Today, fellow burger blogger Carsten Howitz, aka Burger Doctor, brings us his recap of last week's Denver Burger Battle. You can read more of his articles and Texas-based reviews about burgers at burgerdoctor.com.
At last Tuesday's Denver Burger Battle, the ten best burger restaurants in the Denver, Colorado, area competed to win the ultimate honor of serving the best burger in the city. Jeremy Kossler of food blog Must Eat Denver founded the sold-out event with 600 attendees and picked the battle's ten contenders.
The restaurants could win in two categories: Judge's Vote and Popular Vote. Three local professional chefs—Alex Seidel of Fruition, Troy Guard of TAG, and James Rugile of Venue—made up the judging panel and all other attendees had one vote they could give to the restaurant of their choice.
Each of the ten restaurants had to make around 400 burgers, meaning that 4,000 burgers to be cooked and consumed in just over two hours. When a restaurant has to make that many burgers in so little time, I suspected that the quality would vary during the competition. Over the evening I received some burned burgers, and some undercooked. The restaurants also varied from showing unbelievable enthusiasm to no passion at all, which influenced the quality of their burgers (although I suspect the three judges got the best possible burgers from each place). Some restaurants were staffed with up to ten people and some only had two. The restaurants with more people made their burgers consistently better.
I think it's tough to mix traditional burgers with gourmet burgers and expect the traditional burgers to stand a chance, but this battle didn't differentiate between different burger styles.
Here are the contenders in the order I tasted their burgers in.
The Encore Burger, made with a chuck and sirloin patty, bacon, blue cheese, and Gruyere. It was beautiful; the tasty cheese mix enhanced the perfectly cooked burger. Nothing else that made this burger special; it was good in its simplicity. 2550 East Colfax Ave, Denver CO 80206 (map); 303-355-1112;
H Burger Co.
The H Burger, made with a hand-formed Angus beef patty, hatch chili pepper, smoked cheddar, sweet and spicy bacon, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, onions and red pepper-tomato jam, making for a spicy, delicious burger. The smoked cheddar, bacon, and chili peppers was a perfect combination. The burger was so juicy and tasty that even though this was my second burger I was almost certain this was going to be a winner. I even went for seconds. 1555 Blake St, Denver CO 80202 (map); 720-524-4345; hburgerco.com
Colt & Gray
The Colt & Gray Burger, made with a hand formed dry aged chuck patty topped with a Gruyere cheese mix on a brioche bun. The cheese was good, but my burger was burnt on one side and I thought there was a weird aftertaste. 1553 Platte Street, Denver CO 80202 (map); 303-477-1447; coltandgray.com
The Stilton Burger made with an Angus beef patty topped with Port reduction, sweet balsamic onions, aged Stilton, and roasted garlic aioli on a local fresh baked bun. They also served top notch, homemade fries. The cheese was not too overpowering, the garlic was subtle, and the burger was cooked perfectly. 5325 East Colfax Avenue, Denver CO 80220 (map); 303-333-5683; deluxeburgerdenver.com
The Walk-In Burger, made with a grass-fed beef patty topped with cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and a Gorgonzola spread. The Gorgonzola was so subtle it was almost non-existent. It was good, but nothing special. 2255 Sheridan Blvd, Edgewater CO 80214 (map); 303-238-2002
The Chilango burger, made with a 1/3-pound Harris Ranch beef patty topped with cheddar, fresh jalapenos, house made guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and onions on a potato bun. This burger was way to salty and spicy for my taste. 1890 South Pearl St, Denver CO 80210 (map); 720-242-9951; parkburger.com
The Cherry Cricket
The Black Out Burger, topped with smoked cheddar, blackened seasoning, bacon, and secret sauce made with Stranahan's Whiskey. The smoked cheddar was the most interesting part of the burger, but it couldn't save the burger from being a bit dull. Nothing else made this burger pop. It was also a little burned, probably from the flare-ups on their grill. 2641 East 2nd Ave, Denver CO 80206 (map); 303-322-7666; cherrycricket.com
The Argyll Burger, made with a house ground beef and lamb patty topped with carrot ginger aioli, duck fat confit yellow onions, spicy tomato jam, Colorado Rouge cheese, and mache salad on a toasted potato bun. All their ingredients were made from scratch, and it paid off. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender. I particularly liked the incredibly soft and juicy onions, and the sweet carrot aioli. I couldn't imagine a burger much better than this one—it almost brought tears to my eyes. 2700 East 3rd Ave, Denver CO 80206 (map); 720-382-1117; argyllpub.com
Green Chili Cheeseburger, made with a RiverRanch beef patty topped with Don Rickle's Secret Spice Rub, cheese, and green chili on Udi's Challah Bun. Overall, it was a pretty boring burger that tasted like a regular burger. You could barely taste the chili or the cheese. 523 East 17th Ave, Denver CO 80203 (map); 303-830-1001
Old School Burgers
The Ultimate Cheese Bacon Burger, made with two 1/4-pound beef patties topped with four cheeses (American, Cheddar, Pepper Jack and Swiss), hickory smoked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on a toasted bun, On paper this burger sounded great, but its execution lacked passion. The grill was on fire most of the time and the burger was burned. If it had been treated with more love and affection it would've been great enough to stand up with the best. 1760 South Havana St, Aurora CO 80012 (map); 303-337-1130
Here are the winners:
The Judges Vote
1. Park Burger
3. Park Burger
My Top Three
1. Argyll Pub
2. HBurger Co (a very close second)
3. Deluxe Burger
All in all, this was a great, professionally executed event that left me full by the end of the night. I'll be back next year for sure.