The Cook’s Tour was invited to preview the new ZinBurger restaurant in December (the official opening was December 13) in Clifton. It is situated in the Promenade Shops on Rt 3 alongside Cups (self-service frozen yogurt), and The Corner Bakery. Obviously word was out that a cool burger place was about to open – the place was packed. And local foodies were in on it, as well. I was seated next to Jason Perlow, one of the original founders of eGullet.
Before getting to our table though, we had a short wait at the bar, which gave me time to peruse the very decent wine and beer list. I also like to use my time at the bar to see how the bar operates and observe staff interactions. The bartenders had been trained well and they were very friendly but more importantly, they were efficient. I expected a restaurant that has the word “Zin” in its’ name to offer a good amount of Zinfandels (which they do), but they also have a lot of other great wines (priced from $5-15/glass). I am a big fan of Shiraz and Stump Jump from Australia is one of my favorites so I was happy to see it on the list. This signaled that the management seriously crafted the list and didn’t stock the bar with more run of the mill brands. My husband enjoyed crisp, cold Blue Moon Ale. Before we knew it, the hostess was calling us to our table (ZinBurger uses those hand-held buzzers to alert you when your table is ready, which I disdain because I feel like I am at an Outback Steakhouse, but it’s a minor complaint).
The atmosphere is sleek and contemporary with pleasant color tones, and a nice feature at the bar are hooks for bags and purses (handy if you’ve been shopping at the mall). Against the wall, near the kitchen, banquettes offer comfortable seating. Personally, I enjoy sitting close to open kitchen designs so I can watch the action. And this kitchen was cranking that night.
We ordered two of their flagship ZinBurgers (Manchego cheese, Zinfandel-braised onions, and mayo), but just to see if the kitchen would balk at a change in a standard menu item, one was ordered without mayo. No problem. So let’s get right down to it: this has to be one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Cooked perfectly, according to my request of rare (with a nice caution from the waiter that it would come out with a warm pink center), incredibly juicy, fabulous onions, and delicious Spanish Manchego (a nice change from the usual cheese offerings). The burger is served on a light Brioche bun and is fairly priced at $10.
Now let’s talk fries. ZinBurger offers four varieties: Double Truffle, Hand-cut, Sweet Potato, and Zucchini. We tried the Truffle (served with truffle aioli) and the Hand-cut (standard fries served with catsup). Both were terrific – thin, crispy, salty (the way fries should be, IMHO).
The restaurant offers several different burger options, including turkey, veggie, and Ahi tuna. They also have plenty of good-looking salad choices, which I observed at the next table.
The burgers are quite filling but I couldn’t leave without trying a float or shake. There are at least 7-8 flavors, in addition to a couple of pies to choose from. It was a tough decision but I went with a traditional Black Cow Float (vanilla ice cream & Stewart’s root beer). Fabulous! I downed every drop!
Sometimes when you visit a new restaurant before they’ve officially opened, there are often hiccups in food or service. ZinBurger, Clifton, was humming on all cylinders last night. If management keeps up the quality and consistency of the food and continuous training of the staff, they should do very well. I think the ZinBurger concept will be a welcome addition to the area’s restaurants.
Promenade Shops at Clifton
Rt 3, West
Happy Hour daily 3pm-6pm
Terry Krongold is a life-long passionate baker. In addition to a full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry, Terry has been involved with food for many years, including co-ownership of a dessert catering company in the late eighties called I Love Cheesecake, specializing in fine cheesecake and unique desserts. Terry is the author of The Cook’s Tour, a blog focused on food, baking, and travel. When not working, writing, or baking, she spends time planning vacations around restaurants to visit. She can be reached at email@example.com.