H Burger Co.
1555 Blake Street, Denver CO 80202 (map); 720-524-4345; hburgerco.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Namesake beef burger was delicious, lamb burger was okay, and the tuna burger was not good. All three were overcooked.
Want Fries With That? Yes; both the regular and sweet potato were excellent
Price: $6.95 - $12.95
What happens when an executive from Quiznos joins forces to design a burger restaurant with a popular chef who made his name with adventures in molecular gastronomy? Based on what happened in Denver when Pete Pflum hired chef Ian Kleinman as a consultant, the first thing that happens is an insane amount of advance publicity. Denver readers will have to weigh in to confirm, but it's quite possible that in the months leading up to the opening of H Burger in downtown Denver earlier this year, it got more press coverage than any burger place that was actually open.
The story is a good one and as soon as I heard about H Burger, I knew I would check it out when I got back to Denver, which I did over the weekend. There's no question the concept is great. There's an interesting mix of burgers, a little bit of scientific cooking fun, and a good drink selection all in a sleek but not pretentiously hip environment. The only remaining question was whether the execution would be worthy of the pre-opening hype.
If a burger place is going to name one of its burgers after the restaurant, that better be one good meal. At H Burger Co., the H Burger is made with locally sourced Angus beef and topped with smoked cheddar, sweet 'n' spicy bacon, lettuce, tomato onion, and a Hatch chili, which is almost as popular in Colorado as it is in neighboring New Mexico.
The variety of flavors in the toppings were great and made up for the underseasoned, albeit very good beef. There was a lot going on in the toppings, but they blended together seamlessly and all served to complement the patty, which was still the main attraction. The toasted soft sesame seed bun was fine and it held up well.
The meat is ground in-house every day and the patty was loosely packed, which was great. The only flaw in the burger was that it was overcooked: I requested medium rare, but received medium. That happens enough that I'm usually not surprised by it, but H Burger takes the time to actually print descriptions on the menu of what the different temperatures should look like so there is no confusion. That attention to detail raised my expectations and the disappointment hurt my feelings a little bit. Even with the temperature issues, the H Burger was very, very good and I'd happily return to eat it again.
I was tempted to try the buffalo burger, but since Colorado is such a big lamb producer, I opted to give the locally sourced lamb burger a shot. The meat was much more tightly packed and seeing as the menu touted that hand-formed nature of the beef and buffalo patties, I suspect these arrived at the restaurant pre-formed.
Like the H Burger, the lamb meat was not particularly well seasoned. Also like the H Burger, the toppings had a lot of flavor and the patty was overcooked (rare requested, medium rare delivered). Unlike the H Burger, the toppings absolutely destroyed the patty. Between the feta and the spicy aioli, I could barely taste the meat and the greens and thick slice of beefsteak tomato were rendered meaningless. Because the cheese and the aioli were good, the whole thing was okay, but based on the one I had, I can't recommend it strongly.
If you order rare and get medium rare, you can still have a nice juicy burger—see H Burger above. If you order medium rare and get medium, you can still get a serviceable patty—see lamb burger above. If you order a medium well burger and you get a well done patty that tastes like the cook forgot it was on the griddle for a while, you get the tuna burger that I won't bother to review.
Hand cut fries come with every burger, but for a couple of bucks extra, you can add upgrade in one of a few ways. I was tempted by the truffle Parmesan fries and the beer battered onion rings, but ultimately opted for the sweet potato fries as a second option. Both varieties were really excellent. Both had a crisp exterior, almost crunchy in the case of the sweet potato fries, but both maintained a nice soft interior.
The most memorable positive part of my meal was the strawberry shake. This was the only part of the meal where I really felt chef Kleinman's influence, as the shake was made with liquid nitrogen. Is it a bit gimmicky? Sure it is, but I'm a long way away from not being amused by a shake that has steam billowing out of it. I'm not sure if the liquid nitrogen gets the credit, but the shake almost had a custard taste to it. And thanks to the fresh strawberries, it was bursting with some summer deliciousness.
While there were obviously a couple of stumbles on my visit, I have no doubt that H Burger can, when firing on all cylinders, put out a fantastic meal. Having read a few other reviews where people have complained about overcooked patties, H Burger may be consistent in that regard—not that that's much of a problem for anyone who likes their burgers less than rare.
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