Looking for a great burger in the Des Moines Metro.
6 of us would eat our way through 6 selected burger spots in Des Moines. The restaurants were all surveyed on the following criteria; Ambiance, Service, Presentation, Taste, and Quality. While all of these factors were considered, it was the taste and quality of the burger which held the highest weights in the overall rankings. The rankings were based on a unique burger, readily available on the restaurant’s menu with no substitutions, on our groups’ overall experiences, the particular places we chose to visit, and our opinions on this particular night. I chose a mix of places, which were Iowa-based or locally owned in the metro, which served burgers. All burgers tasted had a price point between $8 and $11.
First Contender: Mullets
Burger: The Big Mullet
Paying homage to the sacred Mullet in all shapes and forms. The fish. The hairstyle. How you doin’ Florence? Business in the front, party in the back. This restaurant is part of the Full Court Press family. Residing just over the river from the Iowa Cubs and along popular bike trails this place is a great stop for a beer and a bite. We have been here several times for their wonderful breakfast and have never been disappointed. On this crawl, we would be trying The Big Mullet.
Our Thoughts: Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce… Overall, this was very disappointing. The bun was dry, the burger had minimal flavor, and was very forgettable. Average at best.
PROS: fun interpretation of the Big Mac®, reminiscent of its inspiration, but with better quality; medley of fries (curly, regular, sweet potato); full bar; great pics of mullets; great ambiance; very fast; loved the mullet pics
CONS: burger was dry preformed patty; bun was dry
TIPS: Mullets is a fun place to sit on the patio and have a few beers, a great place for breakfast. Any other time I have eaten here, the food was great. This time they were just not on the mark. Ride your bike downtown for a cool one, but skip The Big Mullet.
Second Contender: Ankeny Diner
Burger: Maytag Burger
The Ankeny Diner is actually connected to the Best Western Hotel off of 1st Street and Delaware in Ankeny. The 50’s-style diner is funked out in neon and still serving up handmade shakes. Even adult shakes are available with a shot or two of Bailey’s or Kahlua for an extra charge. Yes, please! This round we tried the Maytag Burger in honor of the famous Maytag Blue made right here in the state.
Our Thoughts: The Maytag Burger was delivered to us hot, fresh, and oozing with cheese. Who can beat a burger, fries, and an old-fashioned milk shake? The sight made my mouth water, as I love blue cheese.
PROS: good char on the burger; blue cheese was powerful; good humor from fellow patrons; tangy burger; ok with blue cheese; higher quality due to blue cheese and bun; delicious thick shakes; onion rings were good; cute cocktail bar
CONS: service was slow; initial welcome was awkward; server distracted; powerful blue cheese
TIPS: A nice diner to get some of your old favorites and have great shake with good company.
FUN ACTIVITY: Argue with someone about whether it’s “bleu” or “blue” cheese. 🙂
Third Contender: Jethro’s Lakehouse
Burger: Carolina Burger
One of the latest installments to the Jethro’s BBQ empire here in the Des Moines area. Starting as a small BBQ joint on Forest Ave in the Drake Area of the city, Jethro’s has gained national attention for its BBQ. So much so that they attracted Man vs. Food in 2010 to attempt to conquer the Adam Emmenecker Challenge. Not only do they have BBQ, but burgers too.
Our Thoughts: This burger had polarized our crawlers to both ends of the spectrum. Some absolutely loved the combo while others were left with something to be desired. An Angus burger with pulled Carolina-style pork and coleslaw served hot and fresh on splatterware with crispy waffle fries.
PROS: beautiful bun and coleslaw pouring out the edges, great combination of flavors both hot and cold; coleslaw and pulled pork was tasty, the bbq sauces, deep-fried pickles, and drinks were great; nice to have sauce options for the burger, smokey & juicy burger, great server engaged us about the crawl; flirty server, great slaw, i liked the georgia and alabama white bbq sauces
CONS: burger ok; the idea sounded great, but fell short; ingredients were blended in a way that made them bland and nondescript; odd combo; loud restaurant,
TIPS: Jethro’s Favorites are on the menu here, but since they are the “Lakehouse” they also feature seafood on the menu. Popular place in the up and coming District at Prairie Trail. Loud, lots of TV’s with sports, overall a spot to hang out with a group and have good drinks and solid BBQ. Try the Waffle Fry Nacho’s with beef briskit. OMG.
