As soon as I walked into Crave Real Burgers, I was greeted by a smile from a pleasant young lady. She immediately asked how she could help. I asked to see Daniel or Jeff. Pointing to a booth in the corner sat a gentleman in front of his laptop. Papers were neatly stacked on the table of his portable office. She led me over to the booth, telling Jeff he had a visitor. I introduced myself as a rep with CRJ, and was warmly welcomed with a request that I have a seat. He asked how he could help me. I proceeded to share the purpose of my visit, which led us into a conversation which took us on a journey from Crave’s beginnings to prospecting for gold in Colorado. Jeff Richards, owner of Crave Real Burgers is a true, down-to-earth person. My visit? To witness for myself the operations of the local,flagship diner known as “Crave Real Burgers”.
There was an enticing aroma of burgers broiling on the grill. I looked around the dining area, trying to get a feel of what Jeff’s original vision may have been. What I saw took me back to early days when going into a diner with my Dad. The booths and the seating counter definitely fit the bill, but I couldn’t resist telling Jeff, “I keep wanting to see the old-fashion jukebox menus across the counter and on the tables!” I loved the aesthetics, and when warmer days allow, the patio seating is very appealing. There is plenty of wall-art to see and signs to read. You better read fast, because the food arrives promptly, and the size of the meals will demand your attention.
Having arrived around 3:00 PM of a mid-week day, the place was somewhat quiet, but during the hour and a half I was there, the restaurant was beginning to fill. Jeff gave me an overview of their beginnings and how things took off from there. The deeper we delved into our conversation, the more open and exciting my visit became. I felt like a VIP when I was invited back into the kitchen to photograph and witness the meal prep, order pickups, and table deliveries. It appeared to be the beginning of shift time, as employees were arriving during my visit. I quickly felt the experience of a local, home-style business in operation. The staff were welcoming and friendly, and it soon became obvious how much they loved being there and the services they provide to their patrons. Jeff worked alongside in the kitchen, prepping and finalizing orders. The process was flawlessly efficient. It was obvious that patrons were excited upon receiving their meals. The expressions on their faces when seeing the food upon the plates is what Jeff describes as the “WOW” factor. Everyone agreed. Three of his team members have been with him since opening day in 2010. Now that’s loyalty and love for their employer!
The menu includes an array of burgers, salads, sandwiches, and shakes. Adult Shakes? Yes they are! Try one of the exotic shakes with rum, vodka, and liqueurs. The burgers, of course, are the reason why Crave Real Burgers exists. “Not many people know this now, but the Castle Rock location was originally named ‘Crave Real Food,’ and was open for breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner. It didn’t take long for us to realize that our awesome burgers were usually the reason people came in, so we changed our hours and renamed the restaurant!“ No wonder. Jeff, who originally opened with his brother, Paul, has trained at the Culinary Institute of America and worked with Emeril Lagasse at the Commanders Palace in New Orleans. Though Crave’s award-winning burgers are a culinary art of their own, the Richards’ credit their two sons with the idea to offer outrageous and delicious burgers to the Castle Rock community. Other than the Castle Rock flagship diner, locations have opened in Colorado Springs and Highlands Ranch.
After capturing some photos with my camera and visiting with staff while they worked (trying to stay out of their way), I said my goodbyes. I thanked Jeff for his time and courtesy. I thanked the staff for making me feel as one of them. It was a delight and a pleasure. Crave Real Burgers is now on my list of regular destinations to come. On my next visit, I am going to enjoy the”Slopper” – green chili-smothered cheeseburger over a grilled cheese sandwich, with lettuce, onion, topped with cilantro, sour cream, tomato,guacamole, cheddar – served with sweet potato fries. My wish list includes the”Dim Sum Daffy” – 6 oz. ground duck patty, tempura ginger cream cheese, green onion, cilantro, hoisin sweet and sour, onion.
In the beginning I mentioned the part about our conversation leading into the subject of gold prospecting? Well, it seems that Jeff and I have a tendency towards an interest in geology. It’s as simple as that!