This match-up is a tale of 2 visits. Well, make that 4 visits because I have actually had 2 burgers at each establishment. And in the end, the winner of this first round match-up in the Denver Burger Bracket could only have been determined correctly after the second burger for each restaurant. Confused? It’ll all make sense after the break down.
Let’s go to the match-up:
(3) The Lobby
The Lobby bills itself as “an inspired American grille” (is the ‘e’ on the end of ‘grille’ American? I’m unsure), and has a giant restaurant space complete with outdoor courtyard seating. They’ve got a rotating tap list of top notch beer, a location right across the street from Great Divide Brewing Co in case you need some food after tasting some craft brews, and a menu centered around 1/2 lb. stuffed burgers. By “stuffed”, The Lobby means that all of the toppings listed are put inside of the large burger patty before it’s cooked. The main line-up of stuffed burgers includes meat stuffed with blue cheese and caramelized onions, cream cheese and jalapenos, mushroom and swiss cheese, and bacon, cheddar, and bbq sauce.
And then they have the Diablo Stuffed Burger.
The Diablo Stuffed Burger is touted by the menu simply as “The Hottest Burger in Denver”. Now, from my experience any place that explicitly lists something on their menu as the “hottest”, “best”, or “biggest” it usually doesn’t even come close to it. So I took to Yelp to look up some reviews from people who’ve eaten the Diablo Burger. What I found confirmed my initial thoughts: a burger that was spicy, but wasn’t anything that you hadn’t experienced before if you eat spicy food often (which I definitely do). Seeing as how I love spicy food and didn’t really have a spicy burger in the Bracket, I had to order the Diablo Stuffed Burger.
Now, the menu doesn’t really tell you what the burger is stuffed with, so you’re taking a little bit of a leap of faith. Not only did I come to find out that it was a bit spicier than Yelp reviewers indicated, but it very well could be the hottest damn burger in the Mile High City. The burger is stuffed with fresh cut jalapenos (hotter than the ones packed in jars with vinegar), and a habanero cream cheese mixture (that not only oozes out from the burger when you take a bite, but literally gets into every nook and cranny of the burger and your mouth). As if that wasn’t enough, the burger patty itself is blackened with cayenne, and topped with cayenne crusted bacon strips and another spicy sauce.
This burger knocked me on my ass from the very first bite. I struggled to not show my anguish, especially when nearly every employee came up to me and asked about it, all with the same “this guy is crazy” look on their face. The spice just kept building, but as people who like spicy food know, it becomes something that’s addicting and makes you want to keep eating. Finally, with my eyes and nose watering like crazy, I had to tap out after eating about 3/4 of the burger. The nail in the coffin was actually the cayenne crusting, which just became overwhelming the more and more I ate.
After leaving The Lobby for the first time without really having tasted the burger hidden between all of that spice, I felt that it needed a second shot to be adequately judged. So my wife and I went back to The Lobby a week later and split the bacon, cheddar, and bbq sauce stuffed burger. The concept of the stuffed burger is pretty cool and it works really well when the cheese/toppings come oozing out of the center of the burger. The only problem comes with the construction of the meat itself, which gets cooked into more of a fatter ball than a thin patty, which makes it hard to cook evenly. So (with both burgers actually), the outer parts of the burger were a lot more well-done than the inner parts. The bun was good though as you can see and I really liked the sweet bbq sauce.
(6) CandleLight Tavern
CandleLight Tavern has 3 things that are really going for them; it’s dirt cheap, it’s greasy (read: tastes good), and it’s close to me. CandLight is just about the closest bar to where I live, which as we all know plays a role sometimes when deciding what to eat or drink. It’s your quintessential dive bar, and has won numerous awards from the Denver media to prove its divey-ness. Their menu is about as spartan as their decor, and basically just consists of burgers and dogs (the even have coneys!). Pull up a seat at the bar, grab a beer, and eat a greasy burger. Repeat every other week of so. As it turns out, the first CandleLight burger I consumed was in a bit of a drunken stupor, so a second visit to adequately rate their burger was definitely necessary.
You’ve basically had this burger a million times in your life, as the look and taste is as familiar as it gets. It’s cooked on a flat top griddle, topped with cheese, covered to steam the cheese for extra gooey American cheese. The bun is plain (and exactly what you’d buy at King Soopers), and it’s served plain with pickles, raw white onion slices, and jalapenos in a little bowl next to your burger. Top it however you want (I go with mustard, onions, and a jalapenos slice or two). The meat is cooked decently, but not great, and oh boy is it greasy. It’s small enough that you could tackle 2-3 pretty easily, and after a few beers, that’s a pretty easy proposition. Tack on the price of $3.75 (with a bag of Lays), and it’s pretty hard to beat. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a solid effort and suits the whole vibe of the place.
This match-up in the Rockies region of the Denver Burger Bracket turned about to be a bit more difficult to decide than anticipated. At the end of the day, CandleLight Tavern’s burger was very good but it tasted like countless burgers I’ve actually made at home on my own, complete with the same bun and everything. The Lobby’s El Diablo Burger gets some serious kudos for actually living up to its status and somehow making me want to come back and conquer it in the future. It’s other stuffed burgers do just enough to squeak by into the second round. The Lobby gets the win.