Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm shutting down this site!!!

And moving to

It'll still redirect from, but if you are following this actual address, make the switch!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Champa St. Burger Works

Last week, I visited a place I've trying to avoid: Champa Street Burger Works (hereafter referred to as CSBW).  Here's why.  I got a coupon from them in the mail, and I didn't like the vibe it was putting out.  Weird, I know...but my suspicions were somewhat confirmed when I checked their Yelp reviews.  Although there were a few good reviews, on the whole it seemed like people were saying, "It's not bad."  Hardly a compliment.

Well, I'm a snob.  I'm an arrogant burger-consumer.  But I'm an adult, this is America, and I feel like I owe it to myself to screen the burgers that I feast upon.  But my conscience got the better of me, so I swallowed my pride and my friend Jeff and I used a BOGO coupon on a couple combo meals.  We went to the Belmar location in Lakewood, but you can also find a CSBW in Parker.  If anyone actually lives out there.

You know, it wasn't too shabby.  Mind you, it wasn't amazing...and I get the sense they might be the type of place that has bad days and good days...but if I were stranded on a desert island and they had a huge shopping complex there and the shopping complex had a CSBW, I wouldn't be overly disheartened.

The beef is from Anderson meats, and they use a 80/20 chuck.  No blends here, but they make the patties in house.  They use a not-often-seen dual grill setup, much like 5 Star Burgers in Southglenn: they start the burger on an open flame grill to impart some grill marks and flavor, then the burgers are finished off on a traditional flat top.  Makes a medium-rare burger hard to come by, and our burgers ended up in the medium to medium-well range.  Still acceptably juicy, however!

The buns are very buttery but inconsistently toasted...your basic white egg bun, and decent flavor if toasted well.  Mine was a bit too cold still.

Here's a great aspect of their cheeseburgers: 2 slices of cheese!  In fact, ratio was probably the best part of this burger.  Great meat to bun to cheese ratio.

Lastly, the produce.  They have a little bar where you can doctor up your burger.  (Anyone been to Fuddruckers?)  Not extensive, but they've got LTO, jalepenos, banana peppers, and some condiments.  I hate shredded iceberg, by the way.

So, all in all, with better consistency in bun toasting and burger temperature...I think CSBW could make an acceptable burger.  I'd have to agree with my fellow Yelp reviewers: "It's not bad!"

Pics for your perusing pleasure:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Del Frisco's

I found myself at Del Frisco's last week for a business lunch. Unfortunately, I didn't have the guts to pull out my camera and start snapping pictures of my I can't prove I was there. But I did order the $13 prime burger and fries. You won't see it on their dinner menu, but I guess you can find it in the bar if you go at night.

I ordered it medium rare, and it came out juicy and hot. The waitress told me they use 100% tenderloin prime beef and grind it themselves, then broil it. My burger had a nice crust, and came topped with well-melted cheddar cheese. They've got some other cheese options that I didn't bother with because they weren't yellow (that's tongue-in-cheek...I like bleu, swiss, jack at times).

The burger came with a very fresh thick cut beefsteak tomato slice, some lettuce, and onion. Also included were some crispy ridged pickle chips dusted with some fancy pants green herbs. Wonderfully fresh produce.

Overall, the burger was cooked well, was juicy and flavorful, and a good experience. The first bite was the best, but I started to get a little bored as I methodically gutted the second half of the burger. That's my fault, though...I just don't think I was in a real "burger" mood (which they are no excuses for, and I berated myself for it).

If you've got $13 and need to schmooze some people over lunch, try the Del Frisco's burger.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I am still of the opinion that Freddy's is more of a Steak 'n Shake copycat than anything, but that doesn't mean you can't get a decent burger there.  Here's a review:


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Burger Thoughts - Week of April 15th

I got a great livingsocial deal last week.  So I went to Tony's Market and had them grind me up some fresh beef.  I requested 80% chuck (he used a fatty prime cut), and 20% brisket.  I had to buy 3 pounds since it was a custom order, but no matter.  It was a big, elongated ball of glorious, bright red, mercilessly shredded bovine flesh.  An artist's canvas if I ever saw one.

I had enough money to buy some thick-cut Boar's Head American cheese...a few fresh tomatoes and onions...a head of lettuce...and a Toblerone just to push me over the dollar limit of my coupon.  I don't know much about Toblerones.

Jeff (my burger comrade and confidant) picked us up some burger buns from a local bakery, and my buddy Brent (a self-made chef and flavor guru) concocted a batch of his burger sauce (mustard, mayo, ketchup, paprika, spicy sweet pickles, and caramelized onions -- the proportions are jealously guarded in a recipe vault).

