I finally made it over to Highland Tap and Burger, a restaurant that won the People’s Choice award in last year’s Denver Burger Battle with their truffle aioli, mushroom, and emmentaler cheese (an upgraded Swiss) burger. They make everything from scratch, smoking their own meats and cheeses (the smoked pork on one of our burgs was awesome), making their own unique pickles, dressings, etc, etc.
The venue is great — lots of beers on tap, the majority of which are Colorado brews…a friendly, welcoming vibe…and management and staff that know their stuff (owner/manager John showed us around the whole place and even took us back to the kitchen for a behind-the-scenes).
We ordered a selection of 4 burgs: the aforementioned Shroom Luva’s, a standard bacon and smoked cheddar, the TAP Burger (root beer pulled pork, BBQ, onion ring, american and cheddar), and a Rocky Mnt. lamb burger (goat cheese, tomato/mint relish, and baby arugula).
First, the nuts and bolts: the patties are grilled, not flat-topped, and are formed in house from a blend of beef from Shamrock. Nothing to write home about necessarily, but the meat was expertly cooked and well-seasoned. The patties themselves are probably in the 5-6 ounce range and formed a touch thicker, which combined with the atmosphere gives these burgers more of a “pub-style” feel.
The buns are a story in and of themselves. Boulder Breadworks had apparently created a proprietary slider bun for a well-known Denver chef. Once the chef’s contract was up, the slider bun recipe was up for grabs and Highland’s owners got Boulder Breadworks to make a regular-sized variant of this special slider bun. The results are wonderful: it’s a soft, buttery bun with a touch of sweetness somewhere in the potato/brioche strata.
Alright. On to the burgers as a whole. The ratios were awesome. The flavors were well done. Although I did not opt to include the shaved foie gras on my Shroom Luva’s (which bumped up the cost to a substantial $21), if you like mushroom and swiss then you’ll like this burger. Personally, I find truffle to be overpowering…I had to remove some of the mayo just to let the flavor of the meat stand out a bit more. On the other hand, I like truffle mayo and I like mushrooms, so I enjoyed the flavor for what it was. Bottom line, if you’re going to get a burger with truffle on it then you’re likely not going to get a pure meat/bun/cheese experience. My biggest complaint with the burger was the overall lack of moisture. You’d think a mid-rare burger with a fresh bun would’ve provided more, but I felt as though my burger as a whole was a touch too dry.
The standout for me was the lamb burger. The combo of flavors, the subtlety of the mint, the creaminess of the goat cheese…this burger was spectacular. If I returned, it’d be what I would get again for sure. No gaminess, well cooked to a mid-rare.
Overall, Highland Tap and Burger has put some good thought into their offerings, and produce burgers that are a cut above the run-of-the-mill pub and bar offerings in Denver. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare at this year’s Denver Burger Battle.