On Thursday, August 3, Denver Burger Battle returned for its eighth year. Sixteen restaurants were on site at Tivoli Park slinging burgers and competing for the title of Best Burger. All net proceeds from the event — which has raised more than $85,000 for charity in the past — go to the non-profit Kossler Foundation, which will distribute the money to charities in Denver assisting with hunger relief.
Participating restaurants included TAG Burger Bar, Cherry Cricket, Park Burger, Crave Real Burgers, Highland Tap and Burger, Stoic & Genuine, American Grind, Bully Ranch, The Pig and Sprout, Uber Eats, Prohibition, Concourse, Departure, Marczyk Fine Foods, My Brother’s Bar and Stanley Beer Hall.
Stoic & Genuine
Where: Stoic & Genuine — 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver
The Burger: Double Cheeseburger with ground New York Strip, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.
The Lowdown: This was our clear winner. We’re not typically fans of over complicated burgers, and Stoic & Genuine’s is proof that simple is best. At an event where it’s difficult to keep the temperature and cook on point, this burger had the perfect about of juice from the meat and slight crunch from the char.
Where: American Grind (inside Avanti F&B) — 3200 N. Pecos St., Denver
The Burger: All the Way Cheeseburger with white American cheese, lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, housemade ketchup, mustard and pickle and a challah sesame seed bun.
The Lowdown: American Grind came with another example of why simple is best. Some things are classic for a reason, and American Grind showed that with the perfect balance of all the classic toppings and a cushy challah bun.
Highland Tap & Burger
Where: Highland Tap & Burger — 2219 W. 32nd Ave., Denver
The Burger: The Smashed LTO Burger with two thin crispy patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, white cheddar, American cheese, Tender Belly bacon, Carolina Gold mustard sauce, comeback sauce and housemade pickles.
The Lowdown: As we venture into the more complicated burgers, Highland Tap & Burger was a nice medium. The traditional LTO toppings were present, with welcome additions like bacon and pickles. We also loved the mixture of the two southern sauces — a tangy Carolina Gold mustard sauce and a zesty comeback sauce.
TAG Burger Bar
Where: TAG Burger Bar — 1222 Madison St., Denver
The Burger: FNG Burger with fresh, house-ground beef, smoked pork belly, buttermilk onion rings, Coca-Cola barbecue sauce and aged cheddar.
The Lowdown: True life — we ate this burger so quickly that we had to go back for a photo. The FNG burger was sweet and smoky, with a Coca-Cola barbecue sauce that balanced well with the pork belly and aged cheddar. The team also served the crispy onion rings seperately — a smart move at an event like this where things tend to get soggy if left too long.
Where: Cherry Cricket — 2641 E. 2nd Ave., Denver
The Burger: Fire Belly Burger with strawberry habanero cream cheese, fried onions, grilled jalapeños, pork belly and a sesame Kaiser bun.
The Lowdown: So this is where things get a little crazy. We’re not always about the off-the-wall burger creations that come out of events like this, but of all of the “out there” options, this was the winner. The Fire Belly burger has an interesting blend of strawberries and jalapenos — which makes for an interesting bite — but the story is even better. The burger was specially made in April to honor the fire fighters that saved the restaurant from the big fire they experienced earier this year.
BONUS — The James Beard Foundation
Where: No location — represents the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project
The Burger: The 60/40 Burger with 60% mushrooms and 40% ground beef in the patty.
The Lowdown: Not a Denver restaurant — we know — but still worth mentioning. The James Beard Foundation was there to promote its Blended Burger Project campaign — one that encourages restaurants to create a more sustainable burger using a combination of beef and mushrooms in the patty. We were skeptical, but totally wrong in our assumptions — the burger was lighter while still maintaining the meaty-burger flavor. Honestly, it was a welcome difference among all of the rich dishes at the event.
BONUS — Happy Bakeshop
Where: Happy Bakeshop — 3434 W. 32nd Ave., Denver
The Burger: Burger Macaron
The Lowdown: A dessert winner? At a burger battle? Yes, we had to. Happy Bakeshop made the most adorable burger-shaped macarons for the event that are worth noting. While most over-the-top themed foods tend to look better than they taste, this was certainly not the case with the macarons. Sinfully sweet with a nice texture, these were a nice sweet intermission between burger bites.
All photography by Alexandra Palmerton.