Seven years ago, Denver resident Jeremy Kossler sat down at the counter of Crave Real Burgers, a restaurant in Castle Rock. He wasn’t in the restaurant by chance, and he wasn’t just any customer …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
At the end of the event, the Battle announced the winners of this year’s competition. Crave Real Burgers took second place in the People’s Choice competition with its Pop Top Camper Burger, a hamburger with jalapeño cream cheese that is now featured on the restaurant’s menu for a limited time.
The final standings were as follows:
First Place: Hearth & Dram — Denver
Second place: Crave Real Burgers — Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, Colorado Springs
Third place: 5280 Burger Bar — Denver, Westminster
First Place: Stanley Beer Hall, Aurora
Second place: Park Burger, Denver
Third place: Hearth & Dram, Denver
Seven years ago, Denver resident Jeremy Kossler sat down at the counter of Crave Real Burgers, a restaurant in Castle Rock. He wasn’t in the restaurant by chance, and he wasn’t just any customer — he was the founder of the Denver Burger Battle and he’d come with an invitation.
“He just sat at the counter and we talked all lunch long,” said Jeff Richard, who owns Crave with his wife, Jeryn. “And he’s like: ‘I want to invite you guys.’ ”
Richard and his team decided to take that invitation, with ideal results.
“We showed up and got third place the first year, and then we started knocking it out of the park,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens this year.”
'Scouts' help find best burgers
Founded by Kossler in 2010, the Denver Burger Battle is an annual event that invites about 15 Colorado restaurants to cook their best burger and compete for votes of judges and attendees.
This year, the event took place at University of Colorado-Denver’s Tivoli Quad Park on the evening of Aug. 2, drawing about 1,600 attendees.
Since its first year, the event has raised more than $100,000 for the Kossler Foundation, which helps fund several charities in the Denver area.
Kossler sold the event to Team Player Productions in November 2017, but he still remains involved by choosing which restaurants will be invited.
“We’ll try about 70 burgers a year throughout the state of Colorado,” Kossler said. “I used to do it myself, and then I was like ‘OK, I’m gonna die if I do this.’"
Kossler has since recruited “scouts” for the battle, many of whom are burger fanatics he has befriended over the years.
“They’ll go out and try five, six burgers, and then write to me,” he said. “And now I know I kind of have a burger that the scouts say is really, really good.”
Not long before this year’s event, those scouts were in Telluride, trying the food at Steamies Burger Bar.
“We got a phone call and they were like ‘Your food’s amazing, we want you guys to be a part of this,’” said Stanya Gorraiz, who owns the restaurant with her husband, James. “We were just so honored to be included.”
The scouts determined that Steamies would add variety to the competition. The restaurant, which steams its burgers, is “the only one in America doing what we’re doing in this way,” Gorraiz said.
Technique wasn’t the only factor that set Steamies apart. The restaurant’s booth was a family operation, with members representing three generations of Gorraiz’s family, including her parents, husband and four children.
The restaurant did not place in this year's battle. But the family was enjoying spreading the word about the new Steamies' location in Fort Collins, which is scheduled to open this fall.
“Being with my family and rallying together, it’s just really special,” Gorraiz said. And “getting the word out is really exciting."
'We're part of a club'
Likewise, Crave — which this year took second in the People's Choice category for its jalapeño cream cheese hamburger concoction — also has expanded since its first Burger Battle, with additional locations in Highlands Ranch and Colorado Springs.
For Kossler, seeing the restaurant grow has been one of the most rewarding parts of the event, he said.
“We were able to expose them to 2,000 burger-obsessed people, and in some ways, that led to them getting more popular and opening more restaurants,” he said. “I love that.”
As for the team at Crave, the Burger Battle isn’t just a great opportunity for exposure—it’s become a tradition.
“Almost all year long, we’re always saying ‘What are we doing for the battle, what are we doing for the battle?’ ” Richard said. “We already know what we want to do next year.”
Across the board, all of the participants agreed: One of the competition’s best facets is the community of restaurants it creates.
“All the restauranteurs are super-cool,” Gorraiz said. “We feel like we’re part of a club.”
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.