It's Memorial Day weekend, which means that every patriotic American will be firing up the grill and cooking burgers. But just in case you'd rather have someone else do the work, we've rounded up the ten best burgers in metro Denver, presented below in no particular order -- except for #1, winner of the Best Hamburger award in the Best of Denver 2014.
See also: The twelve best pizzas in Denver
10) Park Burger Four metro locations
The homegrown Park Burger is growing into a mini-chain; it's turning into the grill next door. The original was opened in Platt Park by Frank Bonanno's one-time right-hand guy, Jean-Philippe Failyau, who stuck with a simple formula that proved so winning, he's opened several more locations in neighborhoods around town. Park Burger doesn't keep a big bar, but it's big enough. The menu isn't huge, either, but it's big enough. Ditto for the dining room. As a matter of fact, nothing about this place is overwhelming -- but then, nothing is really supposed to be. At its best moments -- and Park Burger is usually at its best -- it's a wonderful example of what a burger joint can be when a fine-dining sensibility is used in the preparation of simple American comfort foods. Bonus points for the town's best vegetarian burger.
9) My Brother's Bar 2376 15th Street
Yes, My Brother's Bar has a fascinating history: oldest still-operating bar in Denver, Neal Cassady hangout, yadda yadda, etc. Yes, in its current incarnation it's a beloved and anachronistic neighborhood institution that plays classical music, caters to a demographically mixed crowd of crusty old-timers, serious drinkers, families, artists and transplants, and from its stubby galley kitchen offers a strange diner-slash-taproom-cum-lunchwagon menu. But all that atmosphere just adds to the flavor of the good, greasy burgers, served on wax paper with a plastic caddy of condiments. But when a burger is this good -- and the kitchen cooks 'em up until 1 a.m. -- you just don't need anything more.
8) Crave Real Burgers 3982 Limelight Avenue, Castle Rock Jeff Richard, chef/owner of the Old Stone Church, a New American eatery in Castle Rock, loves old American food, too, and a few years ago he started putting together plans for a burger joint. While continuing to run the Old Stone Church, he leased a strip-mall spot near the Castle Rock shopping outlets, where he built out a hip, modern take on the lunch-counter concept. The menu at this reimagined classic American diner features another reimagined diner staple: the burger, using the traditional ground-beef patty as the foundation for another dish entirely. The Wing, for example, adds all the elements of hot wings, including crispy chicken, to that base. The Dim Sum Daffy stacks the patty with roasted duck, hoisin and wontons. There's so much to crave on some of these combos that you can skip the burger altogether, simply ordering them as sandwiches. Keep reading for seven more of the best burgers in Denver. 7) Cherry Cricket 2641 East Second Avenue
Chefs love the Cricket. Softball teams, musicians, Creekers, night creatures and neighbors all love the Cricket. Why? Because the Cherry Cricket is a classic burgers-and-beer kind of joint that's somehow survived even as its surroundings have gone very, very upscale. The company is good, the coolers stocked and the burgers among the best in town. The green chile cheeseburger is a true classic.
6) TAG Burger Bar 1222 Madison Street
When a big-name chef launches a casual outpost, expectations run high. And Troy Guard delivers with the burgers at TAG Burger Bar. To differentiate his place from other high-end joints that opened at the top of the burger trend, owner Troy Guard has designed a setup that lets you choose your protein -- beef, lamb, salmon, turkey, veggie or bison - as well as a bun with or without gluten, and then your toppings. More is more with the "Colorado Proud," which unites everything we love about this state short of the slopes and above-treeline trails, including Boulder honey blended into Haystack Mountain goat cheese and house-roasted Pueblo green chiles. But less is also more, as evidenced by the classic Angus burger, which costs half the price of many of the other combos and has nothing but lettuce and tomato to augment the straight-up mix of short ribs, brisket and chuck.
