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UPDATED: Zombie Burger brings ghoulish cuisine to Iowa City, Coralville


By Frankie Schneckloth and Kelli Ebensberger

UPDATE: Due to the “overwhelming response” at the Coral Ridge Mall Zombie Burger location, the downtown Iowa City location’s opening will be delayed until Monday, Dec. 12, according to marketing director Adam Bartelt.

Grab a weapon or join the horde: The undead are about to be among us. Zombie Burger is set to open this Friday, Nov. 25 in Coral Ridge Mall and Thursday, Dec. 8 in downtown Iowa City.

A neon zombie welcomes patrons at the Coral Ridge Mall location. -- photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality
A neon zombie welcomes patrons at the Coral Ridge Mall location. — photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality

Adam Bartelt, marketing director at Orchestrate Hospitality, the hospitality management and development company that directs Zombie Burger, said that the Coralville location will be doing preview events, or “stress tests,” for mall employees leading up to the Black Friday open.

For Iowa City, they are also planning previews and Bartelt encouraged people to follow the restaurant on social media for event updates.

The Coralville location follows regular mall hours of operation (from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. except for on Sundays when the mall is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The Iowa City location will feature late-night hours, staying open until 9 p.m. on Sundays, 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The Des Moines-based restaurant is set to bring all of its “goremet bashed burgers” and ice cream concoctions to eastern Iowa. From the three-cut blend hamburgers to the buns baked fresh from South Union Bakery, “everything about the menu is deliberate and calculated,” Bartelt said.

The Walking Ched burger is piled high with bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized red onion, macaroni and cheese and mayo, finished with a bun made of deep fried macaroni and cheese. -- photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality
The Walking Ched burger is piled high with bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized red onion, macaroni and cheese and mayo, finished with a bun made of deep fried macaroni and cheese. — photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality

While Zombie Burger is not yet bringing its cocktail menu to the new locations, it is bringing 13 of its popular milkshakes and two floats, including the Zombie Unicorn (a blend of vanilla ice cream, marshmallow cream and Fruity Pebbles), the Zombieland-inspired Tallahassee (vanilla ice cream, a Twinkie, blended cherries and cherry Kool Aid powder) and Bartelt’s favorite, the Zombie Joe — a caffeine-filled treat made from vanilla ice cream and “jet fuel” coffee syrup, topped with whipped cream.

Zombie Burger will offer shakes and floats, including a variety of cereal and cake shakes. -- photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality
Zombie Burger will offer shakes and floats, including a variety of cereal and cake shakes. — photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality

The concept for the restaurant originally came from Chef George Formaro, who wanted to pay homage to classic 70s burger joints while also embracing his affinity for horror movies.

“[Formaro] said that if he wasn’t a chef, he would want to do horror makeup,” Bartelt joked.

Each Zombie Burger location’s aesthetic takes the surroundings into account, Bartelt said. Thanks to the talents of artist Ron Wagner, the Iowa City aesthetic will incorporate undead Hawkeye fans, brain-eating professors and even a zombified Herky. The Coral Ridge Mall aesthetic will follow the same strain as the Jordan Creek Mall location and feature a chainlink fence and neon zombie signage.

Mural by Ron Wagner for the Iowa City Zombie Burger location. -- photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality
Mural by Ron Wagner for the Iowa City Zombie Burger location. — photo courtesy of Orchestrate Hospitality

While the themed burger joint has had requests to expand to other states, and even outside of the United States, there are no plans to spread outside of Iowa, Bartelt said.

After establishing themselves as a Des Moines staple, the two new locations are a natural next step for the company.

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“We’re excited to be out there,” Bartelt said. “It’s been a long time coming.”


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