Thursday, March 1, 2012

Zombie Burger Des Moines Plan 12 Space Loin

Zombie Burger has been the most successful new restaurant of the past few years in Des Moines. They have generated all kinds of traditional and social media attention from their initial opening and Zombie Walk to selling over 100,000 burgers in their first four months of operation. It was rumored that Formaro wanted zombie food ingredients, like brains or raw flesh on the menu during the developmental stages of the restaurant. Back in December, BreadGuy let out THIS TWEET to his legions of followers, and I had to go check it out when the new menu was rolled out.

Location: 300 E Grand Ave. in East Village Des Moines. Its the corner of the new e300 Building

Directions: Its at the corner of E. 4th St and Grand Ave., its harder to find a parking place than it is to find Zombie Burger.

Online at: Website with flash menu is HERE.

Plan 12 From Outer Space
The Plan 12 From Space Tenderloin: The name comes from the 12 oz of loin meat used and an old movie. The interior meat had little orange dots of seasoning which I assume would be the bacon salt made in-house. It tastes significantly different to how most other tenderloins are seasoned. I have never understood the choice of bun, the sesame seed on this tenderloin just wasn't as good as some of the flour or cornmeal dusted buns found at small town places. The seven slices of pickles just added more mass to the giant sandwich. Each table does have a Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce bottle, or you can take some spicy mustard from a fixins bar if you think the loin needs some spice. Overall 8.3 out of ten.

Price: $9,99 a la carte.

Served with sliced pickles
Also on the menu: Over twenty burgers with toppings like fried chili or a bun made of fried mac 'n cheese. The burgers are smashed into some kind of specially made griddle to cook both sides at the same time. They cannot be ordered rare or medium rare, only cooked all the way through. Hot dogs in top-loading buns, milkshakes with alcohol mixed in, chili-cheese fries or poutine, and Formaro never forgets to include vegetarian options. The staff keep at work regularly making seasonal specialty burgers, shakes, and cocktails. These change frequently and don't always last long.


The Zombie Burger is #1 on the menu, and its pretty basic with just American Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, and the Zombie Sauce is under the patty so you can't see it:

#1 Zombie Burger

The Dead Moines, listed as #6 on the menu, this is the double patty size. This was topped with smoked gouda, prosciutto, ham, and truffle mayo. The menu doesn't specify if this is made with the high-end famous prosciutto from Norwalk, Iowa. The burger toppings are similar to the Tartine Burger sold at Tartine in Clive, check out my picture of that burger HERE.

Dead Moines
The Undead Guy BBQ Burger was the most expensive item on the menu the day I ordered it. Its ingredients include special BBQ Sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon and "pulled BBQ bacon", which tasted sweet and was tucked just underneath the bun. I just wish there was a little more of the pulled bacon, it felt like a richer and tender pulled pork shoulder.
Undead Guy BBQ Burger
 The Undead Elvis was served to me with the burger patties falling over the buns. This one had a fried egg, fried bananas, peanut butter and bacon with American Cheese. I still don't get the cheese and sauce combinations with some of these burgers. But the peanut butter melted nicely and went well with the hamburger meat.
The Undead Elvis
 The Walking Ched was one of the signature burgers at the opening, and the menu board now reads "new and improved", and omits the slice of lettuce from its description. The ingredients include a breaded macaroni & cheese bun, raw and caramelized onions, more macaroni & cheese, bacon, and mayo. At some point they changed the bacon or sauce, but I only ate this thing once so I wouldn't know.

The Walking Ched
The Walking Ched barely functions as a sandwich, the ingredients just can't be kept on top of each other and lifted up into your mouth. Eating this requires a knife and fork to pull open the mac & cheese bun and mash it together with pieces of the burger. The end result is like a crunchy hamburger mac with bacon and onions. I have seen plenty of people order it, so it seems to be working.

