Every bracket needs a Cinderella story, right? And in true Cinderella fashion, this outcome wasn’t contrived or made up, but was sincere and unexpected. This could also be where the hate mail starts, but give us a chance to explain ourselves.
Let’s go to the match-up:
If City Grille wins the award for most self promotion at their restaurant, then Larkburger certainly wins for best self-promoting website. Small sample from their admittedly well designed and beautiful website: “The truth is, this isn’t a burger you hold. It’s a burger you behold. Down to the last detail. It looks as delicious as it tastes. It’s the perfect marriage of quality ingredients which delivers a memorable experience in every bite.”
Larkburger started with a menu item at Larkspur restaurant in Vail, CO. After a few years of burger praise, the owners decided to spread their larkburger to the masses, and now have 12 locations spread all over Colorado. It’s a little bit like a burger version of Chipotle, better than fast food but not quite a full restaurant. They’ve received heaps of praise throughout the years from not only fans and local media, but they even had write-ups in magazines like Bon Appetit. They’re menu is able to please whatever you’re in the mood for, as they’ve got things like turkey burgers, tuna burgers, portabella mushroom burgers, and even a chicken burger (basically a grilled chicken sandwich, which is quite literally the greatest chicken sandwich of all time. If we ever have a Denver Chicken Sandwich Bracket, Larkburger wins hands down). But of course this is LarkBURGER and the Denver Burger Bracket, so we went with the Larkburger with cheese.
The Larkburger is a 1/3 lb Black Angus patty seasoned with ground pepper and kosher salt. It is cooked to order with leaf lettuce, house ripened tomato, sliced red onion and thick cut dill pickles (no pickles for me please). It’s also topped with a house sauce (kind of thousand island-y) and served on a fresh baked and toasted brioche bun. And if you didn’t already know this about Larkburger before entering, you’ll be hit over the head by their commitment to freshness and green-ness. They’ve got gluten and dairy free products. They list allergy information prominently. They don’t have trash cans, they have compost bins. They also have recycling bins. They use reclaimed cedar wood for their decor. And oh yes, only the freshest ingredients.
While this is all well and good, at the end of the day, I’m eating a freaking burger. Yes freshness directly correlates to taste and quality, but again, if it tastes the best, it wins. The Larkburger is very good, but also left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Maybe it was the hype, or maybe it was the fact that it tastes kind of like a lot of other burgers I’ve had in my lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than any fast food chain out there, but it didn’t leave me with the greasy euphoria of In N Out, nor did it bring something unique and new to the table like ChoLon. It was just a plain ole good burger.
Side Note: Get the truffle parmesan fries. Yes truffle oil is cliche nowadays, but they’re delicious. Also, the chicken sandwich. Did I mention that yet??
(8) Crown Burgers
Crown Burgers on S. Colorado Blvd. near Denver University is the home of the pastrami burger (which bears a striking, yet unrelated resemblance to the famous Salt Lake City burger chain of the same name). That’s right people, their Royal Burger is topped with a generous pile of spicy and delicious pastrami. In addition to the name and the pastrami, the other thing that crossed the border from the Beehive State to the Mile High City is fry sauce. Is it thousand island dressing? Does it have ranch in it too? Who knows? It’s just good.
Crown Burgers is just about the exact opposite from Larkburger in terms of appearance, and is housed in one of those buildings complete with formica booths and fake brick floors that look like a 1970s McDonald’s, but turn into a Mexican fast food joint because their burgers aren’t very good. So like a pre-judged book cover, I gave Crown Burgers an 8 seed. I knew it had pastrami on it, but I’ve been burned many times before by places who advertise great pastrami burgers, only to deliver sub-par burgers with fatty, stringy, and hard to eat pastrami on top. Luckily, this was miles apart that disappointing.
The Royal Burger is a classic taste with a pastrami twist. Everything works in perfect harmony, and is perfectly cooked. The burger patty is juicy, the toppings are traditional but stay together and doesn’t get messy/sloppy, and the pastrami is flavorful, tender, and incredible. One of the best pastramis I’ve ever had, with or without a burger. The fry sauce is a great touch, and it was cheap and filling to boot. Yes they have menu specials painted on their windows like they’re selling a used car, and yes it looks like it’s a few steps away from being shut down by the health department. But it’s a great burger.
This one was tough, because neither restaurant put forth a below average effort. When a match-up is close, with both places making great burgers at worth-it prices, it comes down to a gut decision. Which burger would I go back for sooner? In the end Crown Burger‘s Cinderella burger had me wanting to go back for another.