All told, we created some tasty towers of pure American ingenuity.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pat LaFrieda beef

Pat LaFrieda beef is well known on the east coast, primarily New York City.  Personally, I've never eaten it, but it gets great reviews and is used in well-respected burgers.

Here's the thing.  You can now get Pat LaFrieda beef through US Foods, a nationwide food service that probably delivers food to a ton of restaurants you've been to.  Check out this LINK.

A buddy of mine just tasted it here in Denver.  We were both skeptical since it comes pre-formed and pre-ground.  But, here are my buddy Jeff's thoughts on it:

Okay - 8 oz, pre formed, Pat LaFrieda patty.  He doesn't tell you the fat content (but it was for sure 80/20 or more fat) He doesn't tell you the exact blend... but they said some chuck, some short rib, and then other cuts.

Salted and rubbed with a little oil and then thrown on the grill.  Nice crust b/c of the oil... grilled to a perfect medium rare.

REALLY good flavor, and just the right amount of juiciness. 
We had these buns that were part hamburger bun part croissant.  It was a little sweet, a little flakey, but the bottom was soft and held up to the moisture.  

On the burger was a melted slice of blue jack, part blue cheese (flavor) and part jack cheese (melt).  chopped raw white onion, thin sliced dill pickles, shredded green leaf lettuce (really nice touch) NO SAUCE...

Overall top 3 burger I have had in 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Beer Kitchen - Westport, Kansas City

This guest review comes to us from a man who has taught me a lot about meats.  My own dear Pa.  He reviews a spot in Kansas City that I am pumped to try next time I've got a spare meal and I find myself in Missouri...:

One week ago I ate at Beer Kitchen in Westport, MO ... the true artist/hippie part of town. I've been going to Beer Kitchen ever since it opened, but never got their burger. Last week forever changed my inner calibration of how I judge burgers. When the upper limit of the scale gets its roof torn off like a double-wide in a tornado, you know you have to recalibrate. What are the ramifications? Some burgers that languished on the bottom end of the scale fall into oblivion ... but small loss.

Anywho, back to the burger. The burger meat they use comes from a local butcher named McGonigal's; famous for their high quality steaks, smoked meats, etc. But this blend of 3 cuts is different and special. I can't remember all three, but short-ribs is in the mix.

Although The Baron is a stickler for American cheese, I chose a mild Tillamook cheddar (Oregon) for this baby ... and was that a winning combination! Because beauty is in the mouth of the beholder, I also chose raw onion instead of the menu item 'carmelized red onion jam'.

The one down side was the limp, thin piece of fancy lettuce they topped it with. When it's fancy and thin, the heat from the meat wilts it into nothingness.

Besides those items, nothing ... I put nothing else on my burger; no pickles, no mustard, no mayo, no ketchup, no nothing. Why? Here's my whole philosophy: Beer Kitchen makes their own ketchups (3?) from scratch! Instead of saucing up the bun with ketchup and allowing it to soak it up before I get to the last bites, I prefer to put a pool of ketchup on my plate and dip each bite ... preserving the bun AND making certain just the right amount is on each bite.

You know a burger is good with the first bite. You know a burger is great when the last bite makes you moan as loudly as the first. And that's what this burger had going for it. It's as if they put an additive in the meat that never allowed me to become desensitized to the flavor ... bite #1? Incredible ... bite #last? Incredible.

Hands down, the best burger I've had in KC. Prior to Beer Kitchen, Westside Local (near downtown KC) had top spot. I'll go back and review that one in the coming month. 

Guest Reviews and Sundry Items

The last few weeks I have taken to cooking a lot of burgers at home, which has unfortunately cut down on the new reviews. (Budget concerns -- With Mrs. Baron and the two young barons-in-training, the "new burger" budget line occasionally takes a hit to buy actual groceries.)

But, I'd be remiss if I didn't give you a few bullet points about burger-related items that I've been mulling over lately:

  • My buddy Brent has been working on a sauce I'd like to try - chopped caramelized onions and spicier pickles are in the mix.  Sounds intriguing.
  • I really want to re-visit Park Burger, Lark Burger, and probably Crave.
  • Fresh, crisp iceberg lettuce is underrated
  • Fat content in burgers is so crucial.  PLEASE don't make burgers at home with less than 80/20 beef.
  • I don't want In-n-Out to come to Denver.  It'd ruin the novelty for me.  Like when Krispy Kreme Doughnuts arrived -- so cool for about a month, and now nobody cares.
In light of the fact that I've not got a new review on deck, PLEASE SUBMIT GUEST REVIEWS IF YOU HAVE THEM!  Even a short review with a quick photo or two will delight this blog's 7 regular readers...

