Durham, N.C. — Durham's new gourmet burger and upscale wine bar opened last week at Southpoint Mall. I was able to get a preview of the action a few weeks ago during a preview event.
The Location: Across from Maggiano's in the outdoor portion of the Streets at Southpoint. There is plenty of parking, but if the mall is crowded, expect to walk!
The Restaurant: Zinburger uses minimal decoration, but it's lively and bright, with a huge painting of cows covering one wall. They have a small bar area with a few TVs, and a big chalkboard advertises specials and the milkshake of the month. The restaurant also has an inviting patio area, perfect for people-watching, with outdoor heaters to keep you toasty. They are open 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sunday - Thursday and 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Menu: As the name indicates, the focus at Zinburger is good wine paired with gourmet burgers. You can choose a certified Angus beef burger, or kick it up a notch with American-style Kobe. They also have yummy sides big enough to share and decadent milkshakes...save room for dessert!
For the preview event, dishes were served in smaller tasting portions, and due to the number of people crowding into the restaurant, I was unable to try everything.
Burgers: The El Diablo burger is spicy! Served with fire-roasted jalapenos, pepperjack cheese, caramelized onions and chipotle mayo, this burger comes with a kick. With all the heat, caramelized onions are a mellow addition. Even with all the big flavors, I could still taste the actual hamburger patty, which was seasoned and cooked well, with salty pepperjack melting over it.
The other burger I tried was the Samburger, topped with Nueske's applewood smoked bacon, American cheese and Thousand Island dressing. It's a simple combination, but sometimes that's all you need for a good burger! The patty was cooked to a perfect medium. With the dressing on top, toasting the bun was a smart choice to prevent it from getting mushy.
Sides: Zinburger delivers the classic sides and then adds a refined twist. The Truffle Fries, served with truffle aioli, parmesan cheese and truffle oil, were thin cut and crispy, with the right amount of saltiness. The Sweet Potato Fries, nice and crispy, were served with an interesting mint-cucumber yogurt sauce (almost like tzatziki). This interesting pairing sets these fries apart from the rest in my book!
I'm a big fan of not getting salads at burger joints, but Zinburger covers that base too. My favorite was the Chinese Chicken Salad: chopped greens, Napa cabbage, orange segments, red peppers, sesame seeds, wonton chips and Asian vinaigrette. It was vibrant, sweet and light. I also tried the BLT Salad, which was smothered in overpowering ranch dressing, and The Napa, which is a good choice for goat cheese lovers.
Dessert: Where to begin? There were so many good things about Zinburger's desserts. I tried three milkshakes, and each one was more delicious than the last.
The Strawberry Cheesecake milkshake is a classic, with a sweet and fun flavor. The Chocolate with Kit-Kat was so yummy, and that's saying something, considering I'm not a big fan of chocolate ice cream. (Probably because it rarely ever tastes like chocolate – but this milkshake did.) My favorite, surprisingly, was the Salted Caramel. (I'm also iffy about caramel.) Sweet and salty came together in this perfectly balanced milkshake, with neither flavor overpowering the other.
Other desserts were served in little sharing tins, but usually, our waiter said, are served in huge slices. The Oreo Pie was decadent and rich, with an Oreo crust covered with chocolate cream. The Banana Cream Pie had potential, but unfortunately the crust was just too crumbly and dry for me.
Drinks: I sampled two of Zinburger's seven or so signature cocktails – for the sake of the review, of course. The Red Zingria, Zinburger's take on sangria, was tart, with the addition of lime juice and raspberry to the red zinfandel. This is a good option for lovers of bitter and dry red wines. I enjoyed the Kentucky Smash, a mixture of Jim Beam Bourbon, mint, angostura and lemon.
The Bill: Burgers run $9-$15 at Zinburger, more than most burger restaurants. If you want Kobe beef, add $5 to the price. Sides are separate and are big enough to share; most of the classic choices are $5 or $6. Milkshakes will set you back $6, and a glass of wine ranges from $5 to $12.
A mid-price date night, including two burgers, a side and milkshake to share, and two glasses of wine could set you back about $50, excluding tax and tip. The prices are fairly high, but keep in mind the product quality is high too.
The Service: My experience at Zinburger was at a crazy, crowded preview night, but the servers kept smiles on their faces and took time to answer any questions I had.
The Verdict: I would definitely check out Zinburger! After a day of shopping at Southpoint, date night or a fun evening out with friends, Zinburger is upscale, fun and friendly enough to fit the bill.