Burger: 1/2 & 1/2 Burger
Tally’s is located in the classic Beaverdale area of Des Moines. They have touted their 1/2 steak and 1/2 bacon burger as a Des Moines first on their menu. So, it was a must try it along with a few cocktails from our wonderful server, Hailey.
Our Thoughts: Simple, but nice presentation with this burger. Served with Tally Chips and your basic burger toppings. At first, the burger seemed very plain, but after tasting it we changed our minds. The mix of the bacon and the steak definitely made an impression in the overall flavor of this burger.
PROS: meat was high quality, but burger was plain; flavor was very good, very simple; fun engaging bartender; free pop rocks; great service; served simple with condiments; tasty; juicy burger; great burger without any condiments
CONS: bun was dry and it was a day fresher, would’ve made the burger awesome; pineapple juice in first drink was old, bartender quickly replaced the drink; stereo broken, we provided music; burger initially smelled of fish; bar was cold due to outside door; plain presentation
TIPS: Service was great; high quality ingredients; great selection of drinks. A great place for happy hour and drinks on their rooftop deck in the summer. Offers gluten-free items on their menu. Oh, try the drink with the pop rocks!
Fifth Stop: Francie’s
Burger: Swiss & Shrooms Burger
Francie’s is an institution to some on the Southside of Des Moines, a favorite spot for locals to have a beer, good food, and hang with friends. Hearing good things about the food and burgers here, it was added as a stop.
Our Thoughts: This time around the mushroom and swiss burger was the choice. The burger was served in a basket with checkered paper, very appealing. A very well put together burger with some great swiss cheese, mushrooms, lettuce, onion, and tomato.
PROS: very tasty burger; great service; great juicy meat; i don’t like mushrooms so I picked them off, but cheese delicious; burger excellent; bun and cheese awesome; loved the swiss, very juicy, bun and burger were good; swiss!; nice assembly and appetizing presentation; awesome crinkle fries; fun atmosphere
CONS: loud; crowded; sports bar-like; cozy; tomato was forgettable; sloppy to eat; too loud; basic
TIPS: Popular place and small, get here early or grab a beer and wait it out for a table.
Sixth Stop: Cooper’s on 5th
Burger: Bourbon Glazed Junction Burger
Cooper’son 5th is located in the Historic Valley Junction area of West Des Moines. It’s one of the oldest areas in the city, which is reminiscent of a small town main street, offering up numerous places to shop and eat. Among the various choices, Cooper’s offers comfort food, a large beer selection, clever cocktails, and great ambiance.
Our Thoughts: This burger was awesome. Great name, perfect preparation, crispy bacon, aged cheddar, soft bun, onion, cooked medium and juicy, with a luscious sauce. Mmmm. So damn tasty. Served with some wedged potato fries.
PROS: loved the onion and the bourbon glaze – sooo tasty!; Cooper’s could be the neighborhood place we go to; onion and bun on this burger put it over the top; meat was excellent; perfectly prepared; great toasted bun; very juicy, hand-made patty; crumbly meat; yummy, sauce was delicious; thick patty that fell apart like a real hand formed beef burger; soft bun; very juicy; Nathan the bartender was awesome; awesome bar service; very tasty, loved the fries; tiny place – but nice look; copper top bar; ambiance; would eat again!
CONS: burger could have used more bourbon glaze, glaze didn’t stick out
TIPS: Cooper’s is the neighborhood place you want to hang out at after a long day at work. The ambiance makes you want to come in and try it out, the food and service makes you want to stay. We will definitely be back!
- Cooper’s on 5th – Bourbon Glazed Junction Burger – WINNER!
- Tally’s – 1/2 & 1/2 Burger
- Jethro’s – Carolina Burger
- Ankeny Diner – Maytag Burger
- Francies – Swiss & Shroom Burger
- Mullets – The Big Mullet
If you have a favorite Iowa burger, you can nominate or vote for the restaurant in the 2014 Iowa’s Best Burger Contest!
Until our next crawl!