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I was in Burbank the last few days at an awesome conference.  No, it wasn't about burgers, but thankfully there was an In-n-Out about a 5 minute walk from the conference.  My friends and I went every that officially allowed me to eat 3 orders of fries, 1 milkshake, 2 Double Doubles, and 1 Three by Three (triple meat, triple cheese) in a 72 hour timespan.  Washed down with Coca-Cola, naturally.

I got in trouble for trying to take a video of their flat-top griddle (who knew?), but otherwise every experience was absolutely glorious.  Flat griddled fresh beef and gooey, thick American cheese that melts together with the perfectly caramelized onions and sticks to the paper wrapping.  Tomatoes and lettuce that burst inside your mouth with California, sun-kissed freshness.  Sponge dough buns that lovingly encase the aforementioned with nimbus cloud-like softness.  Fries that were, moments before consumption, whole potatoes.

I can't even write a full bore review of this place.  I can't even post any pictures.  It's too good, and I'd defile it by saying more or putting pictures on my lowly blog.

If you been, you'll understand.  If you've never been, you'd never had a fast-food style burger.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Crave - Castle Rock

I've been pumped to try Crave down in Castle Rock for some time now.  I've heard good murmurings amongst my burger-loving friends about both their burgers and their shakes.  So yesterday I finally made the 25 minute drive from my house to see what the fuss was about.

Right off the bat, I liked the atmosphere.  It's modern, and their staff all wear orange Crave t-shirts.  Notably, the place was packed on a Friday for lunch.  You are given two strictly for milkshakes, the other for burgers, sandwiches, and salads.  Keeping in mind that Crave is somewhat known for how crazy some of their burgers are, my buddy Brent and I decided to branch out a bit from a basic cheeseburger.  (Take a look at the pic of the menu below.  Burgers like the Cubano that comes topped with hot dog/pork/egg/chorizo and the Luther whose bun is actually glazed donuts are standouts.)

We decided on Not Your Mama's (tempura battered swiss, parmesan, truffle mayo, and 'shrooms) and the Popper (beer-battered cream cheese, fresh jalepenos, avocado, chipotle mayo, LTO), both ordered to be cooked "pink" and served with basic fries.  Our waitress, who was knowledgeable and excited, was kind enough to bring us about 7 ramekins of various other sauces (gravy, green chili, habanero mayo, etc, etc) to try as well.

First thing you're going to notice at Crave is the combination of flavors.  The chef here (who also owns the Old Stone Church) has given a LOT of thought about these toppings and sauces, most of which are allegedly made from scratch in-house.  Both of our burgers were bursting with flavor, and both were quite sizable.  The Shamrock patties are 6oz, 80/20 chuck, pattied by hand.  The bun is a very tasty white sponge-dough type made by local Aspen Bakery.  Commendably, the buns were soft and squishy but held up quite well under the substantial topping load.

Here's a few highlights:  beer- or tempura-battered cheese is absolutely genius.  Several of the sauces are very tasty (but possibly border on too salty).  The toppings in general are well-paired, creative, and executed well.  Great bun.  Lots of flavors.

Unfortunately, Crave's patty was a bit overcooked (flat top griddle, covered by a pan, lightly pressed once or twice), and it was comprised of very basic food-service meat.   And that's the philosophical watershed:  Crave is really a toppings restaurant.  (And a good one.)  But ultimately, it's not a burger restaurant. (Beyond burgers, the menu is also vast).  The patties just aren't well thought out enough.  Lots of place get both wrong: sub-par meat and buns, sub-par toppings.  Crave definitely gets the toppings right with some creative and tasty offerings.  

A few final points.  We got a chocolate milkshake that was extremely good.  I've got a feeling the shakes, on the whole, are way above average.  Secondly, Crave has a unique "frequent diner" card that says a lot about their owner.  Instead of getting your card punched each time you dine, you only get a card punch if you try a new burger.  And this is probably the greatest indicator of what Crave is all about: it's owned by a guy who is passionate about opening up new flavor vistas for his diners.  And he does a great job.

If I were to've ordered a basic meat-bun-cheese burger, I might've been disappointed.  But having ordered a few creative, flavorful burgers, I left Crave reasonably satisfied.  I'd definitely go back!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I've been saying it for a while.  Others agree:
Denver: Fast Casual Deliciousness at Park Burger | A Hamburger Today

The Castle - South on Broadway

I live within a 1/2 mile of The Castle Bar and Grill on south Broadway in Littleton.  I've driven by this place countless times, but had always blown it off as another Broadway dive bar...even though their sign out front advertises the best burger in Denver.  "Surely not," I sneered.  "How could a weird looking dive bar that no one I know has eaten at actually serve up a good burger?"

That was until a buddy of mine from church said he's had a great burger I was yesterday, The Burger Baron went on a little 1/2 mile adventure and ordered a 1/2 lb, medium rare, American cheese, LTO burger from the Castle.  Here's what I discovered.

