Thursday, December 30, 2010

Great Burgers on Route 82 in Colorado

What a difference a few months can make. The last time I was snowboarding in Aspen, only 8 months ago, the hamburger options were grim. It seemed as though no one between Glenwood Springs and Aspen really gave a crap about burgers. Then Edible Aspen magazine ran a piece on a tiny burger joint in Carbondale named Fatbelly Burgers and burger awareness in the valley was suddenly realized. The joint, which has no seating and a flattop griddle in view, serves simple 1/4 pound 'fast food' style burgers in the spirit of In-N-Out and Shake Shack. To me it is hamburger nirvana - no frills, no bullshit, great burgers.

I returned this year to find that not only is Fatbelly going strong, owner Shane Vetter has opened a second location even closer to Aspen in downtown Basalt. The Basalt location (named Fatbelly Eats) has an expanded menu that includes a handful of new signature burgers, a grilled Ahi plate, even salads. Most notable however is the long bar and bartender as you walk in on the right. The incredible beer selection trumps the wine and that's fine with me. Shane told me, "We are building a stage for live music back there." All of this fueled by burger money. Tasty, greasy, burger money. I was in awe of Shane's hamburger achievements over just one short year.

I arrived in Aspen to discover that the bleak burgerscape of this upscale ski town had given birth to a new burger concept, right at the base of Ajax. CP Burger, only open since October, is excellent. How excellent? I ate a burger there with my brother-in-law, left, then circled back 20 mins later for another.

CP Burger has taken a unique approach to dealing with the apres ski rush. I was shocked when my burger appeared in about 60 seconds, just about the time it would take to bun, load, and wrap a burger. Were the patties pre-cooked? The fresh-beef burgers at CP Burger are cooked on a flattop then transferred to a CVap to stay warm. Are you skeptical? Well don't be. Someone calling the orders explained to me that the CVap suspends the temperature of the patty for up to a half hour keeping the burger moist. It seemed to work because the burger was still very moist and tasty. I had a burger with blue cheese, bacon, and sauteed onions and 20 mins later had another. CP also serves my favorite Shiner Bock in cans, gotta love it. They've also taken a page out of the Bobby Flay playbook and are offering milkshakes spiked with booze, an idea worth drinking.