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!

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