Our waiter was an old bartender who is probably in his 60's, a nice guy, and asked us how we wanted our burgers cooked.  That's the first tip-off that this isn't your average bar food.  And sure enough, this patty arrives with a nice crust from the flattop griddle and was perfectly medium rare.  My companion ordered, and received, a rare burger.  Kudos, Castle.  You know how to cook a patty.

The beef is never frozen, and the owner gets it fresh about 3 times per week.  The patties are made in house out of 80/20 chuck, and seasoned with a bit of Season All.  Nothing special here in the way of beef blends, seasoning, or what not...but like I said, the patty was cooked to perfection and had a great consistency.  Juicy to boot.

The produce was fresh and crisp, and I really enjoyed the copious amounts of American cheese.  Had to've been two slices, and melted well.  The buns won't win any awards, as they are just your average Costco sesame buns.

The owner was kind enough to sit down with us, and this was the highlight of my meal.  Yes, we talk about burgers on this blog...but as you know, we also discuss burger philosophy.  This is where the Castle shines.  I am paraphrasing, but listen to what the owner had to say (edited for language): "We just want to make a good burger.  I train all my cooks how to make a good, simple burger.  I tell them that the only thing that separates us from the next restaurant is that we give a sh*t.  One bad piece of lettuce, one bad slice of tomato, and we're not doing it right."

This, my friends, is how you approach making a burger.  You cook it right, you indoctrinate your staff, and you pay attention to the small details.

Ultimately, the biggest detractor to the Castle's burger is the ordinary buns and basic beef.  But here's the thing.  The Castle's burger becomes more than the sum of it's parts due to the attention given to cooking it right and composing a thoughtful burger.  It's not one of my ultimate favorites in Denver, but I was pleasantly surprised.

(HINT: I'm not going to become a Castle regular for their $8 burger, but on Tuesdays the burgers are Buy One Get One Free which is totally worth it.)

Peep dis:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

5 Star/Nicer Pics

I am going to try and commit to taking more appetizing photographs of the burgers I eat.  It can be tough in a dark restaurant, but heck, you deserve nothing less.

To give you an idea, I revisited 5 Star Burgers in Southglenn today for lunch.  Got my staple: green chile cheeseburger.  Pepperjack cheese, chopped green chilis, green chili mayo, on a brioche.  Easily the juiciest burger you'll find in south Denver, so AS SOON as it arrives at your table, throw the lettuce between the patty and bottom bun.  It'll act as a barrier, and you'll be glad you did it.  Today's burger was a tad under salted and closer to medium than medium rare, but they were training one of their friendly managers on the grill, so I forgave them!  Also learned an interesting fact.  They have a flat top griddle AND an open flame grill.  The patties see a bit of both surfaces before making it to your table.  Interesting!

Side note: don't overlook the value of a restaurant that trains it's management on the grill.  THIS IS KEY! To run a good burger joint, you have to indoctrinate your staff (managers included) with the elements of creating a great burger.

My buddy got the excellent lamb burger.  (That's the pic with the cucumbers in it).  Without further ado:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Last night I experimented

A great friend of mine gave me some of this:

And some of this:

So I made this:

Both of those products come from Williams-Sonoma, if you are wondering.  Both were really flavorful, too.  The Bomb Sauce is like a pickly, tangy 1000 island.  The Burger Starter would taste especially good on a burger cooked outside on the grill.

So, I just cut up a huge hothouse tomato, leafed some iceberg, and cooked this puppy on my new blue steel crepe pan (which is a wonderful makeshift griddle).  No smashing last night, just let it crust up nicely.  Also put the onions in the pan for a few minutes to brown them slightly and get them a bit soft.

How was the burger, you might ask??  Well, you needn't.  I am the Burger Baron!  It was delicious!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I wish Tim Cook advised burger joints

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple: "Steve [Jobs] grilled in all of us over many years that the company should revolve around great products and that we should stay extremely focused on a few things rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well." Would that more burger restaurants (or restaurants in general) had the guts to actually do this.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Relish It - Littleton, CO

At the corner of Prince and Santa Fe, (just south of Belleview) there's a little restaurant area that houses a Lamar's Donuts, Dickey's BBQ, Panda Express, Subway, Il Vicino Pizza, and the newest gourmet burger bar in Littleton, Relish It.  I'm not sure they have a website yet, but here's their Urbanspoon page.  Living within 5 minutes of this place, I've been meaning to give it a try and finally made it over there with my burger buddy Jeff.

Relish It heavily promotes their 100% grass-fed beef from a supplier called Our Pastures.  There seems to be a rancher in Colorado that supplies this beef to Relish It, among other restaurants in the area.  But the owner of Relish It claims he's got the only 100% grass-fed burger in Denver.  Needless to say, what Relish It gets right is a commitment to quality, and that becomes apparent if you get a chance to talk to the owner, Terry.

