Sunday, January 27, 2013

Zombie Burger & Drink Lab – Des Moines, IA

I’ve been hearing people rave about Zombie Burger in Des Moines for a months and finally figured out how to make it down there to check it out. Thank you roller derby for helping me out. I put the bug in a few people’s ears and then sent around the website to get people’s excitement levels up. Fortunately, a few of us fell food lovers were dead (or un-dead) set on making it happen.

I was worried about the wait time, but we didn’t have a choice on when to go. It was about 5:30 on a Saturday, and I had a bad feeling about it. But there are two different areas to choose from. There is a full service area complete with wait staff and a full bar (that area had a 90-100 minute wait) which is where the drink lab is at, and then there’s counter service with a few tall tables and take out options. We obviously chose the quicker version of the two.

The inside is decorated with some fabricated movie memorabilia and other zombie-related items. Some of the movie posters were pretty funny – like the Deadward Scissorhands poster. I’m glad we took some photos of it all. And the sign for the restrooms is zombie related, as well.

Honestly, the decoration is tasteful and humorous without being touristy kitsch. It’s just fun.

While waiting in line, you get to view the really large menu boards hanging from the wall. Most of the burgers give a nod towards old horror/zombie movies, which is really fun. For example, there are burgers called 28 Days Later and Dead Moines and Juan of the Dead. Really creative and gourmet toppings on these burgers as well. That’s part of the allure of this place. They take pride in their varied toppings and outside-the-box menu.

It was a reallllllly tough choice, since I wanted to try pretty much every one of these burgers. But I finally decided on the Trailer Trash Zombie burger: American cheese, fried pickle, chicken fried bacon, cheese curds, and ranch. You also have the option of single, double, or triple patties – I went single since I was going to get some other stuff. I also wanted to try the mac and cheese with bacon, and finally a carrot cake shake to rinse it all down with. Yes, I said carrot cake shake. They have three shakes with different cake in them (carrot, chocolate, and wedding) and four shakes with cereal in them (crunch berry, rice krispie treat, cinnamon toast crunch, and cocoa krispie). Thena bunch of other equally not-normal shakes. Seriously, an awesome selection that you can even get liquor poured into as well, if you’re 21+.

We lurked in the dining room and then pounced when a group of four people stood up to leave. It was perfect timing. I’m not kidding when I say this place is busy. And keep in mind, this is the quick service side. The line for the full service dining room was immense.

The shakes came out first. They call your number and you hustle up to the counter to claim your food. I took a sip on the way back to the table and started smiling. This was fantastic. There were little bits of cream cheese and carrot cake blended up in the shake. It was also fine enough that the straw didn’t get plugged. Perfect. The cinnamon flavor in the ice cream sounds like it would be weird, but it was very mild and tasty – JUST like they poured Rumchata in it. Wow. I’m a big fan, as was everyone else in my group that tried it.

Then the rest of the food came out. Awww yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

DorkyBarb had ordered a giant pile of fries with various sauces on them – Dr. Heiter’s Poutine Basket. We’re all fans of poutine, right? Well, we SHOULD be. This large basket contained cheese fries, chili cheese fries, and poutine (fries with cheese curds and gravy). All of these fries were good, mainly because the fries themselves were better than average. The chili cheese was fantastic. The regular cheese fries had lost most of their cheese to the bottom of the basket (but were still delicious), and the poutine was quite awesome. Very good brown gravy and just the right amount of non-fried cheese curds. Plus it’s a HUGE basket for $6. Get this and share it with your table.

The mac and cheese needed to go next. I dug in and was impressed with the amount of bacon piled on top of it. Lots and lots of it. I’m a fan of bacon, so that part is good. I was, however, disappointed with the flavor of the mac and cheese. Dang, this stuff had potential, but it honestly was not good mac and cheese. I can blame myself for this one – maybe it was just an ordering error and I should have gotten something else. Sigh. Big time let down. The cheese flavor was very artificial and gritty and didn’t taste like real cheese at all.

Finally, the burger. I was pretty impressed with it. I thought the place was going to be all hype and no flavor, but it really wasn’t. The burger patty itself, I’d give a B or B+. Good flavor and not dripping with grease, thankfully. The deep fried toppings were pretty fun to eat, especially since you couldn’t tell what was bacon and what was pickle, and what was curd. It was just a brown crusty pile of wow. The sauces lubricated it just enough without making it a big sloppy mess. I was actually surprised how well the whole ensemble stayed together. I was pretty happy with this burger.

Here we see Flip brought to near tears by the awesomeness of this experience. This photo makes me smile.

Everyone in our group kept trying to tweet and FaceBook about how good it was, but no one’s service was working inside the restaurant. I kept making un-dead zone jokes that no one found amusing. But it was still funny to me. I’d recommend this place if you don’t mind waiting for a table or getting some things to go. It’s not only a fun place to visit, but they really do have some awesome burger ideas. For example, the Walking Ched has two breaded and deep fried mac & cheese patties instead of a bun, piled with a bunch of toppings. They’re creative here without being insane. You should check them out, mainly so you can tell all your friends about it.

Top 5 things about Zombie Burger
1. Carrot Cake shake
2. Poutine and fries
3. White Trash Zombie Burger
4. Atmosphere
5. Diverse menu

Bottom 5 things
1. Mac and Cheese
2. Wait time in line
3. Very little seating
4. It isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it
5. I’m glad I didn’t look at the beer/wine/spirits list before we went, or I would have made them all wait for full service. It’s an immense list of beers and hard liquor that I’m sure I didn’t need before going to yell at roller derby for a few hours. But still I wish I had seen it on the website…