I CAN’T STAND IT. Another food critic has ranked the burgers in town and of course they’re wrong. OK, I happen to disagree with some of their opinions. But why would anyone disagree with my opinion on anything? Oh well, time to explain what I think a good burger is and what it isn’t.

I must be the only one who wants a burger to taste like a burger. Seems others describe in detail the toppings and bottomings of all burgers and no one cares what the beef itself tastes like, or if they’re cooked to order, or if you go away starving cuz you gotta three ounce patty with foo foo on it.

When I rank burgers they have to meet certain standards. That includes no lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, cheese of 47 varieties, Foie gras, ham, egg (fried or otherwise), pulled pork, green chili, red chili, tomato jam, onion rings, mushrooms, corned beef, pastrami, hot dog, or truffles. No mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, or any other sauce of any kind. Just a decent size (half pound or more preferred), hand packed, and cooked to my desired temperature. It should be served on a good quality, not overpowering, not an enormous six inches around, fresh, not pre-frozen and thawed, bun. The burger should be seasoned with salt and pepper, not dowsed with kosher salt or any other ingredient. Is that too much to ask? I want to taste the bun and the meat.

Several years ago my eldest son, who has a liking for fast food, told me I had to check out the burgers at Good Times. Yeah, ok. I ordered their double patty burger with everything, took it out to a table, sat down and ate it. Got about halfway thru the sangie when I realized there was no patty at all. No beef. No meat, just veggies and sauces and altho It was tasty, it wasn’t what I paid for. Ever since then I’ve vowed never to order a burger that way again. On to the subject at hand.

First thing I noticed was that this review was in honor of Steak ‘n Shake’s opening in the metro area. That in and of itself scared the crap outta me. I’ve been to one Steak ‘n Shake, in August 1993 in Columbia, Missouri. Secondo (son #2) and I were driving thru the area when we stopped for a burger and I guess a shake. Maybe the worst burger I ever had. Typical fast food, very well-done patty, no flavor. Don’t remember the shake.

I remember earlier that same year when the Von Meat episode forced the closing of Jack in the Box eateries across the U.S. That was a sad day cuz there was one located directly across from my office. I luved that store. I would go in about 7 am and they would cook me a burger anyway I wanted. Rare was rare and delish. Soo sad. They’re back now, but not cooking burgers the way I want them.

AOL America’s favorite burger in the entire U.S. is a tiny joint in an old A-frame that opened in 1963, not long after I went to high school in that same city. The place is still there. They serve a small burger, cooked to order actually and tasty, and they get raves from all the local media. The runners up are fast fooderies Cheeburger Cheeburger and Johnny Rockets, neither of which will cook a burger to order here. Note the quote above, recognizing that Thomas Keller is one of the premier celebrity chefs in America and he luvs (California-based) In-N-Out Burger. Of course he doesn’t know that the local Old School Burger joints blow In and Out Burger’s away. That is, if they’re still in business.

On to the Westword Top Ten, not in any particular order, with my comments. These are not my Top Ten. By the by, Westword does a really good job on dining info and I “borrow” lotsa info from them as well as from 5280 and The Denver Post.

Highland Tap & Burger – a good burger, not muh fav. My daughter luvs it.

Park Burger – Been there twice. The hot dog is better than the burger, the burger bun sucks. The burger itself was very good. Top ten, maybe.

Bud’s Bar – That’s the funniest one of all. I luv Bud’s Bar. I have one or two doubles every time I go, and then around the corner to Sedalia Grill for dessert. But there is no such thing as rare here. The burgers are great, but not TT stuff.

Crave Real Burgers – A Castle Rock eatery that I’ve never been to. The website sez big, fresh ground chuck, hand-pressed. Sounds good to me so G and I’ll travel down to the Outlet Mall and visit Crave. I see that they are sister restaurants to the Old Stone Church in Castle Rock, and that’s a good thing. Chef Jeff Richard is extraordinary.

Colt & Gray – Went to a reception there, the food was outstanding, didn’t get a burger but will next week. I might concur solely based on the quality of the past foods I sampled. Good stuff. Tuff to find the place tho.

Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar – Never been, will go. Judgment reserved. Sadly, never even heard of the place. Their nice marketing lady faxed me the menu. Looks yummy.

Larkburger – mmm, yes, definitely in my TT. I get two every time I go and been there three times in the past ten days. Make it four as I go to press.

My Brother’s Bar – to the contrary, definitely not in my TT. Last time I went it took five send-backs to get a burger with any pink at all, and the price was absurd. You don’t even get a hunka tomato.

The Keg Steakhouse & Bar – Been there several times, never had the burger cuz they use a ground prime rib and it never looks rare even tho it may be. Besides, they don’t do lunch and burgers are not normally dinner fare.

H Burger – The last time I went (several years ago) the burgers were never cooked to requested temperature and that was three visits in four weeks and four diners each time, so I gave up.

There you are, with all my comments and criticisms. Not sure I’d ever do a Top Ten again, cuz there are too many great ones and too many folks would criticize my list. The Westword critic did a perty fine job after all considering I wasn’t invited to test.


Jay Fox is the dining critic for The Statesman. He can be reached at:

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