5) Juicy Burgers & Dogs 6830 South Yosemite Street, Centennial
Juicy Burgers & Dogs is located in a modern, minimalist, stark-white space wedged into the corner of a small strip mall in Centennial. And like the space, a Juicy burger isn't all gussied up. Instead, a hand-molded, properly salt-and-peppered patty -- made of freshly ground beef, lamb or chicken, all procured from Colorado -- is char-grilled until it gushes fatty juices and oozes the scent of an outdoor barbecue, then slipped onto grilled pumpernickel or a white bun baked by Udiâs and blanketed with a thick slice of melted Tillamook cheese or smeared with spreadable cheddar. You don't need anything more, but the standard condiments -- tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, grilled and raw onions, ketchup and mustard -- are available as free add-ons.
Keep reading for five more of the best burgers in Denver. 4) Bud's Bar 5453 Manhart Street, Sedalia
Bud's does burgers. Bud's does cheeseburgers. Bud's does doubles of each. And that's it. Bud's motto -- "We don't have no damn fries" -- is spelled out right on the menu, and because Bud's has done nothing but burgers since the place opened in 1948, Bud's has gotten pretty good at making them. As a matter of fact, this little roadhouse with the dirt parking lot makes burgers that are better than good. They're among the best around....and worth the drive to the edge of metro Denver.
3) Highland Tap & Burger 2219 West 32nd Avenue
Over the past few years, Denver's booming burger business has included everything from new joints trying to re-create the classic burger to restaurants so redesigning the burger that it's sometimes no longer recognizable. And then there are the spots that fall somewhere in the middle, rethinking this American icon while still celebrating it. Highland Tap and Burger, which opened in the old Aztec Sol location in September 2010, is one of those. The very cleaned-up space still feels like a tavern, thanks to a massive bar outfitted with TVs, high tables in the rest of the dark space, a sprawling and unceremoniously furnished patio, and the casual, seat-yourself attitude of the staffers, who are friendly and prompt but behave more like sports-bar employees than restaurant servers. But the partners behind Highland Tap recognize the importance of food at their place, too, and applied a fine-dining sensibility to a pub-like menu. The result is a board that focuses on burgers and other typical bar-food items -- but burgers and bar-food items that taste much better than those at your typical bar.
2) Squeaky Bean 1500 Wynkoop Street
Owner Johnny Ballen unleashed Squeaky Bean in Highland in May 2009, and it generated quite the following before shuttering two years later. The current iteration of the Bean, which opened in June 2012 in the historic Saddlery building on Wynkoop Street, is everything (and more) that Ballen envisioned, with the same convivial vibrancy, irreverent accents and guts and glory of the original. But this much larger space also features a horseshoe-shaped bar, floor-to-ceiling windows and an exhibition kitchen with counter seating. That expansive kitchen allows for nearly perpetual menu changes, swapping ingredients for whatever's coming out of the ground these days at the one-acre garden known as Squeaky Acres. Those ingredients are put together in incredibly playful yet balanced ways. The latest innovation, on the new lunch menu: a burger that's already among the best in the city.
1) Humboldt 1700 Humboldt Street
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When Concept Restaurants decided to take on the space that once held the iconic Strings and transform it into Humboldt, the company was taking a risk -- even though it's headed by veteran restaurateur Frank Day, founder of Old Chicago, Rock Bottom and other non-chain restaurants, including Ignite and Rialto Cafe. "This was a legendary space that had a legendary restaurant," says Sean Huggard, operations director for Concept. "We did need to put effort into it to do right by this restaurant." That meant consulting Strings founder Noel Cunningham's widow, Tammy, through construction; it also meant retaining elements of the original space. Just as important, it meant coming up with a concept that, like Strings, would appeal to the neighborhood and make everyone feel welcome. That concept, recorded in the tagline in the restaurant's name, turned out to be "Farm. Fish. Wine." But the name doesn't take note of Humboldt's biggest asset: the Best Hamburger in our Best of Denver 2014.