First look: Big Smoke Burger opens Monday in Glendale

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Just what Denver needs -- another burger joint, right? Cameron Tune, who's opening Big Smoke Burger in Glendale on Monday, in the same City Set project that already houses Jax and World of Beer, certainly believes so. In fact, Tune even called Denver's burger scene "immature" -- at least when it comes to the fast-casual burger segment.

See also:
- First look: Jax opens in Glendale on Tuesday
- World of Beer opens in Glendale's City Set with sixty brews on tap
- Jax in City Set will open June 24; World of Beer already pouring

"There are a lot of one-off and two-off burger places in Denver -- Crave and Juicy Burger, for example -- and there are lots of dine-in places, too, but the fast-casual segment doesn't have a lot of competition; it's not saturated," opines Tune, a Texas native who spent twenty years working in corporate America before giving up a financial services career that, he says, "I couldn't envision explaining to my twin boys."

Tune made the decision to essentially start anew, so he began looking for small business opportunities, including franchises, just over a year ago, and while he maintains that he's "very confident in my abilities to run a business, I'm not as confident in my ability to come up with a concept." And despite the fact that he worked in restaurants a long, long time ago, he wasn't looking to get into the food business, but what he found was that general business franchises amounted to "buying yourself a job -- not a business."

Restaurant franchises, he learned, were just the opposite. "You absolutely have the feeling that you own a business -- that it's much more than a job, and while the universe of restaurant franchises is limited for someone like me, because of my lack of experience in the food world, I hired a general manager with more than forty years in the restaurant business, someone who will keep me from making really big mistakes," says Tune, adding that the "quick-service, better burger segment," which is how he defines Big Smoke, still "appears to be at the beginning of its growth phase." Smashburger, he contends, is at the "top of the fast-food category -- not the 'better burger' category."

Big Smoke got its start in Canada in 2007, and the Glendale location is the first to make an appearance in the United States. And Tune claims that it embodies all the attributes of a "better burger": fresh ground beef; at least six ounces; a wide variety of toppings; and "premium" side dishes. "When I was doing research for buying a burger franchise, I narrowed the list down to five and and went to all of them, including Big Smoke, and their product quality was far superior to anyone else's," says Tune, who sources his beef -- Nebraska-raised, 100 percent Black Angus chuck -- from Lombardi Meats, in Denver, which delivers it fresh five days a week. "We wanted to use beef from Colorado, but we couldn't find a rancher to supply us, because of the high volume," explains Tune.

His menu, which includes ten customized, char-grilled beef burgers -- a "blue" burger, for example, with Gorgonzola, avocado, rosemary and garlic mayo, tomato and lettuce -- also swaggers a Colorado lamb burger, a grilled chicken salad, hand-cut fries, onion rings and poutine, a Canadian dish topped with brown gravy and cheese curds, plus a small bottled beer and wine list. "It's a simple menu," and that, says Tune, is the point. "We don't need to have fifty toppings for our burgers; we just need to have good toppings and good beef, and our quality of beef is right up there with everyone's else's, plus our housemade sauces and flavor combinations really set us apart," he adds.

The 1,800-square-foot space, wedged between Jax and Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria, is bedecked with whole plank walnut, walls tinned with silver ceiling tiles, chalkboard menus, stained concrete floors, mustard-hued accents and an open kitchen bordered by wooden word-art graphics with burger catchphrases; a patio sits out front.

Tune plans to open four more Big Smoke Burger locations in Denver and Boulder over the next five years. "We're going to give this two to three months before looking for location number two," says Tune.

In the meantime, Big Smoke will open Monday at 10:30 a.m.; regular hours thereafter will be Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

I stopped in earlier today to get a sneak peek, the photos of which are on the following pages.

Location Info

Big Smoke Burger

650 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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11 comments
Matt J Reed
Matt J Reed

Umm, it's a burger. Does it need a "Scene". We have to many of those as it is. Maybe if you were to use home made bitters or some recipie for burgers from an old Italian book found in a library at the vatican you could find a new niche! Then the cook who makes it could be a "Grille-ologist" and you could charge $40 for one. Now that would be the start of a scene!!!

Dave Mayer
Dave Mayer

I think someone is trying to define a niche for himself.

Michael Beckerman
Michael Beckerman

Well, in a down economy like we are in now, people still want to go out and eat, but they don't want to spend as much money to do it. So, in that environment, high end restaurants add "Value Menus" and the number of hamburger and hot dog restaurants explodes. That additional competition on the lower end of the market drives prices down even further and the consumer ends up winning big. More choices at lower prices. Lots of new players entering the Denver market now every month it seems. Maid-Rite has two locations now in the south end of town already. How much longer can it be before White Castle and In-and-Out Burger come to town?

Craig Hawkins
Craig Hawkins

In and Out is overrated garbage. Since there's none around here for us to eat at regularly, we don't realize how crappy it is compared to some of the other local joints we have.

Hayley Richardson
Hayley Richardson

i think lark Burger has got the "fast food dining" experience covered, smashburger too. why do we need more? #fatamerica

Marti Babb
Marti Babb

well I admit I would like an In n Out

Louis Cruz Jr.
Louis Cruz Jr.

We need real fast food burger joints, good affordable burgers and fries not another yuppie place!!!

Aaron Harmon
Aaron Harmon

Why Glendale? That place is a fucking sewer!!!

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

Why oh why does every new place use the same hideous and uncomfortable chairs?  I see a great market niche for attractive, comfortable restaurant chairs which is obviously not being filled.  So many new places look like cafeterias or a mess halls.  How about a little imagination and creativity out there?  Geez.

LoriMidsonCafeSociety
LoriMidsonCafeSociety moderator editortopcommenter

@Denver Dave Agreed. Those hard-surfaced silver chairs, which are everywhere, are incredibly uncomfortable.

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

@LoriMidsonCafeSociety @Denver Dave I have a conspiracy theory about those chairs.  I think they were specifically designed for restaurants who want quick table turns.  They certainly don't encourage lingering.

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