They're Coming to Get You Barbara
Another novelty promotional burger named They're Coming To Get You Barbara, starts with buns made out of grilled cheese sandwiches. They aren't exactly grilled cheese sandwiches, but the same Zombie Burger buns turned inside out before being grilled with American Cheese. The double buns are squished together to make a durable bun that lifts and holds the burger well. This burger is rounded out with American Cheese, caramelized onion, bacon, and a little bit of the Zombie Sauce. 

#13 Fulci Burger
The #13 on the menu is titled Fulci, topped with prosciutto, brie, caramelized and raw onions, and truffle mayo. The garlic tasting truffle mayo reappears on several burgers and nearly saves this one. The prosciutto doesn't tear apart easily and is very salty, and brie just isn't my kind of cheese.

George Romero's Pittsburgher
#9 on the menu is George Romero's Pittsburger, named for the famous Zombie film maker and based on the iconic sandwich served at Primanti Brothers Sandwiches in Pittsburgh. This is topped with ham, American cheese, fried egg, cole slaw and french fries. I notices the original sandwich this is based on has tomatoes, but this one doesn't. I can't help but think Italian Bread might have been a better bun for this sandwich, as the in-house bun was quickly overwhelmed with egg, beef, and slaw drippings.

The Boomstick
#16 is the Boomstick Burger, topped with a disc of deep fried chili, American Cheese, pickles and onion. The chili is more southwestern style with tomato chunks, black beans, ground beef and a layer of cheese but no spice or heat profile. These fried things are designed to burst open and drip juices everywhere, the Boomstick is no different. This did hold together throughout eating, after all the chili juice came out.
Juan of the Dead
 #18 on the menu is the mexican themed Juan of The Dead, with a green chile and cheese croquette, caramelized onions, Monterrey jack cheese and chipotle Mayo. I was a little disappointed at the total lack of spice in this burger, it could really use some hot sauce.

The Raygun
Number 7 on the menu is The Raygun, named for the t-shirt shop across the street in the East Village. This one has Monterey jack cheese, caramelized onions, guacamole, chipotle mayo, bacon, and fried jalapeno peppers. I really do not see any connection between the content of this burger and the t-shirt company, but I might be missing something. This is another burger with spicy toppings that are not actually spice.
Trailer Trash Zombie
The #17 on the menu seems to be a collection of unhealthy stuff named the Trailer Trash Zombie. This is topped with a fried pickle, a piece of "chicken-fried bacon", a fried cheese curd hidden underneath, American cheese, and a bit of ranch dressing on top. Getting three different deep fried items to stay on top of the burger just wasn't possible. This one had a lot of breading crunchiness and melted American cheese.
Deux-Nut Burger, the Cronut Burger special
The Cronut craze is driving people mad, overwhelming public resources and taking over the country, then the world. It makes sense for Zombie Burger to make a burger with a Cronut bun. This was titled the Deux Nut, and was made with Maple and Bacon topped croissant donut, with a fried egg, bacon and white cheddar. I still don't understand why they insist on putting cheese on so many burgers of the week that don't need cheese in the flavor profile.

Thankskilling
I stopped in one week and ordered  a special Thankskilling burger with bun made of stuffing, deep fried mashed potato croquette, turkey confit topped with onion strings and gravy. The layer of turkey is barely visible beneath the gravy and onion rings. The fried mashed potato works great and pulls apart easily. The stuffing bun basically disintegrated when I tried to lift it up and put it on top of the burger. This Thanksgiving themed burger was $11.99 for a triple patty size.
Hamittyville Horror
A special promotion burger for the Baconfest weekend was titled Hamittyville Horror. This one was described as having fried bacon, slab bacon, white cheddar, and garlic mayo. There was a dab of bacon jam on the bottom bun that added some sweetness, but the cheese and garlic mayo mixture dominated the sandwich. It just seemed strange that this one to me came with only two pieces of bacon.

