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 used...one 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.