While the burgers come pre-ground, they are hand-pattied in house right next to where they hand cut their own thick fries.  The patty construction is a good one...medium grind, loosely packed.  However, that's where the positives of this patty end. Perhaps most shockingly, no one at the restaurant could tell us what blend of beef they were using (even the owner)!  Unfortunately for a burger bar that places so much emphasis on their beef, the negatives dramatically outweigh the positives.  Our burgers were well-done (but ordered mid-rare), sparsely salted, and overpowered by toppings and bun.  A 1/3 lb. patty is just not the right ratio for the Aunt Hattie's sesame buns that they use.  The buns were soft, held up well against the burger and toppings, but a gourmet burger bar that uses buns from Costco?  A little odd, and generally unimpressive.

Their special 1000 Island spread is tangy and good, and their sliced dill pickles were outstanding.  I imagine they use their tasty dill pickles in their spread, which is great.  Toppings are numerous, so you can build all kinds of burgers here.  We kept it simple with American cheese and grilled onion, but the menu is vast.  In fact, in the next few weeks it's expanding even more...which is, in my opinion, a move in the wrong direction.  At Relish It, you can get salads...italian beef sandwiches...brats...marinara sauce...turkey burgers...veggie burgers...funnel cakes...sloppy joes...and soon, you'll be able to get sliders, angus steak burgers, etc, etc.  Now I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a "burger bar", that sounds like your regular old American cafe fare.  And here's where I think Relish It loses it's way.  They've spread themselves too thin, and didn't even pull off a regular burger with American cheese.  Overall, I was dissatisfied.  As I've mentioned several times on this blog: find ONE thing, and RULE at it.  Don't fill up your menu with a bunch of other crap.  If you're gonna be a burger joint, then be a burger joint!  Moreover, specialize in one fear is that Relish It will begin offering 6 different types of burgers and meat, and not excel in any of them.  In fact, I'm betting on it.

This is a lot of restaurant philosophy, so let me get back to the burger.  While this might sound insulting considering the higher quality ingredients that Relish It uses, I was reminded of a Wendy's cheeseburger.  Could I stomach it?  Or course!  But is this a top-notch burger bar?  Definitely not.

While Relish It (and it's friendly owner Terry) are to be commended for their high values on quality and healthier beef, I just can't in good conscience recommend Relish It.  An overcooked, under salted patty slapped on a bun that's too large and store-bought...grass fed beef that doesn't at all stand out from the crowd (fat content is 85/15, maybe 90/10, which is just not fatty enough for a real burger)...and a menu that by including too many options has by it's very nature distracted from a pure burger experience -- all of these things add up to a burger joint that just won't stand the test of time.

Relish It - you are young enough to do it right!  Pick one burger type of meat...get rid of the rest of your menu...and master that burger.   MASTER IT.   If you do that, I'll be back.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Cherry Cricket

If you've been in Denver even a short time and talked to someone about burgers, my guess is that The Cherry Cricket has come up a time or two in your conversations.  It's in North Cherry Creek on 2nd Street, and provides a nice bar environment for some hanging out.  My first impression of the Cricket, maybe a year and half ago, was a positive one.  I remember getting one of their recommended burgers, which was cream cheese and chopped jalepenos.

That was then.

That was before the Great Burger Awakening of 2011, of which I have referred to previously.  So, let's dive into the burger that I got this last Friday night.  I fully expect some backlash for this review...

As you'll see in the pics below, topping options are numerous at the Cherry Cricket, and you can get pretty crazy if you want.  I departed from my standard American cheese and grilled onions staple and ordered a 1/2 lb burger with pepper jack cheese and green chile strips.

First, the facts.  80/20 fat content beef, never frozen, but comes pre-formed (mistake).  We never got a straight answer on the meat cuts waiter said it was a proprietary blend, another mentioned 100% chuck with some suet mixed in.  Buns are from a local provider and are a standard sesame bun.  Toppings are of course the Cricket's focal point.  While I can easily deride restaurants that focus solely on toppings, it is fun to visit a place with lots of options sometimes.

The Cherry Cricket makes two big mistakes as far as I can tell.  The first is with the bun.  Here's a great quote from my buddy Jon that sums up my thoughts exactly: "a good bread is supposed to provide structural support for everything that is stuck in the middle without causing any 'toothiness' i.e., having to exert any effort to get your teeth through the bread. The Cherry Cricket, unforgivably, provided a bun that was akin to a soggy diaper. It was a basic sesame bun, but it was not toasted well, nor water-proofed well, which lead to the bottom bun becoming complete mush."  Couldn't have said it better myself.  The lack of proper toasting was unforgivable.  To be fair, the bread was tasty in it's own right, just a mess from a structural standpoint.

