There's nothing like the smell of sizzling beef and the taste of a char-grilled hamburger right off the grill — made even better if you don't have to sweat over the fire yourself. Customers of Marczyk Fine Foods (770 East 17th Avenue) know this; they've been participating in an annual summer tradition of Friday night burgers that dates back to 2002.
Co-founder Pete Marczyk says he opened his Uptown market in April 2002 and launched the first burger night just a couple of months later, using Niman Ranch beef, a product that didn't have much distribution in Denver at the time. "We sort of pioneered that supply chain here," he recalls, noting that Chipotle was just about the only other big Niman Ranch buyer back then. "[Burger night] was a low-risk, low-cost way to get that in people's mouths."
Neighbors have gone wild for the burgers cooked in the shop's parking lot ever since. Marczyk opened a second location at 5100 East Colfax Avenue in 2011; the owner says the two locations now sell 350 to 400 burgers each during the cookout each Friday. Each $8.99 burger is made with a seven-ounce beef patty, cheese and a City Bakery brioche bun. The 2018 season launches this Friday, May 4, from 5 to 7 p.m., and will run for the next 26 weeks. The Uptown store will also sell $2 oysters on the half-shell, while the Colfax location will offer duck-fat fries. Customers can add drinks and snacks from the market.
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"The only thing that stops us is...if it's raining so hard it puts out the fire," Marczyk notes. "It's the craziest thing we do, but the team looks forward to it. It's become part of our culture every year."
Friday burger night coincides with Marczyk's sixteenth-anniversary celebration this weekend, which takes place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, and includes specials, demos and vendor appearances all day, as well as 16 percent off everything in the store.
Marczyk says he's been able to succeed and grow over the past two decades because of his employees and his customers. "We have a long-tenured, hardworking core staff," he says. "We've taken a lot of steps to make it a better place to work. And as we've become more efficient, I've been able to lower prices. We're really trying hard to make our 8,500 square feet of retail space the best we can for our neighbors. We have, hands-down, the best customers in the world."
That may be some great square footage inside — but for the next 26 weeks, Fridays in the parking lot will be even better.