“The first rule of Zombieland; Cardio. When the zombie outbreak first hit, the first to go, for obvious reasons, were the fatties.”
– Columbus, “Zombieland”
THE WALKING CHED
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Red onions
- Caramelized onions
- Applewood-smoked bacon
- x3 Special Grind beef patties
- Breaded deep-fried Mac n Cheese bun
Hidden in cozy Des Moines, Iowa is the incredibly popular Zombie Burger + Drink Lab joint, a Mecca for zombie fanatics and lovers of good food and beer alike, and the unliving, unbreathing proof that Iowa has a lot more to offer than endless fields of GMO corn. While I’d like to say that this was my sole purpose to visit our Midwestern prairie neighbor, I actually have a very special lady to thank for tempting me towards this location, and when a lovely girl invites you over for some zombie-themed bovine genocide you just can’t say no. Ye just can’t. *clears throat* Anyway, for those familiar with the metal atmosphere of my beloved Kuma’s restaurants, Zombie Burger should feel just like home. Replace the headbanging with headshotting, shake it up with some spiked shakes and an outstanding list of beers and cocktails, and you’ve got yourself the gist of Zombie Burger, which celebrated its 3rd Birthday on August 30th. Heck, the place even comes with an authentic fire alarm serenade for that extra dose of doom and gloom to simulate a realistic threat of the implacable hordes of the undead. Or maybe it was just a fluke in the kitchen? Yeah, that’s what it must have been. Anyway, even that screeching happenstance failed to distract me from the awesomeness of Zombie Burger’s food, which is what I’m here to talk to you about today. Zombie Burger’s menu has all sorts of great sounding burgers, with the ability to get up to three “Special Grind” beef patties or substitute with chicken breast, grilled portobello mushroom, a Nilbog Veggie Nut patty with tofu, oats and nuts, OR the ZB Veggie Nut Patty which contains faux meat and nuts. You can also get your bed on a ‘Bun’ of lettuce instead on bready, doughy goodness.
Personally? I went for the craziest-sounding, most unusual “goreMET Bashed Burger” on their menu – The Walking Ched. Triple. Just going through the the list of ingredients I knew that this would be a worthy opponent, and our waitress warned us “This is a knife and fork burger”, at which I shrugged, for you see, eating a burger with silverware is heresy in my book…. and then we got our burgers delivered to us and I had to eat my hubris. The Walking Ched burger comes with buns made from deep-fried Mac N Cheese with mild cheddar cheese powder and Béchamel sauce, which is then poured down a mould to give it shape, and chilled overnight to solidify. Then, it is breaded and fried with Japanese Panko bread crumbs, and the final result is two puck-shaped, fist-sized “buns” filled with creamy mac and cheese coated with a thin layer of crunchy breading, and it as awesome as it is delicate and hot to the touch. My initial attempts to grab this whole burger ended in a messy, finger-burning grasp, and after a triumphant bite or two I just had to give up and use the silverware provided. Well done, ZB.
At that time some Douche Lord to the left of me mumbled something like “There’s no way you can finish this, duuuuude“, in an attempt to show off to his girlfriend or something. Needless to say, he is probably not a regular visitor of “The Bon Vivant in Yellow”. With a knife and a fork in hand I continued devouring the burger, which at that point took on the likeness of a casserole with all the macaroni and cheese coming out of its Panko shell and mixing with the macaroni and cheese that was already between the buns. The macaroni and cheese was relatively light and mild, and was very enjoyable, with the bun and topping seamlessly combining, and mixing with the mayonnaise and the additional three slices of cheddar cheese adorning every burger patty for this crazy, cheesy and rich taste. Really, the more I ate, the more I grew to appreciate my fork. Add to that the two kinds of onions, both raw and caramelized, and The Walking Ched really turns into a sloppy, messy collection of savory cheesiness, the sweetness of the melt-in-your-mouth caramelized onions and that handful of applewood-smoked bacon which brings all the flavor of the grill, and some chewiness to this burger casserole. Which finally brings me to the so called Special Grind beef patties. I wouldn’t say that the concept of The Walking Ched allows for an in-depth analysis of the patties as there is just too much going on to focus on any one ingredients. The patties at Zombie Burger are “bashed” with custom-made griddles to add a layer of smokey crust which seals in all the good stuff inside, keeping the burgers juicy, but with a strong grilled presence to remind you that no matter what toppings you add, you’re still eating a bonafide, good ole American burger. With all the gooey macaroni and cheese mixed in with the mayo, the patties sort of resemble the unmistakable, succulent flavor of Culver’s very own ButterBurgers®. It’s probably the mayo that does it, kind of like the butter at Culver’s.