The second big mistake is that they have their patties pre-formed.  Frankly, this is inexcusable.  Forming patties in-house has got to be the simplest way to improve a burger's construction and patty flavor.  Why any restaurant wouldn't do this is just flat-out burger laziness, and a shock considering how much pride the Cricket puts into their burgers.  Another quote from Jon: "The patty was preformed, and therefore a bit too dense, and also too thin, which led to a very generic tasting burger with little substance."  I've had worse patties to be sure, and it was cooked expertly to a nice mid-rare, but still.  I should also mention that they cook the burgers on a grill, which imparts a nice flavor from the lava rocks it's cooked over.

All that said, I know I might sound overly negative.  As I thought about the burger this weekend, I think my fairest assessment of the Cricket is this: for your average Joe, the Cherry Cricket is going to provide a generally tasty burger who's faults can be overlooked. If you forced me to eat there, I'd leave satisfied.  Fun toppings, well cooked, and juicy.  However, as a true burger enthusiast, I feel like I've outgrown the Cricket.  A final quote from Jon: "The Cherry Cricket is pretty well renowned for their burgers - but I'm betting it's the flavor combinations made by their toppings rather than the burger itself."

Once you begin to notice the nuances of great burgers, you'll be harder to please.  It's tougher to find a stellar burger, but more rewarding when you do.  Keep reading this blog, it will ruin you.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Burger Vinaigrette

If all you watch is 7 seconds, watch from 1:44 until 1:51. That's just a nugget of gold, right there.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bud's Bar - Sedalia, CO

Bud's Bar in Sedalia, CO (only a short 20 minutes south of Littleton) is a historic little joint that's previously made one of Denver's "Best Burger" lists.  I went last Friday, and experienced a great burger with some interesting twists that I wasn't expecting...

Another place you can read about Bud's Bar is in a book called Hamburger America, by George Motz.  (There's also a film, an iPhone app, t-shirts, etc...this guy is serious about burgers.)  Anyway, George traveled around the US of A reviewing burger joints and making a movie about it or something like that...and Bud's Bar is the ONLY Colorado burger joint that made it in the book.  They've got a nicely worn copy of it on hand for their diners to peruse.

This burger is like the primeval archetype of burgers.  You want produce on your burger?  Not here.  All they've got is white onions (raw or grilled) and pickles.  Lettuce?  Nope.  Tomato?  Nope.  Wheat buns, mayo, even french fries on the side?  All a big NOPE.  (On request, you can get a little plastic ramekin of pickled jalepenos.)  So what DO you get at Bud's Bar?

You get a burger made from the most basic, time-tested, elemental components.  A burger that scoffs derisively at the over-hyped and over-priced  "gourmet" burger restaurants out there. You get a toasted white bun that they source from Sam's Club, piping hot fresh local beef from Castle Rock Meats, and molten American cheese.  Ketchup and mustard are on the table.  You get a bag of Lay's potato chips also.  It all comes out on a piece of white paper in a little red basket.  PURE SIMPLICITY!!!

My double cheeseburger arrived at my table in all of it's gloriously unfettered steamy hot that I couldn't bite into right away...I was forced to just admire it visually whilst my tastebuds screamed in anticipation.

The cooking method is definitely worth a quick discussion, and is what introduced a few surprises for me.  Here's how they do it, and it really affects the finally product.  The burger patty is made in-house, and goes onto the flat top griddle.  It's not smashed, but here's where it gets weird.  The cook places a toasted bun top onto the patty while it cooks, and this bun top apparently soaks up the grease from the patty.  Then, they discard the bun top!  It serves that singular purpose.  Then the cheese goes on, and on top of the cheese is the bun top that you actually eat.  Bud's claims that this use-a-disposable-bun-to-soak-up-grease method is what allows this burgers to be really juicy but not greasy.  I can agree, it was juicy but not greasy.  All in all, quite interesting.

The next step is also a distinguishing characteristic of Bud's: they place a bowl over the patty/cheese/bun and let it steam.  (Some places do this with just the patty, like Ted's.)  Have you ever bought a hot dog at the amusement park, and it comes wrapped in tin foil, and the hot dog bun is steamed and moist?  Then you'll know how the buns are at Bud's Bar.  They are super soft, steamed, moist buns.  From a review standpoint, I would consider this to be the weak link in Bud's Bar.  I like moist buns (sorry I keep saying "moist buns") on a hot dog, but not on a burger.  I'd rather the bun be toasted and springy.

Moist buns aside, I have to give a lot of credit to Bud's Bar for their sheer simplicity and focus on lava-like American cheese and piping hot fresh beef.  A little grilled onion and a dash of mustard or ketchup, and you've got one great way to spend $5.50.

