Saturday, November 5, 2011

Trying to 1UP the Competition

While most of the Halloween celebrations occurred over the weekend, Monday night was when my friends decided to go out. I couldn't decide on a costume, so I copped out and wore a Multiple Man t-shirt. He's a mutant, he can make copies of himself, and I think he's pretty cool.

With my costume being super lame, we had to make up for it by going to some place super cool. Enter 1UP. This place is about a half block from where I work, and it's probably the coolest bar I've ever been to. Ever. Imagine all of the cool, old arcade games you love and beer. Sounds like heaven, right? Well, it turns out that heaven is on 19th and Blake.

I got out of work at around 6:30 and moseyed on over to 1UP. Assuming that my friends would be punctual, I had about 30 minutes to kill before they arrived, and what better way than playing pinball and Pac Man? I spent a few quarters, drank some beer, and set the high score on Pac Man so far that day. It probably wasn't that great of a score, but it was an amazing accomplishment! For me anyways. Hunger set in at around 7:00 when I got text messages that everyone was going to be late. I took my seat at the bar and grabbed a menu. Wings, Mozzarella Sticks, and other typical bar food was available, but I wanted dinner, not appetizers. I found the burger section and figured what the heck? I could eat a burger.

I noticed they had a signature 1UP burger, so I figured I'd give it a try. Beef patty? Check. Bacon? Check. Three cheese? Hesitant on the multi cheese again, but check. Doughnut for a bun? Check. Wait, what? A doughnut for a bun? This, I thought, was insanity, but it was the kind of insanity that just might work. I grabbed the bartender and asked, "So, is the burger pretty good?" He smiled and replied, "It's awesome." He also went on to explain that you'd never think it was going to be good, but it was just something you had to try. I agreed with the, "had to try," sentiment, so I went with the craziest burger I've had for this blog thus far.

I went back to playing the Terminator 2 pinball machine, which is fantastic by the way, and waited for my burger. A couple dollars in quarters later and I looked over to see them bring it up. The patty was a bit thin, but with three kind of cheese, bacon, and a doughnut I figured that was probably alright. They had sliced the doughnut in half and put the glazed parts on the inside. It's going to be messy enough with a hole in both buns, you might as well save yourself from glazed fingers as well. I picked it up, took a bite, and was instantly impressed. I would never have thought to do anything like this at home, but the cook that came up with this concept is a culinary genius.

The three cheeses were a bit much for me, but the bacon was done perfectly. Considering the burger was on the smaller side, it was cooked well. I can't fault them for not cooking it medium because it would be nearly impossible to make that happen. The sweetness of the doughnut combined with the saltiness of the bacon was a great balance. I think the only downside was the cheese. If I had picked only one cheese, this burger would be getting two joystick blistered thumbs up. Even with that minor flaw, the burger was fantastic. I started to fill up about 3/4 of the way through, and I can probably attribute that to the heaviness of the ingredients, but I would totally order this burger again. It's not a burger that you have to try just so you can say you tried it. It's a burger you have to try so that you don't mistakenly order something less awesome when you go to 1UP.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Little Frayed Around the Edges

This afternoon, I decided that it was time to try a new burger place. Near my house is a fantastic grocery store called Sprouts where I often buy produce. Every time I go to Sprouts, I drive by Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, and I always comment, "I need to try that place out." Well, today was the day. I hopped into my car, drove over to Freddy's, and hit the drive thru.

When I got up to the order window, I saw a sign above it with a quote from Freddy. "I promise we'll never start cooking until you order. Hot and fresh is always worth the wait." Freddy looks like a happy grandfatherly type, and he's got the lovingly unsteady grandpa signature to go along with his guarantee. The other thing that caught my eye from the sign was the picture of the burger. It looked a little rough around the edges and I wasn't quite sure what to make of that. Since they make all of the burgers to order, my drive thru wait was a little longer than a typical fast food joint. No worries though, I got a chance to listen to the new Coldplay song on the radio. I dig it, and I'm pretty jazzed for the new album.

When my turn finally came, I drifted up to place my order. I'm sure this isn't an accident, but many fast food establishments make their #1 combo their signature dish. Freddy's seems to be no different, so I ordered the Freddy's Original double with fries and a Pepsi. I would have preferred Coke, but that's a topic for another blogger. After a few minutes, I drove up to the window and picked up my lunch. The bag has several grease spots on it, which I took as a good sign. With a straw in my drink and a few shoestring french fries in my belly, I made my way back home.

I should preface my actual review on the burger by saying that I don't hold fast food burgers to the same standards as restaurant burgers. That being said, I've had some incredible fast food burgers and some incredibly bad restaurant burgers. I threw on this week's Modern Family episode and opened my bag. Freddy's put this burger in a cardboard container like you'd see on a Big Mac or something. I like that. The burger doesn't get mashed in a bag with other items.

