When Castle Rock resident Jeff Richard started Crave Real Burgers, it was at the urging of his children. As a family, they watched “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network and the Richard children had the urge to eat at “one of those crazy burger places.” When Richard told them there wasn’t a place like that in the area, their solution was that their father, who owns the fine-dining restaurant The Old Stone Church, open one.
“I went back to The Church and started talking to the guys about the idea,” Richard said of his kitchen staff at the Castle Rock landmark eatery. “We did a lamb burger and a duck burger and did everything-on-top of the burger. We started experimenting and everything we were doing we were having a blast with. And it was delicious.”
Shortly after, Richard stopped cooking at his fine-dining restaurant to focus on burgers. On July 4, 2010, he and his wife, Jeryn, opened the first Crave Real Burgers at 3982 Limelight Ave., in Castle Rock.
“Fine dining targets the top 5 percent income,” Richard said. “Our philosophy is to cater to the 95 percent and do fine-dining texture-and-flavor combinations, but on a burger.”
Some of those fine-dining flavors include The Wise Guy burger, which is topped with crispy mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, fresh basil, tomato and onion drizzled with balsamic, olive oil and pesto. It’s a play on the Caprese.
“We want to do something different,” Richard said, adding that most burgers are a play on a classic appetizer. “Everybody does a burger, but not everybody does a good burger. We want you to walk in and say, ‘Wow.’ ”
Five years after Richard and his team put this philosophy into play in Castle Rock, he has opened Crave’s fourth location — in Denver. The LoDo eatery, which opened Oct. 20, is on Blake Street near the 16th Street Mall. The other locations are in Highlands Ranch and Colorado Springs.
“We’re just listening to people that tell us to open in different areas,” Richard said. “We wanted to be in the middle of the foodies down here.”
Although the top-ordered burger when most locations opened was the Plain Jane — a traditional burger with lettuce, tomato and onion — the most frequently sold burger at the LoDo location is the Sin City, which comes with crispy tempura-fried white cheddar, bourbon-glazed onions, candied bacon, avocado and lettuce.
“We love everything we do and we love the interaction with our customers,” Richard said.
At a booth near the table where he was sitting in at the LoDo eatery, a customer snapped a picture of her burger. “That’s awesome,” he said. “It tells us that people love what we’re doing, too.”
Crave has received several awards for its product, including placing five times at the Denver Burger Battle with three wins.
With four locations now up and running, Richard is looking forward to his next endeavor: Fort Collins.