As the Chipotle IPO took off last week at a near-record pace, I visited another Colorado born-and-bred chain. Good Times -- which was founded in 1987, six years before the first Chipotle went up -- is a drive-thru burger joint in a world crowded with competition. To date, there are only 35 outlets (34 in Colorado and one in Boise, of all places), but the company has a model similar to that of the big-ass-burrito kings, offering a small, compact menu with everything made fresh, made fast and from quality ingredients. Good Times uses Coleman Natural beef in its burgers -- akin to the Niman Ranch products used by Chipotle -- and has attempted to carve out a niche as a healthier, better, more burger-licious option for those still freaked out by buying their burgers from a clown. And it works. Good Times does a good burger, producing a sandwich that actually looks like the one pictured in its advertising rather than some wrinkled, desiccated, heat-lamped and pitiable facsimile. The toppings are fresh, the meat tender, the bun soft. And the trademarked "Wild Fries" are hideously addictive, so much so that I often crave them far more than the burgers. While I wouldn't list Good Times among the local burger elite (see Bite Me), there's something to be said for a place trying its best to elevate the reputation of drive-thru burgers in a world so chock-full of bad ones. Those of you who missed out on buying low with Chipotle should also know that Good Times is a publicly traded company as well (symbol GTIM), and McDonald's doesn't own the smallest piece of it.
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