I cracked open the box and saw what seemed to be a decent burger. The edges were definitely a little rough. I'm not entirely sure how they do that. Maybe they form the patty and kind of smash it on the grill or something. The frayed edge definitely gives the burger a distinct look. My burger had two patties, two slices of cheese, mustard, some pickles, raw white onions, and a buttered toasted bun. My first bite was just okay. The frayed edges go way over the boundaries of the bun, and I got a mouth full of burger but not much else. After the first few bites, I didn't have to deal with the edges anymore. This is where I started to enjoy what I was eating. It was a pretty simple burger with only 4 toppings, but it works. The onions weren't overpowering, and the mustard and pickles complimented nicely. Just enough cheese, and the patties were thin enough that you weren't overloaded with beef.

Overall, I was pretty happy with my burger. It had some character with the frayed edges, but the flavor was the clincher. I can honestly say that I've never had a burger with that specific combination of ingredients. I'd consider going back, but I'm a huge Five Guys fan and it's hard not to think of them when I want a quick bite.

If you're interested in checking out Freddy's, go here:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Comic Books and a Shelby Burger

As I wrote in the first entry, I'm a comic fan. If I'm in another city and there happens to be a comic shop, I'll make a special effort to check it out. So when I found out there was a small comic convention in Denver this weekend, I was totally jazzed about going. My good friend Glenn and I headed downtown at noon to poke around the various booths that were set up. I was pleasantly surprised to see a ton of cool silver and bronze age stuff. Silver age means stuff from roughly the sixties, and bronze age is pretty much seventies books. I was inches away from Amazing Fantasy #15 which was pretty neat. That's where Spider-Man appeared for those that don't know. It's super cool.

I, however, am a huge Daredevil fan, and I'm slowly putting together the entire run. My prized issue is actually Daredevil #1. It's in pretty rough shape. It looks about as good as the Chiefs did this afternoon against the Bills. In any case, I try to fill in a few issues at every show I go to. I have a list. I'm a huge dork. I totally love it. I scored 11 books bringing me down to 99 issues to go. The coolest one I got was #34.

I love goofy quotes and titles on old comics. They just rock.

After we were done at the show, it was lunch time and I was jonesing for a burger. Last time I went to a place I love, and there was another place nearby that I am a huge fan of. However, this would be the lamest blog ever if I never tried new burger places. So we hopped into Glenn's car and drove around a bit downtown before coming upon Shelby's. Located at 18th and Glenarm, Shelby's Bar and Grill looked like a place where you should be able to get a burger. And heck, this could be a great place to get a burger. It's been around for over thirty years, so they must do something well.

You know how people describe old stuff that should be replaced as having character? This place had a lot of character. A lot. That's okay though. This place just might have the best burger ever. Glenn and I opened our menus and both went straight to the burger section. Right off the bat I noticed the Shelby Burger. It had olives, cheddar, swiss, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. I hate olives. I'll eat them on pizza if there are no better options, but I generally find them to be an oddly textured piece of gross. Needless to say, I went Shelby Burger with no olives prepared medium. Glenn went with the exact same burger.

Now I've had cheddar and swiss before on grilled cheese sandwiches or fondue, but I've never gone multi-cheese on a burger. This would be the central concept that was new to me on this burger. After watching the beginning of the CU game, our burgers came out, and I have to admit that they looked pretty tasty. The waitress had given me a hard time about my indecision to include mayonaisse or not, but it was all in good fun. To be safe, she brought some out to the table just in case.

I piled my lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a little ketchup on the burger and prepared to take the first bite. It wasn't a bad bite, but it wasn't great either. I looked at the 1/3 pound of meat, minus one bite, and realized there wasn't even a hint of pink. The burger had been vastly overcooked, which means it was dry. I was disappointed. Not crazy, "Send this back!" disappointed, but it just wasn't what I had hoped for. The cheese duo didn't really work for me either. First of all, it was uneven, and I would get overly cheesy bites, and underly cheesy bites. I'm pretty sure that's not a word, but I'm using it anyways. Secondly, by including both cheddar and swiss with meat and veggies, there was just too much going on. I love cheddar and swiss, but not on the same burger. You don't get the specific qualities of either cheese. From now on, there can only be one cheese.

I'm glad I went to Shelby's. It's fun to try new places, and I learned a valuable lesson about cheese. By the way, if anyone else has cheese lessons I'll attend your class. I love cheese. The staff was super nice, and they even put on the Buffs game for me and Glenn. Glenn and I agreed that the burger wasn't anything to write home about. I'm not entirely sure if that counts blogging, but we'll say it doesn't. In any case, I'll start planning my next burger adventure. There are a few places I want to check out near work, so maybe a lunchtime quest is in order.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Do you hear crickets?

