Food Feuds: Stuft a Burger Bar vs. Big Al’s Burgers and Dogs

CTV Cooks: Zeya Highley and Hattie Williams

Renee Ziel

graphic illustration of a chicken drumstick and a slice of pizza in a boxing match on a plate with the words Food Feuds titled above
(Graphic illustration by Robbie Haynes | The Collegian)

When an American food retains its title as a beloved national staple, like burgers, it can be hard to find a good local joint instead of opting for tried-and-true places like Five Guys, Shake Shack or Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews. However, I’m here to revolutionize some Fort Collins taste buds in this week’s food battle.

If you were here for my Lory Student Center edition, you know what I think of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers — it’s good, but shamefully overrated. So I took to some lesser-known local joints in an effort to capsize the average college student’s belief that Freddy’s is the best.

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Enter local joints Stuft a Burger Bar and Big Al’s Burgers and Dogs.

Put Freddy’s aside the next time you get the chance and instead head out to Old Town to hit up these better burger bars.”

Stuft a Burger Bar

Stuft a Burger Bar keeps to just Northern Colorado, having been born in Fort Collins in 2010. With fun, appealing burger graphics on their menu and creative combinations, Stuft keeps the burger scene alive and delicious.

To preface, I’ve been to Stuft before, and I particularly enjoy their “hangover” as well, which is a burger with egg, bacon, maple syrup and an optional donut bun. The mess is worth it.

To make it a little more interesting for myself, I got something spicier than your average cheeseburger for this article. Here, I got the Texas two step burger with chipotle ranch, sweet and spicy bacon and jalapeños.

I had high hopes for this place, as every experience with Stuft has been a marvelous one, and I wasn’t disappointed this time either. Despite elements that don’t seem cohesive, including the addition of sugar on bacon, this burger felt whole and satisfying — dare I say wholly satisfying? 

Stuft gets creative and never fails to disappoint with those creations. I have been on the consumer’s end of some failed food invention in action, but Stuft somehow found the right formula. They are, however, a little more expensive than the average college town burger, but I think it’s worth the few extra bucks. And don’t you fret, for they have basic cheeseburgers on their menu too.

Their fries are admittedly a bit boring, but with the explosion of flavor that occurs with Stuft burgers, this is probably preferred, and if you’re sitting in, I recommend you get one of their famous (and completely gluttonous) milkshakes to top off your meal.

Big Al’s Burgers and Dogs

I hadn’t tried Big Al’s, an establishment exclusive to Fort Collins, until traversing there for my latest food feud, but based on the reviews from my peers, I had big hopes for them too.

From Big Al’s, I tried to imitate what I’d gotten from Stuft to keep this as fair as possible, purchasing their barbecue burger and adding bacon and jalapeño.

The burger was good, but it wasn’t mind-blowing. I wondered briefly if I had done it an injustice by adding things — had they figured out their own formula and I just ruined it? But I ultimately decided this was not the case. The barbecue sauce was completely lost, even after I removed my add-ons in an attempt to redeem the original intent.

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Maybe I could’ve opted for something more exciting, like their jalapeño cream cheese burger, but as I’ve said before in this column: If a restaurant can’t master the basics, what’s the point in branching out? To me, a BBQ burger is basic, and I felt robbed of a burger that was meant for much more than a big chain’s attempt at this beloved American dish.

Two things save them. For one, they toss their regular fries in a Big Al’s seasoning, and this works extremely well. The fries are neither too thin or too thick, and they’re the perfect amount of crispy while still being as subtly flavorful as an ordinary fry can get.

Secondly, they’re cheaper than a place like Stuft, and I have to give it another sincere try in the future. This is also not to mention I would still prefer it over a number of the places mentioned earlier. Stuft won the battle without a forethought, as I bit into that sweet hunk of bread and meat without needing to put effort into finding something fantastic — the magic was simply there.

If I could recommend anything to Big Al’s after this one experience, it would be to lead with a heavy hand into popular burgers like a BBQ — especially if you tout more experimental dishes on the menu at the same time — because in the end, I might as well have gotten a classic burger that was mediocre in flavor.

Either way, put Freddy’s aside the next time you get the chance and instead head out to Old Town to hit up these better burger bars.

Renee Ziel can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @reneeziel.