advertised "the best burgers in town." And while we might quibble with that — best in Littleton, maybe — we'll agree that the Castle's burgers are definitely among the best in the metro area, appreciated by residents of south Denver for more than thirty years — eight of those under current owners Tapp and Kara Smith. Stick with the basics, built with half-pound patties, or opt for your patties smothered with Denver originals, like jalapeño cream cheese or thick green chile.
321 East Colfax Avenue
We'll never know exactly how many deals have been brokered over burgers and beer at CityGrille, a favorite haunt of the politicos from the Colorado State Capitol who stop in for lunch and dinner, but we know we've eaten our fair share — and hoisted a few pints, too — since the place opened in 1998. The prime location on Colfax Avenue means there's never a boring moment, but despite the built-in entertainment from people-watching, the burgers are still the big draw.
The Cherry Cricket
2641 East Second Avenue
Stick with the classic Cricket burger, complete with green chiles, or take your toppings chances with a spin of the burger wheel; no matter what you order, the taste of Denver restaurant history will make each bite a little better. When the Cricket reopens this week, it will unveil the Fire Belly Burger, topped with pork belly, strawberry-habanero cream cheese, fried onions and grilled jalapeños on a sesame Kaiser bun. One dollar of every Fire Belly sold in April will be donated to the Denver firehouses that helped douse the November kitchen fire.
Crave Real Burgers
1550 Blake Street, 303-534-5878
3982 Limelight Avenue, Castle Rock, 303-814-2829
9344 Dorchester Street, Highlands Ranch, 720-344-3006
The first Crave opened in 2010, not long ago by iconic-burger standards. But founder Jeff Richard wasn't content by stuffing mere meat and cheese between two buns; he changed the Denver burger game by piling on ludicrous toppings to towering heights, creating combinations that have won burger battles and attracted national media attention. The beef patty itself maintains its integrity, but even the buns get messed with in the Fatty Melt, made with two grilled-cheese sandwiches, and the infamous Luther, which sandwiches beef, bacon, a fried egg, cheese and onion between two glazed doughnuts. The burger was never the same again.
Keep reading for five more iconic burgers.