We Don't Need Another Gyro
This March saw a new special burger, We Don't Need Another Gyro, with house made gyro meat, feta American cheese, tzatziki Sauce, with lettuce tomato and red onion. The gyro meat didn't feel quite as juicy as my imagination of a perfect spinning cone of meat with juices dripping down and cut meat dropping into the greasy juiciness before being wrapped in pita. Having gyro meat on top of three burger patties wasn't the match made in heaven I thought it would be. The sauce and cheese was nice. This sandwich bears a similarity to the giant hamburger burger or gyro meat on focaccia sandwiches served at local Bosnian hole in the wall restaurants around Des Moines.

Zahm Bi
Another limited time special, the Zahm Bi, based on the Banh Mi sandwich available at local Vietnamese lunch spots. This burger was topped with sliced carrots and cucumber, cilantro and a sweet chili barbecue sauce. I really don't understand the cheese on this triple burger, but that is the way it came. The chili sauce mixed with the cheese as it dripped down, and this was a juicy burger. The coolness and the crunch of the salad toppings was nice, but wasn't a match for the overpowering cheeseburger flavor.

Dead and Breakfast
One month in 2013 George Formaro goes crazy about biscuits, and adds a new biscuit item at each of his restaurants. At Zombie burger, this means the very temporary Dead and Breakfast. Made with Formaro's special biscuit as a bun, breakfast sausage patty, sausage gravy, a fried egg, American cheese, on top of three burger patties. This worked better than a lot of the other burger specials, and its not too different from what people get at the breakfast buffets around town, just with better burgers. The sausage gravy was especially rich with much chunky sausage inside. Picture taken after breaking egg open.

Crab Ranghoul
Another short term special with an Asian-inspired flavor was the Crab Ranghoul, topped with crab rangoon filling, fried wanton strips, and a sweet and spicy chili sauce. The sweet sauce mostly dripped to the bottom to make the lower bun moist and sticky. The wanton were the right thickness and were perfectly crunchy after picking up some of the sauce. Bits of unidentifiable seafood meat formed large chunks within the crab rangoon style filling. This only held together as a sandwich for a couple of bites before the pressure of the top bun pushed nearly all the filling and wanton strips past the sides of the burger. It was very tasty with a fork and knife.

Cabra De Los Muertos
 I don't have any idea what inspired Cabra De Los Muertos, but if Goat Cheese is your thing then this would be your kind of burger. This had a layer of Goat Cheese above each patty, and two Goat Cheese stuffed peppers laid on top. The jelly sauce was a spicy and sweet Raspberry Chipotle.

The Argento
The week of Italian American Heritage Festival in the other part of downtown saw the special burger named The Argento. I guess its named after the filmmaker, not the actress. This one would have been a better picture if the patties had been stacked on top of each other right, not tilted to one side. The burger is served with Capicola and Salami with smoked provolone cheese. The sauces dripping from the top are creamy pepper relish and creamy garlic dressing. I liked the spiciness of the ham and the relish here. The provolone had a stretchiness that the cheese on the other burgers don't always have. The real saving grace here is the Focaccia style bun, vastly superior to the usual Zombie Burger bun.

The Faculty
This one was titled The Faculty, and had a bun made of two grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with white bread. The beef was topped with swiss cheese and homemade bbq potato chips with a grape jelly bbq sauce. All this sweet sauce on top of swiss cheese just felt weird, and the ham and swiss grilled sandwich buns had just too much bread. I tried lifting this one up and taking a bite but the bbq chips made the burger too tall and I could not fit it in my mouth.

Poultrygeist
Another weekly special was the Poultrygeist based on a breaded chicken breast. This was topped with smoked pulled chicken, "bread and butter" pickles, sweet heat bbq sauce, and cheddar cheese. The chicken breast was tender and juicy enough, and the breading was crisp here. I did not taste anything special in the sweet barbecue sauce or the pickles, and the cheese didn't melt over the chicken breast.This sandwich did stay together without falling apart while lifting to eat.

