Zombie Burger (Des Moines, IA)

“I’m excited to be in Iowa.” Are words no one has ever said. Ever.

Yet here I was giddily driving down I-35 and actually smiling as I crossed the statuesque, stone monument telling me I was leaving Minnesota…and then crossed the shoddy, plastic “Welcome to Iowa” sign a few second later. Oh Iowa, you sure know how to welcome somebody.

The cause of my unusual excitement was two-fold. First, I was going to see one of my top-five bands, Manchester Orchestra, play an incredible set at the University of Iowa (more on that in a later post), and then I was meeting one of my favorite people in the world, Kelli, for some quality time in the most hustling city in the Midwest, Des Moines. Fun fact: it’s impossible to keep a straight face when writing the last part of the previous sentence.

Being a foodie, I had asked some local Iowans at the concert if they knew any good places to grab some food in the city. The general consensus seemed to be that Zombie Burger was the place to go for a unique and delicious lunch, so Kelli and I did just that on a gorgeous (seriously, 75 in Iowa in November is ridiculous), Saturday afternoon.

When we arrived at the restaurant, it was way more packed than I had expected. I didn’t even know Iowa had enough people to fill up a restaurant, let alone cause the 20 minute wait that followed our check-in. One of the first cool things I learned about Zombie Burger is that they text you when your wait time is up, so there aren’t any pagers or annoying buzzers you have to carry around. Kelli and I walked around the block and checked out some of the local shops until I finally got the “come back” text and we were seated next to each other at the bar (there are sit-down tables, too, but we told the host for the first available opening).

Walking into the actual sit-down area of Zombie Burger is a lot like walking into some modern, warehouse zombie museum–there’s zombie murals, zombie heads on the wall, and enough fake blood splattered on the walls to make even the most gruesome horror movie jealous. Being a huge movie buff, I thought the motif was pretty cool.

The front of the menu…and sign of the oncoming zombie apocalypse.

Having looked at the menu before our arrival, one of the first things that caught our eye was that the place had SPIKED MILKSHAKES. Say it with me. Milkshakes. With Alcohol. Both still being of the college age and it being a K-state gameday, obviously we had to try these heavenly concoctions at 1 in the afternoon. I ordered the Chocolate Cake–chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake mix, and chocolate vodka–while Kelli ordered the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which was vanilla ice cream, actual pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch goodness, and rum chata. They were both about as good as you would imagine milkshakes with alcohol would be, which is to say ABSOLUTELY. DELICIOUS. Put one amazing thing with another amazing thing and get something that tastes doubly amazing? How had I not thought of this before?

Milkshake + Vodka = Awesome

After my initial few sips/gulps of deliciousness, I held myself back in order to save some to drink with our main course. Zombie Burger’s burger list is insane–26 burgers full of some of the weirdest ingredients I’ve ever seen. Deep fried macaroni and cheese, fried bananas, chili, chicken-fried bacon, cheese curds…you name it and it’s probably on one of the burgers.

After wracking my mind trying to choose just one, I finally decided on the Undead Guy BBQ Burger because I’m a sucker for anything with barbecue sauce on it. Kelli decided on the “They’re Coming to Get You Barbera” burger, which long story short is a burger in between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. Seriously, she’s amazing.

I’ll talk a bit about both of the burgers individually. My burger came with gooey chedder cheese, pulled BBQ bacon, actual bacon (yes, that’s two kinds of bacon), something called Rogue Dead Guy Ale BBQ sauce, and mayo. I couldn’t even keep the burger together when I was trying to eat it, but goodness was it delicious. The burger itself was perfectly cooked and tender and the pulled BBQ bacon added a great chewy texture and a fantastic smoky flavor. The mayo and BBQ sauce mixed perfectly, with the BBQ sauce adding a nice bit of tang to even out the smoke from the bacon.

I also tried a bite of Kelli’s “burger.” In addition to what I mentioned above, her burger also had American cheese, caramelized onion, bacon, and the restaurant’s signature ingredient, the cleverly named Zombie Sauce. It tasted pretty much exactly what you’d expect a burger in between two grilled-cheese sandwiches would taste like, which is to say, cheesy. That’s never a bad thing, though. Even with the overwhelming amount of cheese, everything on the perfectly tender burger meshed. The zombie sauce added a nice little spicy, zing to the rest of the burger, as well.

After eating as much of our massive burgers as we could, we left the restaurant incredibly full, satisfied, and, at least in my case, slightly buzzed from the amount of vodka in my shake. I would recommend Zombie Burger to anyone in the Des Moines area (God have mercy on your soul) who wants a damn good burger, impeccable serviceĀ (I even got a “thank you for visiting Zombie Burger” text on the way out of the restaurant) and an interesting, fun atmosphere to eat, drink, and be merry.

Just one of the highlights of an absolutely perfect weekend in Iowa…add that to the list of phrases I never thought I’d say.


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