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Enjoy the Zombiance at Des Moines’ favorite horror-themed restaurant


The atmosphere at Zombie Burger is part horror movie, part family restaurant and perfect for lunch or drinks.

The atmosphere at Zombie Burger is part horror movie, part family restaurant and perfect for lunch or drinks.

Zombies started taking over pop culture with books, movies and video games a while ago, and they’ve maintained a strong following through the years. They’ve even spawned apocalypse-themed races and running apps — in case the only thing that gives you the desire to run a 5K is the threat of being chased by zombies.

The creepy creatures were popularized as brain-eating villains, which was no surprise, but they were also given a humorous, emotional appeal in movies like the paranormal romantic comedy, “Warm Bodies.” Zombies became more appealing to everyone.

But can a mainstream trend make a restaurant just as appealing? And if it does, is there any guarantee that popularity will outlast the inevitable rise and fall of said trend?

The answer, apparently, is yes.

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Whether or not the gory undead theme has started to fade, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab keeps it alive in the heart of downtown Des Moines.

Led by the innovative sandwich stylings of creator George Formaro and chef Tom McKern, Zombie Burger offers some of the most unique sandwiches around, with names to match.

The untraditional restaurant played up the gory version of its favorite supernatural being, and it’s beloved by older horror fans and kids alike. Zombie burger has held its stance as one of Des Moines’ most frequented lunch/dinner/late-night hotspots since it opened three years ago.

The far-out theme might be what attracted people to it in the first place, but the menu is what keeps them coming back.

Known first for its food and second for its creative use of zombie-everything, visitors shouldn’t forget about the famous spiked shakes, cocktails and the 130 different beers offered at the bar.

Offering a wide variety of well-known and local drafts on tap, guests to Zombie Burger can stick with classic favorites or branch out and try something they’ve never had before. The sample flights are for exactly that: for $9, you can get a selection of six 4-ounce beers to split with a date — or to have a variety for yourself if you’re really thirsty.

The bar also serves wine — or “zombie w[h]ine” — margaritas, cocktails, “head shots” and martinis, one of which comes with an edible eyeball garnish and a “honey blood rim.”

The bloodied eyeball drink fits the bar side pretty well, considering the skulls and severed doll heads that line the wall above the drinks. Horror movie posters and other memorabilia add to the “zambiance.”

Since it is a full-service restaurant, there are more booths and tables than high-tops, which makes it a great atmosphere for socializing from day to night. The prime seating, though, is the patio out front. A perfect place for people — or zombie — watching, Zombie Burger has spacious seating and plenty of shade for beautiful-weather days.

So, regardless of where undead creatures sit on the population’s hot-or-not list, Zombie Burger has much more to speak for it than a name and a theme. CV

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