The Coven, a Cajun burger special.
I don't know why but one week the chef chose to put together a Cajun style burger named The Coven. This one was topped with fried shrimp, an andouille sausage patty, pepper jack cheese, a cajun cream sauce, and chipotle mayo. I ate the fried shrimp first because they looked like they could fall off at any moment after lifting. The extra patty of sausage had some spice mixed in on top of the triple burger patty. I liked the spices and seasonings here because most of the menu has almost no spice profile.


Another week, another burger of the week. This time the name was Srirachapocalypse, with a spicy chili hot sauce running through the burger. This one wasn't presented right so the best pic was just in the basket. The description here included red onions, monterey jack cheese, a sriracha mayo, sriracha slaw, sriracha cheese sauce, and pork belly marinated in sriracha sauce. It was nice to see something spicy, but this was still only a little spicy. It would have been even better if I liked sriracha sauce. 

The Undead Gaffigan
March of 2014 saw a visit by food comedian Jim Gaffigan, when he visited Zombie Burger to try the special named after him. They called this one the Undead Gaffigan, and offered it in a five patty version. I usually just get the triple size. The toppings here included fried jalapenos, bacon, baconnaise, and cheddar cheese on a texas toast bun. I don't know what made this Texas Toast as opposed to just toast, and the bacon mayonnaise was just not good. This tasted like the worst of both publicity grabbing over the top foods and banal celebrity culture.

#BasicBitch
 August of 2014 saw the start of a promotion named Tweaked out Thursday, with special daily burger specials only available on Thursday. The promotion campaign included a smiling photo of the main chefs dressed in methamphetamine manufacturing jump suits inspired from the television show Breaking Bad. Anyone who went to high school in Des Moines probably knows a few people who lost their minds after trying meth. The restaurant industry across Iowa has had a serious meth problem since the early nineties. If you eat out regularly in Iowa, you have probably eaten something prepared by a person using meth. This burger was named the #BASICBITCH, inspired by a College Humor video that just seems to be making fun of women and mocking gender stereotypes. This seems to follow the line of humor that if you are making a joke on the internet, then it must be okay to mock people of other genders or to perpetuate stereotypes, or just use the word Bitch over and over again. The burger was topped with fried spaghetti squash strands, pumpkin spice barbecue sauce, pumpkin spiced bacon, white cheddar cheese, and a bun made from a pumpkin spice donut with pumpkin spice icing. This was themed for autumn but the donut barely held together, the icing and the cheese and spicy sauce didn't work together. The presentation was terrible and the white one black and brown color scheme was just ugly. This burger also had a mock twitter profile, which was duly promoted in the local media. This burger was basically represented all of the hype over substance publicity grabs that Zombie Burger seems fixated with.

The Malo Burger
Evidently the people who own Zombie Burger opened up a Latin restaurant known as Malo and Zombie Burger had a special Malo Burger on the week of the opening. The buns are pupusas made with chicharron and the salvadoran slaw topping has salsa on top, with an extra patty of chorizo. This could not be lifted an eaten as a sandwich and the juice was a serious problem just flowing out of the burger. I really prefer to get my pupusas from a  place called La Cuscatleca on E. Hubbel, they also run a truck that is usually parked on 6th Ave. in front of an Asian grocery store. I wouldn't even go to Malo for pupusas after eating this.

The Carny, State Fair Special
The State Fair rolls around during the month of August and Zombie Burger has repeated a special burger named The Carny. This one is topped with a house made corn dog cut in half, with a slice of American cheese, and a huge amount of ketchup and mustard. The corn dog just didn't stay crispy with all the cheese and ketchup, and it wasn't that big like the ones at the State Fair. I would rather just have a jumbo corn dog, or something that could fit on a stick.

The Rob Zombie Burger
This summer sees Rob Zombie on tour and coming to Des Moines, so Zombie Burger made a special Rob Zombie Burger. I guess the guy is a vegetarian, because this is a falafel patty with a peanut sauce and lettuce, tomato, onions and lettuce in a chili slaw. The falafel patty just was not good falafel, no crunchiness and just mush that gets squished into shapelessness. I had the falafel at Geteway market once and it was a big mistake, just bad falafel. This burger was served on a ciabatta bun.

