This is one of those match-ups where you look at the entire Denver Burger Bracket as a whole and think, “Wow this match-up over here is A LOT tougher than a #2 vs. #7 should be.” When I made the bracket, I didn’t quite know about the Bud’s Bar lore. I knew enough that Bud’s needed to be included in the bracket, but I was unaware of how exactly to seed them.(FYI for those asking: seeding in the Denver Burger Bracket was based off of 3 things. First was reputation. Second was previous experience (if any). And the third factor was a sliding scale between how fancy a restaurant the contender is or how much of a hole-in-the-wall it is. Fancy restaurants got seeded higher than hole-in-the-walls if reputation and previous experience were similar)
Anywho, after hearing and reading some hype about Bud’s Bar, I felt genuinely bad that I had seeded them a #7 seed. Just like the NCAA Tournament and March Madness, we take seeding very seriously. So was the match-up in fact closer than it should have been? Or did it end up being seeded as it should always have been?
Let’s get to the breakdown:
(2) Highland Tap & Burger
Highland Tap & Burger is the concept of Massachusetts transplants, who took over this Highlands space in 2010 and have been cranking out great burgers and a great tap selection ever since. From their website: “Our concept was to put some of the flavor profiles found in fine dining in between the bun in a casual pub style atmosphere where people could watch a game, get something other than a bunch of fried food and processed meats, and enjoy a pint of Colorado Craft beer.”
And that pretty much sums the place up. It’s somewhere in-between fancy restaurant and a sports bar, and has flavors that are well above what you’re used to. They’ve got 8 burger combinations on their menu, as well as a create-you-own section. They’re well known for the lamb burger and downright famous for their Shroom Luvas burger (htb season salt sauteed mushroom blend and cheese, with the option to add some shaved foie gras), which won the People’s Choice award at the Denver Burger Battle. For the bracket, we couldn’t have picked anything other than the Tap Burger (Signature beef patty with Eli’s root beer pulled pork, mamas pilsner onion ring, american cheese, cheddar cheese & our signature tap sauce. With a fried egg added on top for good measure.) Served in a basket with house made fries for $11.50.
As you can probably imagine from the description, this burger was a MESS to eat. A dripping, sloppy, but ultimately wildly delicious mess. The juice of the pork, burger, and egg, combined with the signature sauce made this a bit of a wet burger as well. But man do all those flavors work together in pure harmony. The burger was cooked perfectly, the fried onion ring added saltiness and crunch, while the two different meats and the fried egg added something damn near an umami flavor. The fries were very good as well, but because it was served in a basket and was a hard burger to eat, you end up having to put your burger on top of your fries when you set it down. I would’ve preferred is served on a plate, but what are you gonna do? All in all the Tap Burger’s flavor alone is worthy of not only it’s #2 seeding, but also worthy of title contender status.
Side Note: Didn’t have my phone/camera when I ate at Highland Tap & Burger, but you can enjoy these great pics from their website.
(7) Bud’s Bar
Bud’s Bar is as old-school as it gets. It’s a small local bar in Sedalia, which is a good 20-30 minute drive from anywhere near downtown Denver. It’s won numerous awards over the years, and has built up somewhat of a cult following. When we walked in, the place was filled with people only doing one thing: eating burgers.
The menu isn’t really necessary, because they’re only serving one thing, but at least it gives you the price. $3.50 for a cheeseburger, which puts this place on par with CandleLight Tavern in terms of price. It’s about as bare bones for a restaurant/bar as you can get, but it looks like everyone likes it that way. Their burgers are served with a bag of Lays potato chips as well, which may or may not have been added to my burger at some point. They’re served with a side dish of raw white onions and pickles as well.
As you can see from the picture, it looks basically identical to the burger at CandleLight Tavern. Obviously this was the precursor, but still. The burger is greasy, but that’s about the only thing adding flavor. It’s traditional, which means it’s good, but it’s not bringing anything special to the table. Just like with CandleLight Tavern, it feels like I could’ve stayed home and made this in my kitchen. But instead I drove to Sedalia for it for some reason.
In the end the seeding turned out to be correct. In the world of March Madness, a #2 seed beats a #7 seed almost every time. Highland Tap & Burger cruises to an easy first round victory.