I wish I would've made this video.  The gal at the end was my waitress on Friday!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Matt's Bar - Minneapolis

Today's guest review comes from a good friend of mine, Paul Scrabeck, who used to live in Minneapolis.  While his comments regarding the distinguished nature of this blog are dubious at best, I think he is right on in his assessment of Matt's Bar.  I had the wonderful opportunity of trying the Jucy Lucy last summer, and it's a real treat!  Without further ado:

First of all let me say that being published on such a distinguished blog is an honor.  The only thing that makes me a worthy contributor is the recent opportunity I had to break bread at Matt’s Bar and consume the subject of today’s article: The one and only Jucy Lucy. 

Let me begin by saying that the contrast between the temperature of the air outside of Matt’s and the temperature of the cheese inside of (yeah, that’s right, INSIDE) my Jucy Lucy was vast.  My visit to Minnesota just happened to be during the middle of January and a frigid Arctic front was blowing in from the North Pole.  Brings up the question, how much do circumstances and atmosphere play into how good a burger tastes to a person? A topic for another entry perhaps?  In my case, conditions were perfect for a great experience.  I was in Minnesota on a business trip and found myself with a friend in south Minneapolis where Matt’s Bar happens to be located.   We were cold, hungry, and since I am from Minnesota but live in Colorado, something nostalgic is always nice when I’m back visiting and Matt’s was one of my favorites when I lived in the Minneapolis area. After a short dialogue about what we were hungry for, we decided on Matt’s and made the trek down Lake Street in my rental car to see if there was a table available at the regional favorite.   Much to our joy, there was.

The Jucy Lucy is a bit of a different creation than any other burger.  The only time I’ve eaten a burger with a pocket inside of it is when consuming a Jucy Lucy.  There are plenty of other creations that include a “pocket” for the ingredients, but the only one that is 100% beef is the Jucy Lucy.  For those not familiar with a Jucy Lucy, it is a burger with a “built in” pocket in the middle that is completely sealed (by meat) around the outside.  The inside is filled with melted, when fresh off the grill, boiling cheese.  For those still not tracking, think jelly donut except with hamburger and cheese. 

This Jucy Lucy was grilled to perfection.  There was a thin crust externally on the burger.  It was not thick, but it was evenly coated with a little bit of crust, the kind of crust that comes from searing the outside layer of meat with the hot grease on the grill.  It gives a little more texture to the hamburger.  It is a technique I am fond of.  The meat itself in a Jucy Lucy is usually cooked well done given the nature of the structure of the Jucy Lucy.  With cheese inside of the burger to melt and thinner outside walls than a normal burger, by the time the cheese is melted sufficiently, the burger is cooked with no pink left.  Most burgers cooked with no pink become dry and may feel like they’ll plug your esophagus as peristalsis begins its motion through your GI tract.  Though the Jucy  Lucy is not pink and cooked thoroughly, the loads of cheese melted inside provide plenty of moisture and lubrication for a smooth entry as the  Jucy Lucy prepares to meet her destiny.

One of the other things I think is unique about a Jucy Lucy: it has no “fixings”.  Matt’s gives you an option of onions or no onions.  I chose no onions as I am maybe what you might call a purist: I like my burger because of the hamburger, not all of the extra things that can drown out the actual taste of the hamburger.  Other than onions, they have mustard and ketchup at the table.  For a burger purist, this is all you need.

In conclusion, we need to discuss the bun.   Matt’s uses a simple white bread bun bought from some local distributor I’m sure.  It is not what sets your meal at Matt’s apart, as it's average at best.  What sets Matt’s apart is the atmosphere and the uniqueness of the burger.  For a great experience and a really good burger that is different than pretty much anything else, try a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis next time you are there!  On your way out you may see a sign with this clever little saying to leave you with a smile, “The best burger on earth coincidentally has a molten core.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hey everyone!  Now there's an easy way to get to the blog.  The new web address is!

This will make it really easy to tell your family, restauranteur acquaintances, college roommates, gorge buddies, kids, fellow burger lovers, and arch enemies about the blog!  And anyone else you can think of!  Where burger nobility and chivalry live on!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I've been looking forward to trying Elway's burger ever since my friend Jeff tried a bit of one at the Denver Burger Battle this last August.  Renowned as a great steakhouse (and rightfully so, it's probably the best filet I've ever had), they've also got a "smash burger" on their menu for $13.  Add fries, you're at $19.  Add a drink or two, with tip, and this is one expensive burger.  Is it worth over $20 for a burger and fries?  Read on...

My buddy Jeff and I visited the downtown location at the Ritz Carlton, and both ordered the Smash Burger cooked medium rare, with a side of fries (hand cut, fresh, parmesan/parsley as an option).

