This Rockies region match-up features a legit restaurant, Central Bistro and Bar vs. a legit dive, Grandpa’s Burger Haven. One is new, cool, and hip. The other is just, well old and old. As both are located in two entirely different and cultural “barrios” within 4.3 miles of each other, they each have a different character and most importantly, a different burger. Let’s see who is worthy of advancing.
(2) Central Bistro And Bar
One of the HOT-est restaurants in the LoHi neighborhood is Central Bistro and Bar. This American inspired, farm to table, newcomer, has been booming only serving food and drink since the summer of 2012. With a huge focus on using the most fresh and local ingredients, their menu is quite seasonal with a great deal of inspiration from the chefs. By using a variety of unique cooking techniques, the chefs are able to pull the best of out each ingredient and deliver a well rounded, thoughtful dish. Whether it be the Crispy Pork Belly appetizer (with puree of Early Garlic / Fingerling Potato Salad ) or the Confit Chicken Wings (Honey – Dijon Sauce / Celery Leaves), anything you get will create a flavor party in your mouth. Although they have the traditional carnivore dishes, steak, pork, chicken, they also make a pretty mean, juicy, tangy, burger.
Prior to starting the Denver Burger Bracket, we had heard from many including the General Manager that the burger at Central is quite delicious. He was not kidding. Their Box Car Burger exemplified what a homemade burger should be. There is nothing like a hand ground in house patty (8oz) with shoulder and brisket cuts sandwiched between a soft, delicate housemade onion bun, topped with a rich Maytag Blue cheese, caramelized onions and of course bacon. I’m not the biggest fan of Blue Cheese, however, this burger just created the exception for me. One thing that was noticeably clear was that they allowed time for the burger to “rest” once they cooked it. This was an integral step as it ensured the burger was not sitting in a puddle of its own juices upon arrival. Once I slathered a little aioli on one top half of the bun, I was ready to dive right in. The combination of all flavors brought out the best of the burger, leaving me wanting to take bite after bite. As always, that’s a good sign.
Sidenote: The “Side” Car to compliment this Box Car would be the crispy, skinny, house cut fries. With a heaping portion of fries this one two punch rounds out at $14.00. Not bad at all considering what you are eating.
(7) Grandpa’s Burger Haven
If you were to look up “Hole In The Wall ” up in the (urban) dictionary, you might see Grandpa’s Burger Haven as the definition. Not just because it is a square shaped, window covered location off the infamous Federal Blvd, but rather that fact that you actually order through a hole in the wall. Founded in 1953, two years before the first McDonalds, this aged local landmark with nothing more than a sign out front, has been iconic for those who have lived in Denver for a long, long time. If it’s not the 4′ x 15′ ordering area with the black and white square tiles that gives the “dive feel” away, it has to be their sick menu. Known for being #1 on the big bun, Grandpa’s is notorious for their 6” special made soft buns from Wonderbread.
Ordering a burger from Grandpa’s is similar to buying tickets to the movies. You look up to see what you will be ordering, walk up to the window and place your order. My order for this battle: Single Cheeseburger with Grilled Onion, Tomato, Lettuce, Pickle and Mustard. After about 4 minutes of the cook smashing the 4oz patty (from Anderson Meat Company) with her spatula on the flattop, my burger was done. Wrapped in black and white checkered paper and stuffed into a plain white “Grandpa’s Bag” as they called it, I took 5 steps outside to the only table, sat down, and opened up the wrapping paper. What I saw was a semi- greasy, simple, and classic burger on a monster bun that looked delicious. Now, some may have a different view, but, what really makes Grandpa’s special is the fact that it is so old and to some may be considered a bit of a novelty. But, for $4.46 what is there to complain about?
You can not judge a book by its cover. Even though this is not where I would frequent, this spot is a must if you want to experience an old version of a more traditional burger joint.
All factors combined, this decision came down to the question we ask ourselves in the event it is a close one: If I wanted a burger right now and it was between Grandpa’s and Central, I would have to say the latter. The convenience, the fresh ingredients, the atmosphere, the overall taste all lean towards Central. However, if I am hungover, driving down Federal, you better believe I am stopping at Grandpa’s to get the big bun. That said, Central Bistro and Bar is advancing to the 2nd round.