Soo.. The Walking Ched burger. Messy? YES. Cheesy as hell and most definitely unhealthy for you? YES, BETTER HIT THAT CARDIO. Delicious? I ALMOST CRIED FROM HOW GOOD IT WAS.
Overall, this was as amazing to eat as it was ingenious, although I feel that were it actually humanly possible to eat this without silverware it would have been even more glorious. One thing’s for certain, though, I’ll be coming back!
PLEASE DON’T. The Walking Ched is enough. My lovely date and I made the mistake to order the Zombie Poutine fries with cheese curds and gravy and took all of them home. We made Kraken Black Spiced Rum and Dr Pepper pulled pork which we called… Doctor Porktopus… and put some of the leftovers on top of the poutine for that extra level of insane, gluttonous love. ❤
With so much cheddar cheese all over The Walking Ched, I decided to go Belgian, since Belgian dark ales, tripels and quadrupels really seem to have that bold, rich malty taste with little yeast in the afterbite. I actually did not have to look that long at Zombie Burger + Drink Lab’s EXTENSIVE list of beers, and eventually decided to grab myself a glass of Off Color Brewing/Three Floyds Brewing Rats in the Ashes Belgian Strong Half-Quad [6.40% ABV]. Not gonna lie, I was super excited to find this relatively rare concoction in Iowa of all places, and the fact that it is a collab between two of my favorite breweries ever was just a… no brainer. Get it? Get it? After the bartender made sure that it was actually Rats in the Ashes and not, in fact, something else, I got to enjoy this Half-Quad, which, if I have to be quite ones, tasted and felt just like a lighter, mahogany-colored stout, without the usual “Belgian” complexity, sweetness or carbonation. I guess being a Half-Quad rather than a full-blown Quadrupel should be a good enough explanation, but the notes of hazelnut and oats did allow Rats in the Ashes to pair quite well with The Walking Ched. The full body and the somewhat oily characteristic did somewhat give away Three Floyds’ involvement in this project.
Yes, Zombie Burger does shakes. Yes, they are also zombie-related. And yes, they also offer to spike them with shots of flavored vodka and whatnot.
Tallahassee – vanilla ice cream, Twinkie, cherry Kool Aid powder + shot of Pinnacle Vanilla Vodka ($8)
The Tallahassee, named after Woody Harrelson’s character from “Zombieland” is not only a fun shake to spell, but also a fun way to reminisce of one’s childhood… and hopefully because of the Twinkie and/or the Kool Aid and NOT the Pinnacle vodka. Seriously, what a great way of taking a child’s comfort food such as the spongy Twinkie (which, much like a zombie returned from the dead this year!) and then turning it into a guilty pleasure for adults? The Tallahassee shake went down pretty fast and was of the perfect consistency for a shake, which often seems to be an impossible feat for many establishments. Not sure how much vodka was in there, but it didn’t feel boozy at all, and greeted the palate with an upfront blast of vanilla, followed by the unmistakable hint of a a Twinkie’s creme, and then the cherry Kool Aid powder took over for some refreshing “fruit”-flavored boost. As guilty pleasures go, I’m pretty sure the Tallahassee is waaay up there.. basically as far away as possible as your typical “Lean Green” kale and green apple smoothies that are supposed to be good for you. If I were to order this again, I’d go without the vodka, as $5 would be just the right price for something as scrumptious as this.