The gourmet burger trend shows no signs of slowing, as the concept hit the fast-casual world hard and fast, knocking the Big Mac off its gluttonous high horse. In particular, our sunny home state has cooked up some brilliant burger chains during the last bunch of years that are growing in popularity and expanding in footprint.
Started by a former McDonald's executive in 2007, Smashburger has elevated the "value" proposition of its menu – concentrating on cooked-to-order, high-quality and freshness inside its warm and welcoming walls. The chain exclusively uses 100 percent Certified Angus Beef. Frozen meat is banned, so each patty starts as a ball of ground beef seared on a buttered griddle and smashed to perfection. The press and push technique that creates a distinct tender and juicy effect, finds its roots from Midwestern preparation traditions. If the sandwiches aren't filling enough, try a classically cool milkshake made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream. With more than 300 stores spread across the country and around the world, the Denver-based fast-casual chain is rolling out mobile ordering and plans to open 75 to 80 additional locations this year.
With a fine dining background, chef Jean-Philippe Failyau took a turn toward Americana cuisine, bringing an attention-grabbing burger selection to the Platt Park neighborhood a few years back. Now, Park Burger has four locations down and one to go international, thanks to a group of Kuwaiti exchanges students who attended the University of Denver, frequented the restaurant and were so impressed they opted to open one in their home country. The most recent local iteration in the River North neighborhood offers live music and a 1,500-square-foot patio. Check out the chain's burger of the month – the Nacho Burger.
Between Summit and Eagle County resorts – Larkburger was born in 2006 out of Vail's Larkspur, a well-known fine dining eatery. When the owners realized their hamburgers accounted for 40 percent of their food sold, they spun off a hamburger joint. Fast-forward and Larkburger is at the forefront of the fast-casual gourmet burger boom. Generally jarred accouterments, such as the mayonnaise, are made from scratch – proving a commitment to preservative and additive free cooking wherever possible. The restaurants are nut-free and offer a wide variety of gluten- and dairy-free options as desired or required for customers. Larkburger's higher-ups have explained they have no intention of franchising the chain, and with more than 10 restaurants already under their umbrella, intend to continue expanding organically.