If rewarding for sustainability points alone, the Skirted Heifer immediately moves to the head of our herd.
Sent out of the chute by Bambino's Italian Eatery's Kevin and Suzette Megyeri, the Heif buys grass-fed-and-finished beef via Westcliffe-based Sangres Best. Its overhaul of the tiny former La Creperie spot includes bamboo flooring and seating made with reclaimed Black Forest and Waldo Canyon fire wood. It recycles its cooking oils and purchases compostable service wares, and buys other items locally, such as its whole-wheat buns from The Sourdough Boulangerie.
Less to the topic of greening and more to gourmet, it makes all of its own condiments, such as a likable Heifer Sauce of homemade ketchup cut with mayo and dill pickle juice, and bakes its own dense but delightful garlic focaccia bun. Plus, it offers the only frozen custard machine downtown, dishing chocolate and vanilla out cold, creamy and good ($2.50 small/$3.50 large, six commercial toppings such as Oreos, 50 cents each). And behold the city's first Boylan Natural Soda fountain: Yes, it tastes different than your Coke or Pepsi, and is preservative-free and all that, even if it's equally tooth-rottingly sweet.
For these cool factors, plus a quaint butcher-block-paper wall menu and barn doors mounted to one wall for the illusion of greater space, the Heif wins. But when it comes to the patties de résistance, or more so getting one in your hand quickly, well ...
The charm of high demand quickly subsides when faced not only with a line out the door, but also with discourteous bozos jumping said line to "reserve" tables before they've even ordered at the counter. I watched several would-be diners depart for less chaos one lunchday.
Those who stay will find that the burgers (served simply in a wire basket with wax paper) and accoutrements do draw attention fairly, for the most part. Though the fries are limp and the first facet of an overall oily meal, the shoestring Belgians ($1.95) and slightly over-thick sweet potatoes ($2.50) benefit from a generous kosher salt and brown-sugar sprinkling.
Burger temps are only taken by request and not always spot-on, and some people will be turned off by a mildly gamier meat flavor (which I prefer). Build-your-own options are prolific, with 32 potential toppings, while a "no brainers" menu section ($6.75 to $7.95) offers everything from a nice, hot-Pueblo-chili-amped beast to burgers dressed with peachwood bacon, pineapple or cream cheese.
The Heif doesn't always strike a balance with its fixins — some are imperceptible and others overpowering, like the homemade cheese-crisp-esque cheddar cheese "skirt," which hardens into a chewy mass with tough edges. A vegetarian quinoa burger desperately needs a binding agent, as for now it requires a fork to eat after bite one. Our fine turkey burger, ordered with avocado, jalapeños and beer mustard, proved a bit tough to tooth through hard, gluten-free toast slices that were otherwise serviceable and buttery.
Including a Burger of the Week — a Creamy Tuscan, that included just enough pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes to visit Italy — we enjoyed our beef creations enough, at prices comparable to chains like Smashburger. Short of being a solidly sacred cow, Skirted Heifer at least proffers a better burger.