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.