The first thing I noticed was the simplicity of Elway's offering here.  I love it.  You get one choice of cheese (cheddar), a brioche bun, and lettuce/tomato/onion. That's it.  There're no "specialty" burgers at Elway's, and I am actually grateful for that fact.  The simplicity is only reinforced when the waitress brought out 4 ramekins of mayo, ketchup, yellow mustard, dijon mustard.  No house made aioli, no red pepper ketchup, just the BASICS.  (All things considered, I have to deduct points from Elway's for not offering American cheese.  It seems weird, considering everything else is so basic and traditional.)

 When the burgers arrived, I was immediately struck by something that's never hit me before: this burger was FRAGRANT.  I mean it...I could instantly smell the meat and the bun as the burger was placed on the table.  It says a lot, and really got my engine started.  Jeff immediately noticed that the tasty, slightly sweet Grateful Bread Co brioche bun was a good margin bigger than the patty.  It was helpful in forming a type of pocket that contained the 9oz patty and produce.

The cheese was perfectly melted, but as mentioned I wish it could've been American.  I'll ask for 2 slices when I go back, as the meat-cheese-bun ratio was ever so slightly off kilter.  It says a lot about Elway's attention to detail that they had a great cheese melt on a medium rare patty, because the patty was cooked to perfection. (Note: the pics make it look medium to medium well, but don't be deceived by my iPhone.  It was red center, medium rare all the way.)

The produce was wonderful.  Red onion, hot house tomatoes, crisp pickles, and green leaf lettuce all fresh and tasty.

Now, onto the patty.  What we're looking at here is 100% fresh ground sirloin, 30% fat content, griddle cooked.  Although they call it a "smash burger", don't go to Elway's looking for that true, thin, crispy-edged smashed patty.  This patty is thick and only smashed once (lightly, it would seem).  However, there was a nice thick crust on the patty, and it truly tasted "steaky."  And here is the most confusing thing about Elway's patty:  it wasn't very juicy.  You can see in the pics that there was a few droplets of juice, but overall Jeff and I were befuddled as to the general lack of moisture.  It was by no means dry, but you'd expect a 9oz medium rare patty to be dripping juice everywhere.  Not so.  Maybe it's because the meat is dry aged?  Who knows...but I found it to easily be the biggest thing lacking about this burger.

In short, Elway's nails a few key components to a great burger:  attention to detail, commitment to quality, and a simple burger with a focus on the patty.  My biggest complaints are the cheese (ratio and type) and the lack of overall juiciness, but neither were deal breakers.

As Jeff said: "Price not included I would choose this burger over ANY other in the city.  But at 20 bucks for a burger and fries, I would have to think about it."  I'm not sure I'd pick this burger over any other in the city, but I think I am comfortable giving Elway's an A-.

You'll find it tough to go wrong with a burger at Elway's if you've got $20 to burn on a classy evening on the town.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Great Tip

From the Burger Lab:
"So what's the moral of the story? Unless you like your burgers with the resilient bouncy texture of a sausage, refrain from getting the meat anywhere near the salt until just before you cook it. In a way, this totally makes sense. Sausage meat is seasoned well before grinding in order to perform this very function: breaking down the meat proteins to form a tighter, more cohesive structure.
A burger's joy lies on the other end of the spectrum. A loose, coarse, open structure is a desirable characteristic, allowing the meat to break down into small pieces in your mouth, while providing plenty of hiding spots for hot juices to collect inside the patty, ready to gush and dribble out the moment you bite into it."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We Should Feel Lucky

I've previously reviewed Steak 'n Shake on this blog, one of my childhood favorites.  It's in Denver now, and we should feel VERY lucky.

Here's PROOF.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I made Double Doubles

I've been sick.  For weeks.  Even the burger-saturated center of my brain -- the part full of neurons unceasingly firing information about meat, cheese, and bun -- even that part of my brain shut down for about 10 days.  It was horrible.

As the antibiotics kicked in, my desires reawakened and I found myself back in my familiar state of mind: battling daily with an insatiable burger lust.  So last night, my wife was out with friends and my kids were fast asleep, and I decided to indulge once again.  I made In-n-Out Double Doubles.

I used a tried and true recipe which you can find here: RECIPE.  I made a few small adjustments, since I don't normally order Animal Style when I visit In-n-Out.  I nixed the pickles, I was out of tomato (usually do it though), and I don't cook the beef in mustard.

Keep in mind, if you try this, and you should: caramelizing onions is gonna take you a good 30-45 minutes to get them properly gooey.

Well, that's my night last night.  I sat alone at my kitchen counter and gorged myself on Double Doubles.  Two of them.  Yes, two.

It's good to be back.