Nothing beats a juicy burger loaded with your favorite toppings. While backyard grilling sessions are a summer standard, sometimes it’s best to leave the cooking (and dishes) to the pros — and in metro Denver, there are a lot of burger pros to choose from. In this city, it’s almost as easy to find a good burger as it is to find a dispensary, whether you’re looking for a classic favorite or catching a newcomer at a pop-up.
But we’re not talking about good burgers here. We’re talking about the best burgers. Buns, toppings and meat all count when you’re looking for the best, and these spots score high on all three. So go forth and bite into our picks for the Denver area’s ultimate burgers.
Bob’s Atomic Burgers sits in the shadow of Table Mountain in Golden.
Bob’s Atomic Burgers doesn’t have a roster filled with goofy names and crazy ingredients. If you want a burger, you just order a hamburger. Extras for your mountainous mouthful are either free — tomato, onion and pickled jalapeños — or a buck each, if you hunger for the likes of bacon, green chile, guacamole, cheese or a fried egg. Whatever you choose, it will be mounded on top of a six-ounce patty formed to order from fresh-ground beef. And while that beef is cooked to a pink-free medium, the fat-to-lean ratio definitely leans toward fat, so your burger will arrive juicy and dripping. If you insist that your burger have a name, stop by for occasional specials like the Shaq Attack (cherry peppers, cheddar and bacon) or Pastor Al’s Hamburguesa (topped with pineapple-chili pork).
Bud’s Bar is a survivor. It survived a change in ownership and the smoking ban, and still came out on top. We’ve eaten burger after burger across the metro area, but we always return to this uncompromising roadhouse, where the no-nonsense waitresses are fully capable of handling a bunch of bikers, not to mention customers demanding fries (which Bud’s doesn’t serve) — and where complaining about the wait (which there almost always is) could get your ass deservedly 86’d into the parking lot. Bud’s ain’t pretty and it ain’t nice, and it ain’t exactly welcoming to strangers. But its burger is perfect.
The Castle offers burger deals every Tuesday.
The Castle Bar & Grill
First, a great bar burger must be cooked up in a great bar — and the Castle definitely qualifies. Inside the cheesy, castle-like exterior is a massive sunken bar, surrounded by captain’s chairs where regulars can make themselves comfortable, enjoying cheap drinks while they wait for their juicy, half-pound, hand-pattied bar burgers, topped with everything from barbecue sauce to a respectable housemade green chile. Come in on Tuesday for the burger deal…but be prepared to wait.
2220 Blake Street, 303-297-3644
Denver’s oldest burger bar lets you mess around with toppings if you want, but a char-grilled Cricket Burger is all you really need. And, okay, throw on some green chiles if you must (we definitely must). The Cherry Creek original keeps getting more iconic — and more iconoclastic — as the rest of the neighborhood grows and modernizes around it. A second location that opened in spring 2018 added the restaurant’s classic appeal to the Ballpark neighborhood.
After impressing the adventurous eaters at the now-closed Rebel Restaurant, chef Bo Porytko is once again getting rebellious with food at Middleman, where his Misfit Snack Bar menu includes a rotating cast of creative culinary dishes. But there’s one staple: “My Fucking Burger.” According to the menu, “There are many like it but this one is mine.” If you must know the details, this a double beef patty with American cheese, thin-sliced pickles, caramelized onions and a generous slathering of reddish sauce with flecks of dill. And it is indeed a great fucking burger.
Yes, My Brother’s Bar has a fascinating history that stretches back to the 1870s and encompasses Neal Cassady and the Beat Generation. But Denver denizens come for burgers and beers — and, now that the interior has reopened, good conversations with the bartenders and servers. Natives will argue about which is better — the JCB (that’s jalapeño cream cheese to you noobs), the cheesier Johnny Burger or the original, unadulterated Steerburger. Whichever you choose, don’t expect a classy presentation (not even a plate!), and be sure to include a mixed basket of fries and onion rings.
Forget fries, At Smash & Grab, it’s all about chips and caviar.
Trevor Gilham and Eli Cox’s pandemic-era burger pop-up side hustle isn’t stopping anytime soon. They expect to make at least monthly appearances at the Way Back through the summer. The deal is simple: Watch their Instagram page for updates on when and where (in case they do make a move in the coming months) to find them, then show up early to score one of their greasy-in-a-good-way smash burgers. And don’t even think about asking for topping modifications — you can pick off what you don’t want. Also available: natural wines by the bottle, and chips and caviar. Yes, you should get (at least) one of everything.
2535 Federal Boulevard, 720-535-5184
1001 East 11th Avenue, 720-573-9134
Jimmy Seidel, who founded the Snarf’s sandwich chain in 1996, says he liked to cook burgers for his employees “just for fun, and they loved them, and I kinda always wanted to give a burger place a shot.” So in 2013, he turned a former barbecue shack in Boulder into the first Snarfburger, and “now I’m in the sandwich-and-burger business,” says Seidel. Snarfburger is a casual spot that emphasizes affordable basic burgers with the same delicious, humorous twists that have become a hallmark of Snarf’s. Pair your single, double (or triple or quad — extra patties are just $1.95 each) with an order of frings and a frozen custard.
A restaurant’s name is an unlikely place to find the word “scrap,” given that it generally refers to the stuff chefs throw away. But Sullivan Scrap Kitchen chef/owner Terence Rogers is dedicated to using as much of everything in his kitchen as possible. The no-waste approach makes a kitchen crew think about each ingredient, utilizing everything to its full potential rather than relying on standard preparations that add up to less than the sum of their parts. As a result, the burgers, made with Colorado grass-fed beef or lamb, stand out for their pure, meaty flavor in combination with local products like River Bear bacon and housemade pickles. Even if you didn’t know the casual eatery’s mission, you’d still recognize a great burger from the first bite.
Antoine “Twan” Villaume introduced his take on the smash burger to Denver when he started popping up at markets around town in early 2021. Like other burgers in the same category, this is a double patty with shredded lettuce, housemade pickles, onions and special sauce on a potato bun. Nothing too crazy. But Villaume’s commitment to the sear and creating almost crackly edges for the beef are sights to behold. So where can you get your soon-to-be-greasy hands on one? Villaume keeps it simple: “I post my schedule on Instagram every week, and it’s the only way to find me!”
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