It struck me the other day that there was a major omission in my investigation of Denver dives - the greasy burger joint. What list of dives can call itself complete without the inclusion of a fast food hamburger stop? The hamburger is a widely interpreted dish, from the 99 cent variety, to the 15 dollar posh version with fancy meat all sorts of shiny gear on top, even to those that are starting to pop up on the menus at Mexican restaurants. This makes it a perfect engine for a dive, as many of the interpretations find themselves on the soggy buns end of the stick. In an attempt to fill this gap in my research, and fill my belly, I made a beeline to Crown Burgers for lunch.
Crown Burgers has the look of a dive down pat, with the dated exterior, the antique drive thru sign (including duct tape!), and the absurd specials plastered on the majority of the window space, screaming at you to buy a gyro sandwich for $4.19. I assumed that when digging into a basket at the Crown Burger your head ends end up in such a grease-and-meat induced fog that natural light is unnecessary. Whatever the rationale, I was excited to get inside.
Crown Burgers is done up in classic fast-food joint decor: semi-greasy off colored laminate booths throughout, a counter to order at, and a hand-operated menu on the wall complete with worn-out pictures of the food. Tacky menu pictures are a favorite of mine. Unfortunately it seems that these days only the Chinese (with a few exceptions like the Crown, of course) continue to excel at making patrons uninterested in eating their food prior to ordering through the use of unappetizing pictures of their food. The hallway to the restrooms was decorated with a stack of ceiling tiles that had apparently been forgotten about, as they were sorely needed in the front of the restaurant. However, those stacked in the hallway were white, so perhaps they were being allowed to season in the back hallway to better match the greasy off-white tiles throughout the restaurant.
Crown Burgers is the home of the Royal Burger, otherwise known as the Royal Pastrami, otherwise known as the Pastrami Burger, a hamburger with pastrami on top (go figure). There was also the Double Royal, but I shook off the notion, as it could possibly have temporarily paralyzed a small guy like myself. The rest of the menu was a cornucopia of different heart-attack specials, (smothered chili-cheeseburger, et al) so I decided to stick with the house specialty and a 'Mixed', a combo order of fries and rings. Arriving at my booth several minutes later was a good sized cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and onion... and then a heaping pile of pastrami. It was like two sandwiches for the price of one, score one for getting a good deal. The lady taking my order at the counter, who I believe was Stella, one of the owners, had given me the option of foregoing the roughage, but I didn't want to be too much of a savage and declined her offer.
First the Mixed. Delicious as any fried bit of mung, the interesting thing here was not the fried bits themselves, but the sauce that came with: Creamy, yellowish in color, definitely special, the consistency of mayonnaise, but not exactly straight out of the jar. There was something else going on but I could not put my finger on it, as it really had no appreciable flavor. I decided it's sole purpose in life was a calorie booster, as if you needed one after the rest of the meal. Crown doesn't bother charging you for their boost, though, like some of those juice places do. More value!
I eyed the Royal like a quarterback dissecting a defense. Biting into it was a challenge due to all the extra baggage, and I would not recommend attempting this without a large pile of napkins at the ready. The burger itself was nothing special - not over cooked, not under cooked, marginal seasoning. The toppings were OK, and the bun was actually not that jacked up with soggy bits. The pastrami had the flavor, and turned my notion of a good burger a bit sideways. I wouldn't call it pure genius, but I would call it damn tasty. Made me feel like a man.
Crown Burgers was my first attempt at a dive burger joint and in the end hit all the marks. I left the Crown happy, a couple pounds heavier after the Royal Burger and Mixed, but lighter overall having filled the hole in my resume.
Crown Burgers is located at 2192 S. Colorado Boulevard, and has a junk website at crownburgers.org (as if they are a non-profit or something). Treat yourself to some special sauce.