First Look: CHUBurger bringing "craft casual" to Longmont this week

"We're basically coining the term 'craft casual,'" says Jason Rogers, the executive chef at the newest dining concept from Oskar Blues, CHUBurger, which is slated to open April 5.

The term defines CHUBurger's approach to fast-casual dining -- sure, you walk up to the counter and put in your order as you would at any other casual burger joint. But it's the "craft" portion that Rogers believes will set this Longmont outpost apart. "I've been to certain fast-casual places from time to time, and I just wasn't impressed. I'd rather go to a diner to get a good burger, you know?" he says. "We said, we can do this different. We can do this our own way."

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The foundation of the menu is the classic CHUBurger, made from cows raised on the fifty acre Hops & Heifers farm just eight miles away. "We use spent grain from the brewery in the brewing process," says Rogers. "Instead of it going to waste, we take it to the farm and feed the cows with it. Our cows have recently become certified all natural, 100 percent Black Angus."

CHUBurger's other selections reveal more of the twisted spirit that's driven Oskar Blues since it started brewing beer in 1999. The BERKburger is a patty made from Berkshire hogs raised at the Blues farm, topped with bacon, balsamic-grilled onions and slathered in bleu cheese butter. On the side, Rogers will serve you Shoshito Fries, spicy bite-size peppers tossed in with a portion of crispy spuds. Rogers also promises a beer milkshake of the day, made with one of CHUBurger's nine draft beers. But if the Other White Meat just ain't your style, wild-caught salmon burgers and Colorado bison burgers are also in the offing.

"It's been a learning experience," Rogers says of his first foray into the world of fast-casual. "Fortunately, I worked at McDonald's when I was sixteen, as a grill cook. And that stuff stuck with me. It stuck with me through my finer dining career too... But it definitely was total recall as I went through how the flow of the line was going to work, the flow of service."

Of course, Oskar Blues is no stranger to quick turnarounds: CHUBurger draws inspiration from the roving, burger-slinging Bonewagon, and the now-shuttered Old Chubway: Expeditious Chow Dispensary right next to the original Blues in Lyons, was the company's first attempt at creating an...expeditious chow dispensary.

But with its eclectic menu and homey interior -- complete with a bar made from recycled train car wood -- Rogers thinks CHUBurger has a chance at carving out its own identity. "It's not a cold, stainless steel, Formica, get in-get out kind of place," he says. See for yourself with our photos of the restaurant.

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