"Um, how the hell do you eat this thing?" I ask Adam Long, a former sous chef at the White House and the current culinary director and executive chef of Bad Daddy's Burger Bar. "You need to have a big mouth," he deadpans. Realizing that I'm not about ready to wrap my jaws around what must be the biggest burger I've ever seen in Denver, he offers up another suggestion: "Just use your hands to smash it down." That doesn't work either. No, this is a burger -- as are most of the burgers at Bad Daddy's, which opened today in Cherry Creek -- that requires a knife and a fork, not to mention a stomach the size of Richard Sherman's ego, or worse, the size of the hole in our hearts after Seattle's demolition of the Denver Broncos. These are burgers that, at least from a size perspective, dwarf all others.
Founded by Frank Scibelli, who opened the company's first Bad Daddy's in North Carolina in 2007, the Denver store is a partnership between Scibelli and Boyd Hoback, the president and CEO of Denver-based Good Times. "We were looking for another growth concept -- we looked at dozens around the country -- and we really liked what we saw in Bad Daddy's, in particular that it's a chef-driven restaurant; it has management that wanted to stay involved; and because of its past success, we believe it has the ability to do a lot of sales," says Hoback, adding that he and Scibelli plan to add another ten to twelve Bad Daddy's along the Front Range, including one at 120th and I-25, which will open in July with a rooftop patio. The two also have plans to expand into Kansas and Arizona.
The 140-seat space, which also trumpets a thirty-seat patio (and garage doors that open to it), is firmly entrenched in '70s memorabilia: band posters (think Zeppelin, Hendrix and the Ramones), hubcaps, old vinyl, retro license plates, celebrity mugshots and bottle caps dominate the walls, which are also stamped with Colorado-centric tributes. "I'm a seventies kid, so there are definitely lots of aspects of that, in both our food and in the design, but we did some cool Colorado stuff, too, to give it some local flavor," says Scibelli. A fifteen-seat bar sits front and center, and the beer roster includes 24 brews on tap, seventeen of which are Colorado craft beers that have all won awards.
Back to the burgers: They're a blend of brisket and Colorado-raised beef and heaped a mile high with everything from American cheese (the kitchen makes it own) and buttermilk-fried bacon to chili, pastrami, fried eggs, shoestring fries and rosemary ham. Buffalo burgers, a black bean burger, a shrimp burger and sandwiches, including a chicken club, also grace the menu, as do fried pickles, huge chopped salads, hand-cut fries and buffalo wings. "We wanted to do a great burger joint, and this is definitely a place where you can get a decadent burger, but it's also a place where you can get a healthy salad," says Scibelli. "We don't take shortcuts, we're freakish about our ingredients, we use great products, and day in and day out, our execution is consistent," he concludes.
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Earlier today, I was privy to a tour of the space, not to mention a romp through the menu. Here's a first look at Bad Daddy's, which is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. Hope you're hungry.