My all-time favorite burger continues to be the one from the Cherry Cricket in Denver. (Click here, here and here to read about the Cherry Cricket.) But I've been told that some of the locals prefer another place that is famous for their burgers, a place called Park Burger with four locations around the greater Denver area. During the CEDIA Expo that was held earlier this year in Denver, my colleague Simon and I sought out the Park Burger location in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver to see if they had as good of a burger - if not better - than the Cherry Cricket.
The man behind Park Burger is Jean-Philippe Failyau, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), a highly intensive training school for chefs in New York City. He worked as Chef-de-Cuisine at fine dining restaurants in New York and San Francisco before becoming the chef and part owner of Osteria Marco in Denver's Larimar Square district.
Failyau and his wife, Jennfier, settled in the Platt Park neighborhood about a mile south of downtown Davenport. Wanting to start up a small gourmet burger place in the neighborhood, he founded and opened Park Burger at the corner of S. Pearl St. and E. Jewell St. in 2009. (see map) The place wasn't very big and it immediately gained the attention of both local burger lovers and national media with his Harris Ranch sourced ground beef. Bon Appetit called Park Burger one of the best new burger joints in the nation in 2010.
The success of Park Burger allowed Failyau to open a second location in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver in 2010 and followed with a third location in Denver's Uptown area in 2012. A fourth location in the River North (RiNo) neighborhood just north of Coors Field opened earlier this fall.
It was to the Highlands location that we ended up going that particular evening. (see map) A parking spot opened up in front of the place on W. 32nd Ave. just as we pulled up.
The Highlands Park Burger is not a large place. It features a number of banquette seats along a wall with a small number of tables throughout the place. There was a small bar in front of the kitchen area.
We took a seat at a table along the wall. Simon took the banquette bench seat and I took the chair. We were given menus and took a look at what beers they had to offer. They had a number of Colorado and Western breweries available, some in bottle, some on tap. I got a bottle of the Avery IPA from Boulder and Simon got a Stone IPA out of San Diego.
Park Burger featured 10 specialty burgers on their menu. The Croque burger is one of their most popular - a 1/3 pound burger patty topped with ham, Swiss cheese and a fried egg. They also has a burger called El Chilango that was topped with jalapenos, guacamole and cheddar cheese. The Scarpone burger was topped with a crispy pancetta giardiniera, provolone cheese and truffled garlic aioli. They also had a lamb burger, an ahi tuna burger, and a turkey/bacon/guacamole burger.
You could also make your own burger and I ended up ordering the double park burger (2 - 1/4 pound patties) topped with bacon, Swiss cheese and mushrooms.
The regular Park burgers usually with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions along with something they call the Park Burger sauce. I got it with just the pickles and onions, putting ketchup and yellow mustard on the burger before I dug in. The top of the burger patty was swimming in mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese. I had to hunt for the bacon but found two small strips of bacon underneath the mushrooms and cheese. It seemed to be a small amount of bacon for the $1.25 upcharge I paid for it. The burger was on a rather overtoasted bun.
The first bite told me that the flat-grilled burger was somewhat overcooked. There wasn't much juiciness to the burger and the meat was rather tough. There were a lot of taste sensations going on with the burger, but I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed that the burger patties were overcooked.
Simon got the Buffalo Park burger with the meat sourced locally from Rock River Ranches in Colorado. He got it with Park Burger sauce and the veggies. He said that his, too, was rather dried out, but it was understandable since buffalo meat is rather lean. But he said it was good enough. "Not as good as a Cricket Burger," Simon told me between bites.
But the highlight for both Simon and I were the housemade kettle potato chips topped with blue cheese, cracked black pepper and fresh parsley. Simon told me that he wasn't going to be able to eat them all and I happily dug in and helped him. The blue cheese had melted onto the freshly made kettle chips and the cracked black pepper gave them a somewhat spicy taste. They were pretty damned good.
For my first visit to Park Burger, I have to say that I came away pretty unimpressed with their burger. To me, it was overcooked and somewhat of a poor value versus what I paid for the burger. While I applaud what they're trying to accomplish at Park Burger, if this is their normal burger then I can't see what all the positive noise about the place is really all about.