Zombie Burger: Restaurant Review

Zombie Burger: Restaurant Review

What: Zombie Burger

Where: 300 E Grand St, Des Moines, IA

Cost: Plan on $20 for two people (without anything from their drink lab)

Rating: 4 Zombie Heads

Designer burger joints are starting to pop up all over the landscape. The thought is that if you focus on one item, but do it well and offer unique menu choices, people will not only show up to eat, but will pay a little more to do so. Based on the crowds at Zombie Burger, that theory appears to be sound. “Wait, what!?” I can hear you saying. “There’s a zombie themed burger joint? LET’S GO!” That was my reaction exactly, so we jumped in the car and 10 hours later we were in Des Moines, Iowa. Ok, so maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, but we did have a seven hour road trip to Norfolk, Nebraska, which is a scant three hours forty five minutes from Des Moines.  I never thought I’d be doing a restaurant review for Zedprep, but when I heard about Zombie Burger I knew I had to add this to the list and I mandated a side trip the morning after we arrived. We hit this burger joint on a Saturday at about 12:30 PM. They have two options for dining; a full service side where you get a table, have a waiter/waitress, etc, and a counter service side where you wait in line to order like any fast food restaurant. The wait for full service was over an hour, so we opted for counter service.

The menu is incredibly diverse for a burger joint. The names, with only a few exceptions, play off of just about every big time zombie movie you can think of.  You can download a PDF of the menu here. I opted for the ’28 Days Later’ (bleu cheese, caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo); others in our party got the cheese burger ( no clever name for that one) and the Winchester Basket (battered cod, tartar sauce and fries).  The burgers do NOT come with fries and had to be ordered separately. The burgers are available in single, Double Tap, and triple. Obeying Rule #2, I double tapped mine. We got an extra basket of fries for the burger people in our group. If meat is not your thing they do have vegetarian options available, and even have ‘Soylent Greens’ (salads) if you eschew burgers altogether but want the zombie experience.

Seating was an issue. We ended up getting two tables (two-tops in restaurant lingo) for the four people in our group. This was not really the fault of Zombie Burger, well not directly at least. It’s owed more to the fact that they were so damn busy. We sat within eyeshot of the register for the counter service section. At no time did the line ever get below 15 people deep for the hour we were there. If this is how ZB is on a lazy Saturday afternoon, how busy is it on a Friday or Saturday night? I can only imagine.

Now on to the food. It took longer to get our order than at a regular fast food joint, but less time than a typical chain restaurant like Chili’s or TGIFridays. I wasn’t timing it but I would say our order was done in 7-10 minutes. My double tapped 28 Days Later was well prepared, not over done, and in all honesty a single would have been more than enough. It was really juicy and the caramelized onions were perfect. I felt the burger didn’t need the red onion or tomato, so I took those off. As for the fry basket, unless you’re a really big eater, one basket was more than enough to share between two people, especially when I was stuffing that double tap down my gaping maw. My only complaint was that the fries were really salty. My partner in fries had no complaints about her cheeseburger. The others in our group reported that the battered cod was excellent. I asked if it was the best they ever had and they said it had to be close because they couldn’t think of a time where they had a better fish & chips. Again, they felt the fries were too salty, so it wasn’t just me.

We did NOT sample any of the drinks from the drink lab, but if you want a spiked shake they have several to choose from.

Was this place worth the drive? As a road trip lover, yes. As a burger lover, it was pretty high up on the list. It was a WAY better burger than any fast food place will give you. I would say it was better than the big chains we have locally (Chili’s, TGIFriday’s, Applebee’s, etc) and I would say the quality was as good as our local designer burger joint (ChuBurger) but the prices were better. It’s really the creative menu that does the place justice and sets it apart from any other place I’ve been.  Next time I go – and any time I’m within a few hours of Des Moines, there WILL be a next time – I’m going to try the The Walking Ched (breaded + deep fried macaroni + cheese bun, bacon, Cheddar cheese, caramelized + raw onion, macaroni + cheese, mayo).

Other pluses:

  • It was really easy to get to from I-80. We were able to find parking spot right away (hey Des Moines, what’s the deal with requiring people to back into angled spaces?) less than a block away, so from exiting the interstate to walking in the door was about 5 minutes total, and getting back on the road was just as easy.
  • They also sell shirts and hats (I bought two shirts) but at $20 each I thought they were a bit pricey. My ‘Dixon Fiction’ shirt from TeeFury got several comments while I was there and it was only $14 shipped.
  • There are sweet murals by Ron Wagner and bunch of other zed themed art, undead babies, life sized adult zombies, mock movie posters (Breakfast IS Tiffany, Lord Of The Dead Things, etc). Everywhere you turn there’s something catching your eye, right down to the restroom signs. It made for a fun dining experience.

While making a burger isn’t that hard, making a good one is. Making a unique burger is even tougher, and creating a theme that gets people excited to go is even harder yet. Zombie Burger seems to have hit on a winning formula, and based on how busy it was there’s no let up in sight. If you’re anywhere near Des Moines, make it a point to hit this place up for a meal.



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