Thursday, August 25, 2011

Burger Me Up Scotty: A Night at the 2011 Denver Burger Battle

I had to do it again. After attending last year's meatfest and finding out that the 2011 vintage was going to be bigger and better than ever, I found myself not only anxiously awaiting but splurging (hey, it's for a good cause) for a peek at the burger offerings of Denver's best restaurants and chefs. 

Now some folks may say that burgers are an overdone fad (I'm not one of them), but one thing's for sure: flavor, creativity, and technique never go out of style. And that's exactly what you get with the Denver Burger Battle.

This year's rap sheet included some of last year's favorites, and also a rejuvenated spread with some uniquely defined 'burgers'. 12 restaurants in all came out to please the masses, all for the supreme prize of bragging rights. So did last year's winners defend their championship, or did some newbie draw blood?

I came in this year less biased than last time around. Being such a die hard fan of The Encore Burger, they easily won my vote in 2010. But apparently having something else to do on this night, I was forced to spread my wings and be as judgmental as possible. I mean they really had to twist my arm to eat burgers until I dropped, but when it all came down to it, the voting chips told the story.

Last year it was like walking into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but this year it was like walking into Disneyland. As I walked through the grand portal into the magical land of beef and buns, I found myself in almost a Big Fish moment where everyone I knew was there with everything I loved. Beer, wine, cupcakes, cornhole, a plethora of creative sandwiches, some of Denver's most talented chefs, great live music, an all-star judging panel, and man's best friend: beef. 

A simple quest in mind: who gets the much coveted chip?
We cruised around the smoke-filled circus tent hopping from table to table; indulging in each and every burger with eyebrows furrowed. Picking apart the offerings in an elementary sense worked for a minute, but in the end being stolen away by the juiciest, most flavor-packed, 'First Bite' burger ended up being of the crusade of the evening.

Root Down showed up with a bold offering- Veggie Burger Sliders, at an otherwise
meaty affair. Surprisingly enjoyable, even for a meatatarian such as myself.
Naturally, I was committed to the homestretch... or in other words, eating all 12 burgers. But also, I knew I had to ration my precious stomach space accordingly - and as I begun imagining myself on Chopped, my M.O. quickly became first bite euphoria, or 'off with their heads'. Thankfully, a number of burger gurus fit the bill.

Jen Jasinski assembling a fantastic Kobe short rib mini-slider,
highlighted with pepperoni and foie gras mousse on a mini
English muffin. Yes please.

Last year's People's Choice winner- H Burger, back to defend their championship!

Troy Guard working his magic on TAG's offering: Kangaroo 'confit' sliders with
heirloom tomatoes, bibb lettuce and tomato aioli. Needless to say, they earned
my chip, as well as 2nd place in both Judge's and People's Choice categories.
TAG's variety of heirlooms, keeping things colorful.
(Photo courtesy: Lori Midson/Westword)
Park Burger showing up with the Croque Burger - shaved ham and
a fried egg that was perfectly yolk-a-rific. How they executed
that in a tent, I have no clue. (Photo courtesy: Lori Midson/Westword)
Though not playing for chips, Happy Cakes showed up with Burger Macaroons:
deceptively filled with chocolate ganache. Haha.

An All-Star judging panel: Alex Seidel (Fruition), Kelly Liken (Restaurant Kelly Liken), Jeff Osaka (twelve) and Justin Brunson (Masterpiece Deli).
(Photo courtesy: Lori Midson/Westword)


Judge's Choice: Park Burger! 2 years and counting... they may be sabotaged in 2012. 
People's Choice: Highland Tap and Burger's "Shroom Luva's Burger" - with
sauteed mushrooms, Ementhaler, and truffled aioli. This one won me over
as well, simple in nature but perfectly executed.
(Photo courtesy: Lori Midson/Westword)

In the end, a night of gluttony ultimately served a great cause. Until next year, burger lovers! Dish It Up!


  1. OMG, how can I enter next year's?

  2. That's a great question L.S. - email and hopefully you can get in on the action for 2012!