Burgers @ Emil-Lene's (Aurora, CO)
My homeboy and I were craving a good burger and cocktail on the way to the soccer game. We thought about the chains (Ted's Montana, Fuddrucker's) but decided to try the path much-less-taken and went out East to Emil-Lene's Sirloin House on Smith Road. Their website promotes the burger and I'd always heard it was an interesting place.
You drive down a dirt road between a storage facility and a vacant lot and it's so "out there' it seemed like an ideal spot for a Western branch of the Soprano's family to get wacked.
The building is a repurposed cinderblock ranch house and has a chuckwagon out front and other kitchzy (sp?) affectations. It's very unassuming and we felt comfortable walking in in our t-shirts. The walls are adorned with what would appear in a museum 500 years from now in a display of 20th century western pop culture. It really does feel you are at a ranch house in the early 60's. The restaurant has been doing business for 50 years and it doesn't appear to have changed much.
Service was attentive. Our cocktails ($8.00 for a Beefeater martini) arrived quickly and shortly thereafter we received a blast from the past- the relish tray! Crisp carrot chips, green onions, cherry peppers, bland black olives, pickles and radishes served on a bed of ice. A true time machine moment. We used to always have a relish tray when I was a kid and the occasion was special.
The server offers a "verbal menu" without prices which is a not-so-clever way of trying to push you into a pricy steak, lamb chops or prime rib. It made me feel a small bit uncomfortable having to ask for the burger- but they shouldn't offer it if they don't want to sell it. All of the meals are served with the relish tray and then your choice of soup or salad, a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce (??!), your choice of a baked potato or house-made french fries, soft bread and butter.... it's a mountain of food. My $15 cheese burger turns out to be a steal in reality.
They also offer a 10% discount on your entire check if you pay with cash. I don't know if they are shielding sales from the government (and the way I feel about the IRS right now I wouldn't rat on them if they were) but for whatever reason the discount is a great deal.
I had the soup which was a very good and peppery lentil / white bean. My companion had a salad which came with a lazy susan with 4 house made dressings. There was a chunky and thick blue cheese (delicious) and the house dressing which was chicken base, mayonnaise and maybe some herbs. It was sort of ranch. It was surprisingly good. The waitress brought over the gag peppermill- it's 3ft tall and you have to hold it so she can turn it. My kids will love it.
The spaghetti was wretched and should be skipped. The noodles were over cooked (Al Droopy ?) and the meat sauce tasted of stale dried seasonings.
The burger was fantastic- hand made patties (the waitress said they used scrap sirloin and filet) that stayed juicy and moist even though they were cooked medium-well. The buns were forgettable and generic unfortunately but it was a very tasty burgie otherwise. Not over seasoned, soft.. perfect. The house made fries were great too if a tad greasy.
House wine was Frontera Cab or Merlot (which is a good concsious choice in the liquor mart... here's its marked up by my calculation 640% !!! $8.00 for a glass of wine that cost $5.00 for an entire bottle wholesale.
Still- we were out the door for $70 for 2 including a 24% tip (since we took the 10% off with cash).
It's a timeless joint and I doubt I'll be a regular but it was definitely fun and memorable.
I'm getting a little jealous of the folks on the Southwest board talking about their trendy top-shelf burger spots (Acme in Salt Lake City, 25 Degrees in Phoenix, etc..) and it'd be nice if we had a similar place here in our dusty cowtown.
All the same- please let me know if you know of other great burgers at trendy or tired places.