This blog was conceived a few months ago when I realized I'd need to do something with myself while my amazing wife was away at school. I love comics, games, reading, movies, tv, sports, and food. There are probably a million blogs about all of those subjects, but I really wanted to help people. I wanted to make sure that if they read my ramblings they would be able to take away something useful. I decided food would be the most interesting, useful, and fun thing to write about. I'm not going to slave over a solitary cookbook, and I won't be instructing you on the best way to fillet a fish. I'm just going to explore and enjoy one of my favorite foods in as many places as I can manage.

I like food. A lot. Liz, my wife, gives me a hard time when I ask her about what we should have for dinner. Granted, I'm asking like a day or two in advance, but these are important life decisions. Of all of the things we have to do to live, eating is by far the most enjoyable requirement. Sure, I like sleeping in as much as the next guy, but when I get to eat something truly delicious I feel like my day, and my meal, has been well spent. If I can look forward to steak with a red wine reduction or some baked ziti, I'm a happy guy. One food I can always look forward to is a good burger.

Burgers are incredible. I know you think I'm a crazy person for saying that, but let's think about all of the things you can do with a burger. With the variety of toppings, you can do so much with the simple concept of ground meat and a bun. The kicker is that with great toppings comes great responsibility. You can't just throw stuff onto your beautiful patty and bun and expect a good burger. Burgers are all about balance. Too much of anything, or too little, and you're in trouble. The best burger is all about having one consistently great bite after another.

My goal is to eat a burger at as many places in Colorado as possible. I fully expect to eat my fair share of good and bad burgers, but every great adventure has ups and downs. I've learned all I know about food from three places: my mom, cookbooks, and TV. My mom was a very gifted cook. Everyone says that about their mom, I know, but the woman could seriously cook. Her spaghetti sauce was legendary, her meatloaf divine, and her corn chowder has never met an equal. I'll miss every meal that she never gets to cook. The meals that I was lucky enough to share with her taught me how food is supposed to taste.

I think that's enough of an introduction to let you know where I'm coming from. Let's get to the burgers! My first stop is a place I love, and there will be a few other old favorites that I visit. The Cherry Cricket is about 10 minutes away from my house, and I'm very happy to say that. This place gets nominated for awards all of the time, and they deserve it. Located in Cherry Creek, a pretty swanky area in Denver, the Cherry Cricket is revered for their burgers.

I arrived at around 2 o'clock, just in time for the ballgame to start. My first adventure was a solo one, but that's alright. I wanted to watch my Rockies take on the Padres. Luckily, I was able to get a seat at the bar. There must have been a few dozen people waiting on tables outside the restaurant. My wait with friends would have easily taken 20-30 minutes. That's to be expected though. This place is well-known for good reason. I snagged a seat at the bar and ordered an Agave Wheat beer from Breckenridge Brewery.

Upon receiving a menu from the waiter, who was nice enough to switch over to the Rockies game, I noticed that the special was a cricket burger and fries for $7.50. It was a no-brainer at that point, and all I needed to do was decide on toppings. The burger came with lettuce and tomato, but I needed a bit more to satisfy my burger craving. I went with the smoked cheddar and asked for some grilled bermuda onion. Pretty please, of course. I always order my burgers to be cooked medium. I don't want it mooing, and if I wanted beef jerky this blog would be called Jerky Shore or something.

I relaxed and enjoyed my beer with a slice of orange while watching Aaron Cook have a rough outing. I glanced around the area near the bar, and the place was packed. There may have been more people in the Cherry Cricket than there were at Petco Park. It's a pretty standard bar with friendly bartenders, lots of sports, and a very full house. The place doesn't scream, "We have the best burgers in Denver!" I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the service. Regular check-ups and offers to grab me another beer were great.

Now, the cricket burger is 1/2 pound. That's a mighty burger if ever there was one. Amazingly, they make it fit on the sesame seed bun with almost no burger going over. That's skill. I've been to barbeques where I'm left with a meatball and a bun, and I've been to restaurants where the burger goes way over the border. Remember what I said earlier about balance. I want to taste a little bit of everything when I take a bit of my burger. The size of the patty is critical to make this happen. Too small, and you've got several boring bites of bun. Too large, and you've got the meat sweats before you hit the jackpot.

The cricket burger was incredible. There isn't really another way to put it. I had to pace myself to avoid awkward stares from the staff and patrons. The burger was perfectly cooked with some pink in the middle, and the onions were perfect. After applying modest amounts of ketchup, mayo, lettuce, and tomato, nothing was off. It was all in proportion, and it was all so very good. The cheddar was there without being overwhelming, and added to the flavor rather than commandeer it. A half pound of anything is a lot of food to eat, but the cricket burger seemed to just disappear all of a sudden. You don't really notice that it's going until it's gone.

I started off with one of the best burgers out there. I'm confident in that, but I wanted to set the bar high. The Cherry Cricket will be a tough act to follow, but that's good. When I have a really fantastic burger I'll know it for sure.

Should you be interested in giving the Cherry Cricket a shot, there's a link to their website here. I can't imagine you'll be disappointed.