At the intersection of gourmet burger trends, farm-to-table sensibilities and borderline absurdity sits the newly opened Bunz Bakery and Burger Bar, an at-times overly complicated construction that nonetheless hits enough high points to rank as well worthwhile.
With 15 meat options, 19 breads, 12 cheeses, 30 toppings and 28 sauces, I cannot even guess at a number of potential burgers to be built here. But to credit the concept, I found myself scheming as I crafted my orders, seeking complementary pairings while wondering (almost to the point of regret) what each construct might have created had I subbed in a pumpernickel bun, or a pulled pork topping, or smoked Provolone, or ...
Assuming the crew continues to cook meats to a moist middleness, Bunz is practically irreproachable if you don't dig your burger. After all, you designed it, and must accept some fault if your judgment leads you to put beer-battered Alaskan cod with Thousand Island dressing, goat cheese and grilled pineapple on a donut bun. (Yeah, they do that here.)
Crave Real Burgers comes to mind as the nearest similar business, though Crave doesn't specialize in the build-your-own model that'll run you $9.99 to $11.99 at Bunz. (That's before premium toppings like bacon and egg, but includes four regular toppings, a cheese, a sauce and salty, limp fries or a notably fresh salad.) Crave also stops at a "Colorado Proud" certification, whereas Bunz lists a bevy of sustainable and mindful elements aimed at squeezing whatever healthfulness can be derived from a classic burger.
The sentiment's appreciated, if a bit odd given the eatery's other half: owner Michael Sturdevant's Colorado Bread Co. wholesale business. That space is responsible for all the excellent donuts and delicacies — prices range from dollar donuts to rich, more elaborate $8 cake slices — familiar from Sturdevant's other outfit, Woodland Park's Donut Mill.
But to the burgers: The bestselling yak isn't so much gamey as mildly musky, great on a pretzel bun with sprouts, (not hot) habañero Jack and (not) spicy aioli. The crab cake patty also needs an aioli, quality but dry-ish on a challah bun that's sadly indistinguishable from a regular one. Lamb on focaccia with feta, roasted garlic, cucumber and tzatziki totally works, as does grass-fed beef on ciabatta with cheddar and grilled mushrooms.
A thick, firm-noodled Gram's Mac-N-Cheez starter ($6.99) only needs a black pepper shower to shine, and poblano chowder ($3.50/ecup) sports good flavor, but again, little heat in a light cream stock. Donut Mill's locally famous gravy ($1.50 for a side) makes a guilty-great fry dipper, and a thick Blue Bell ice cream-based chocolate-banana shake ($3.99) leans toward a nice dark chocolate flavor.
Our pastry case raid yielded a solid, blueberry-filling-stuffed profiterole and a much-better-than-most chocolate-glazed donut. They were, however, done a disservice by coffee ($1.99) and cappuccino ($2.99) pairings that were almost truck-stop bad.
A boisterous staff could better field basic product questions and check in less often, but otherwise, Bunz feels well on its way to breaking whatever curse so quickly killed Diggy's and Rosie's diners in this space. The abundance of options, at least, should never get old.