Side dish: The word on Larkburger 

Meet the new meat

Larkburger (larkburger.com), the six-location Colorado chain that tentatively plans to open in mid-March at 1904 Southgate Road, would have you believe that it's not just another burger joint.

First, there's the menu of surprisingly affordable-for-gourmet burgers ($5.95 to $7.50), with tuna, turkey, chicken and portabella mushroom options beyond the Larkburger and truffle burger (a Lark with truffle aioli). Then there's the Earth-friendly bent: wind power, reclaimed lumber construction, eco-friendly utensils and containers, composting, and use of used fry oil for biodiesel.

But I was leery of the "100 percent natural" boast, after reading that the beef is commercial black angus — antibiotics and other unsexy elements potentially attached.

Company president Adam Baker is very open to discussing the meat, sourced from National Beef, and says "the reality is we'll buy grass-fed, hormone-free beef as soon as it's feasible for us, but our price point is already higher than some of our competition — that's the balancing act."

Baker, the former GM at Vail's Larkspur Restaurant, from which this burger biz was spawned, says he and chef Thomas Salamunovich initially did envision an organic concept, adding that they've made green decisions "because it's the right thing to do."

He stands behind the term "natural," because "by natural, I mean 'not processed' — we make everything." And that gets back to what he believes distinguishes Larkburger: "My founding partner is a classically trained chef. We're a spin-off of fine dining ... that comes through in a lot of ways."

Solar Roast flares

A little over a year after Pueblo's Solar Roast Coffee (226 N. Main St.; 2802 N. Elizabeth St.; solarroast.com) won a $100,000 business development grant from the Pueblo Economic Development Corp., brainy brothers Mike and Dave Hartkop are set to flip the switch on their new, photovoltaic-powered Helios 5 roaster.

The machine, located adjacent to their downtown coffee shop, draws from 80 panels (around 13 kilowatts) on the rooftop and employs a custom-made "process heater" generally used in coal power plants to essentially perform a unique hybrid style of air and drum roasting.

Dave says that though the drum capacity is the same 30 pounds as H4's (see "Sunny delight," Feb. 28, 2008), he'll likely get five times the use out of this, simply because it's on-site. (H4 is in a rural location.)

"We're now in a position to take on bigger sales contracts," he says, and fulfill his grant's terms of creating 10 full-time jobs that pay $30,000-plus within the next four years.

Lisa Becker of the now-closed Tea Tree Cafe recently joined the company to handle its food service; her new menu of sandwiches, soups, salads, and vegan and gluten-free items is now available.


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