Project Nemesis
I know George Formaro never forgets to have options for the vegetarians, so I tried Project Nemesis, #26 on the menu. Its described as "un-burger sandwich" and is made from a breaded Portobello with American cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and a cheese sauce on the side. This just didn't feel as big and impressive as some of the larger burgers, but for $6.29 its not bad. I opted not to pour on the cheese sauce.

Mushroom Apocalypse
The Mushroom Apocalypse includes lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese on top of a breaded mushroom and cheese croquette. This is one item used to top another super size burger somewhere else on the menu, presented here by itself. The cheese croquette has a lot more cheese than it does mushrooms, and bursts open when bitten into. The amount of cheese is really something when it flows out. There are other vegetarian choices including three different veggie patty choices and vegetarian poutine.

Hand Cut Fries
The House Cut Fries were $1.79 extra to fill up the basket beside the burger. The special cheese sauce was a dollar extra. I had heard stories about the fries being "off" when the place first opened. But they were just fine during my visit.


Zombie Nachos
The Zombie Nachos: The only menu item with Adobe Shredded Pork, and I can't pass up Pork Nachos anywhere. These didn't have melted cheese sauce, and the tortilla chips felt like they had been made a day before. The pork was seasoned well and soft, but the salsa was extra tasty. A good portion size for $8.49:

Loaded Fry Basket
The Loaded Fry Basket had a melted cheese sauce to go with the grated cheddar and sour cream. The bacon bits added a salty crunchiness, but overall this was just another cheese fries app.

Chili Cheese Dog
The Chili Cheese Dog seemed to overwhelm the top-loading bun from the South Union Bakery. The fork was necessary to pull apart the bread covered in chili. The fried hot dog had some good tough skin formed on the outside, the chili didn't strike me as anything special.

Buffalo Bacon
I had noticed an appetizer named Buffalo Bacon with a description as fried bacon with ranch and buffalo sauce. It seemed like the ranch was like a cheesy sauce in a ball that was deep fried and placed atop the one inch cube of fried bacon. The fried bacon had a crunchy layer like some chicharones, but the balls of sauce weren't real tasty and the buffalo sauce just overwhelmed everything. This was more of a goofy appetizer to share before a burger arrives.

Service: One section is fast casual with a counter and waiting for you number to be read aloud when food is ready. The other area is table service with a full bar. I hear the service slows down when it gets busy.

Ambiance: This is a new restaurant in a newly constructed building. Walls are decorated with Zombie scenes and artwork inspired by Zombie movies. Its just another new restaurant with themed decorations, not some kind of literal apocalypse role playing inside. Its the size of the crowds that scare more visitors away than any of the horror themed decorations and menu items.

The space has had some small updates and details added over the months since opening. This includes more Zombie art and some neon signs that weren't there before.


 Whats the deal with the hanging lights right in front of the menu in the quick service area? These things are right where your eyes are squinting at the gigantic menu, can't there be some kind of shaded lights or just overhead spotlights. I know there is another menu on the wall to look at but this is annoying.
What's the deal with the lights?
A special note about the prices: The basic hamburger is $3.49, cheeseburger is $3.99, and fries are $1.99. The whole sales pitch is to get people inside and get them to splurge on other stuff. The gigantic and over-the-top menu items hit some price points that are at the top range of what you can pay for anything in Des Moines. My guess is that a person from a big city probably wouldn't notice.
Final Thoughts: The Plan 12 From Outer Space Tenderloin takes its name from an infamous B Movie but the sandwich is a blockbuster in size and quality. I'm not sure if the fashionable crowd of the East Village will be buying enough of this thing to keep it on the menu. During my visit another patron was staring at the sandwich like they had never seen a pork tenderloin sandwich before. There isn't another place in this neighborhood selling a good tenderloin right now.

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