"Despite the many toppings, techniques and trends in the burger world, there are really only two kinds of hamburgers: the quick, greasy and compact style that can be eaten in a few bites, and the big, sloppy monstrosity that you can't put down even if you wanted to, because it would simply implode," we reported then. "Beef boss Justin Brunson somehow manages to marry the two in a wobbly tower of twin four-ounce patties and squishy potato bun glued together by layers of American cheese and his own special sauce."
We caught up with Justin Brunson, chef/founder of Old Major (and also Royal Rooster inside the Broadway Market at 950 Broadway), to ask about the origins of this winner.
"I love cheeseburgers," he says. "I'm a big fan of the little, fast-food-style cheeseburger, too, and made it big with quality ingredients." Those include Carter Country grass-fed beef, "the world's rarest beef," he says.
"We use that great meat, and we just build a traditional-style fast-food burger, with special sauce and the famous Martin's Potato Roll that you couldn't get in Denver before this," he explains.
Old Major has won Best of Denver awards before, but the Best Hamburger is a big one, with thousands of readers weighing in and many, many delicious tests by designated Westword eaters. But in the end, Brunson's burger was the clear winner.
"It feels nice to get accolades for all the hard work we put in," he says. "Nice for me, but better for the staff. The best thing about the Best of Denver awards is what it does for your staff.
"When you win awards like that, more people want to work for you, too," he adds. "Winning those awards is good for hiring new employees and keeping employees. And it brings people in, who want to try one of the best restaurants that just won a Best of Denver award."
moved his twelve-year-old Masterpiece Deli from Central Street a half-dozen blocks away to Old Major, the restaurant he opened in 2013 at 3316 Tejon Street, where it joins the Royal Rooster lunchtime concept he introduced a few years later.
Brunson also owns River Bear American Meats, which now provides nearly all of the deli meats for Masterpiece sandwiches and supplies about 160 other restaurants, too. "We're just plugging away, really focusing on River Bear right now," he says. "We're about ready to start cranking our salami production...the equipment from Italy finally showed up." That equipment was key to making salami, but he promises it will be worth the wait.
In the meantime, you can also find River Bear products at Leevers Locavore, right by the cardboard cutout of Brunson that has become a popular selfie station. "We get people that steakhouse-quality steak in a grocery-store setting," he says. "I feel really stoked to get people those high-quality proteins at a reasonable price." And that includes chicken...that "tastes like chicken."
Brunson stays busy, but he still takes time to enjoy what makes Denver one of the very best places to live in the country. "I love this town," he says. "We are so spoiled with the weather and the people and the mountains."
And the burgers!
Who will win the Best Burger award in 2020? Our Readers' Poll is now open at readerschoice.westword.com, where you can vote for your favorites in more than 100 of the categories that will be in the final issue, heading your way on March 26. The deadline to vote is March 18.