On Thursday, August 5, The Denver Burger Battle returned for its tenth iteration. Once again — after a year-long hiatus — the Tivoli Quad was filled with smiling throngs of hungry burger enthusiasts. The array, 1,500 strong, meandered through 16 booths, each representing what is arguably some of the finest talents in the city. More than a few folks were dressed in theme, though everyone was clearly on the same page, whether fitted to the nines or more casually clad. This was a crowd ready to feast, drink and meander through the smoke that descended both from on high and from the many grills that encircled the field.
There were more than a few familiar faces — featuring past winners The Cherry Cricket, Stoic and Genuine, Stanley Beer Hall and Highland Tap and Burger — as well as some fresh contenders — including Death and Co, Kuma’s Corner and Etc Eatery. Beyond that, 5280 Burger Bar, Bob’s Atomic Burgers, Briar Common Brewery, Hickory and Ash, Humboldt Kitchen and Bar, Illegal Burger, Snarfburger, The Castle Bar and Grill and The Original all brought competition-ready fare, churned out rapidly to meet the constant demand. Most stands served their burgers sliced into quarters, with a few sliders managing to make the task of eating everything all but impossible. To wash it all down, Cancion Tequila provided a tasting paired with cheese, chocolate and mango, Bulleit Bourbon shared standard, aged and exclusive varieties, Frankly Organic Vodka made cocktails and Boulder Spirits presented its whole line of locally-produced whiskeys. Great Divide was also onsite, sharing a central tent with Little Man Icecream for an essential pitstop for anyone who needed to punctuate what was otherwise a strictly beef affair.
Recipes ranged from decidedly traditional — Stoic and Genuine’s award-winning burger, made up of two beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and potato bun, has been largely unchanged across the years — to less conventional and equally delicious — like Tap and Burger’s My Nona Burger with mozarella, sunflower seed pesto, charred onion, Worcestershire-glazed tomato, salami and red pepper relish. There was plenty of wagyu, with Humboldt Kitchen opting to use ground short rib to truly brilliant effect. This was an ingredient-savvy bunch, with chefs making this year’s edition feel particularly culinarily driven. Burgers are always fun, and this year’s sophistication felt emblematic of a city on the rise.
At the end of the night, six different spots were crowned victorious by both a panel of judges and the voting public. The experts landed Death and Co in third and Stanley Beer Hall in second with Snarfburger walking with the coveted trophy. The crowd thought differently, with Stoic and Genuine in third, Humboldt Kitchen second and The Cherry Cricket topping the list. For anyone who had been in previous years, the event felt entirely familiar, a surprisingly low-stress tribute to the simple delights of the grill. This was truly a community event, reminding everyone who traipsed the field that day that Denver’s food scene is fueled perhaps even more by camaraderie than it is by its abundant creativity.
All photography by Kori Hazel.