Watching the Denver episode of “Bizarre Foods America”, I was introduced to a new word I had never heard before: “Den-Mex”. WTF is Den-Mex?? According to the host Andrew Zimmern, Den-Mex is bastardized Mexican food, which closely resembles New Mexican cuisine. Basically, just take some American-ized Mexican food, and slather a shit ton of green chile on it. So for the Denver Burger Bracket, we knew that we needed to have a match-up that featured a couple of burgers topped with green chiles.
Let’s go to the match-up:
Steuben’s Food Service hit the Denver restaurant scene in 2006 in their Uptown location serving what they call everyone’s “greatest hits collection”. No matter where you’re from, Steuben’s strives to include your favorite comfort food on their menu. Everything from mac-n-cheese to pasta, from meatloaf to fried chicken and BBQ, Steuben’s will hit the spot when you’re craving something from back home. And in America, someone is always craving a burger.
When researching which green chile burger to choose for the Denver Burger Bracket, Steuben’s name popped up more often than anywhere else. Maybe it’s because they list The Owl Cafe in Albuquerque as inspiration for including a green chile cheeseburger on their menu, or maybe it’s just because Steuben’s has risen to the top of the heap as one of the trendier and most talked-about places in town? Or maybe it’s cause it’s the best green chile cheeseburger in the city? That’s what I was there to find out.
Everything at Steuben’s is served a-la-carte, which means your $8 green chile burger turns into an $11 affair if you want a side of fries with it. The a-la-carte nature of everything on the menu also makes you think that the stand alone entree or sandwich is going to be big enough to warrant its singular service, but that really wasn’t the case. Unfortunately the service wasn’t the best either (Brought me a regular cheeseburger instead of a green chile cheeseburger, then just brought out a bowl of cooked green chiles which I applied to the burger myself. Also, brought my wife a regular milkshake even though she ordered a malt.), so it was hard to tell if that’s how the burger is SUPPOSED to get to the customer. When I asked my server he said, “It’s a regular cheeseburger with just a ton of green chiles on it.” Well OK then.
At the end of the day, the waiter summed up Steuben’s green chile cheeseburger pretty effectively. Fairly regular cheeseburger with some green chile on it. And while the green chiles added a flavor dimension to the burger which some maybe remember from their home town, it didn’t quite reach the expectations of a Burger Bracket Winner.
Jack-N-Grill is a family run restaurant that’s been serving New Mexico style cuisine since 2000. They’ve earned some lofty praise from the likes of Travel Channel, who not only voted it the #13 place to “chowdown” in America, but also sent Adam Richman from “Man vs. Food” there to get brought to his knees by their 7 lb. breakfast burrito challenge (And yes, “food won” on that day). Chowing down is precisely what happens at Jack-N-Grill, as their portions are gargantuan. And while they’re well known for giant wet burritos and huge stuffed sopapillas, they’ve got 13 different burger choices on the menu.
The Jaxx burger at Jack-N-Grill is quoted as being “The King Of Burgers”. That’s some pretty high expectations from a menu. The burger is a full 10 oz. patty with guacamole, sour cream, bacon, fresh green chile, and cheese. If that sounds like a lot going in in one burger, just wait until you actually see it. It comes to you on an oversized plate with a side of frings (rings are better than their fries), but their specially made bun disguises just how big this burger is because everything fits under the top bun. It’s not until you actually try to pick up this monster that you realize it’s easily 3 times the size of a normal burger.
Size alone doesn’t mean victory though, as we all know that taste is at the heart of the Bracket. And it all starts with the bun for a Jack-N-Grill burger, which is downright incredible. You’d think that making an extra large burger bun would result in a stiff/bready bun, but it was soft and chewy, holding up nicely to everything going on inside of this burger. As for what was between the bun, it all just worked. Each topping could be tasted individually, but came together on my taste buds and worked some magic. The cheese was gooey and melted spectacularly into the meat, and the bacon/guac/sour cream/green chiles were both decadent and a great Mexican flavor. The green chiles added great flavor, but didn’t have to be the only additional flavor profile, which worked well for the burger. The burger got a little sloppy while eating as some of the toppings were pretty slippery, but it was definitely some messy goodness. Coming in at $9.49 for the plate, it was a great deal considering it’s nearly 2 meals worth of food.
In this green chile burger match-up, it might be easy to go the “Top Chef” route, and decide which burger best utilized our key ingredient. But at the end of the day, it’s got to be a winning “all around” burger. In this case, that means a clean sweet for Jack-N-Grill (better bun, better burger patty, and better green chiles).