The D.C.-area burger chain Z-Burger made its Northern Virginia debut last month when they opened a location in Virginia Square. The opening was long-awaited, as the Arlington site has been under construction for about two years.
Z-Burger is known for its burgers and shakes and, in keeping with the classic Americana fare, the new Virginia Square restaurant has a retro feel. The red booths and stools seem like an updated take on a ’50s diner when set against silver tables and accents near the counter. But the space is modern, too, with industrial elements in the high ceilings, exposed ductwork, and tall floor-to-ceiling windows that make the new restaurant hard to miss on a drive down Wilson Boulevard.
The restaurant may not have the roller-skating servers of the era the décor harks back to, but there’s plenty of commotion going on behind the counter where orders are placed. Servers can be seen battering onion slices, stacking burgers, and slapping stubborn milkshakes out of mixing cups, all to the clanging of the assembly line and the mechanical calls of orders being broadcast from microphones next to the cash register, most often “double” to signal the request of a two-patty burger.
The burgers at Z-Burger are made with fresh-ground beef, shaped into a relatively thin patty that grills up quickly, but is still juicy and flavorful. Burger prices range from $3.89 for a single beef patty on a bun to $7.29 for a bacon double cheeseburger. But for diners who require more than just beef and bread to make their burgers, Z-Burger has a lengthy list of free toppings to choose from – nearly 20 in all, not to mention the seven sauces, and five “premium” toppings that can be added at an additional cost. One might dress up a burger with the basics – lettuce, tomato, pickles – or try less common toppings like crushed red peppers or (for 75 cents more) a fried egg. Ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard make the topping list, of course, but other flavor-packed sauces include the thousand-island-style Z-Sauce and a chipotle mayo that has a big, smoky taste with a touch of heat. Whatever the burger choice, it’s served on a fluffy, buttery bun speckled with sesame seeds. Turkey and veggie burgers, grilled cheese, hot dogs, and cheesesteaks round out the sandwich offerings.
Diners have their choice of two sides: French fries and onion rings. The fries are served in generous portions, at $2.99 for a regular that could feed a crowd and at $4.99 for a large. The fresh-cut fries are slightly crispy, but mostly dense in their texture. They come in both a standard and a seasoned variety. The seasoning adds an aromatic and lightly spicy flavor boost. The onion rings, at $4.99 for a serving, are battered and fried to a crisp shell that is hardly doughy around the onion slice within. Both are delightful sides, and there is no need to choose between them since a half-and-half order can be bought for $5.99.
To wash down all the grilled and fried goodness is an abundant selection of hand-spun milkshakes at $4.75 a piece. If choosing between 20 or so burger toppings is difficult, then choosing a milkshake is downright overwhelming – Z-Burger offers 75 varieties of shake, from the standards like chocolate and vanilla to curious flavors like Krispy Kreme and Birthday Cake. The shakes are extra-thick, especially with options that have chunky mix-ins like the Peanut Butter Cup.
The tasty fast-casual eats and bargain prices at Z-Burger are beyond reproach, but the variety offered by its simple menu is the real treat. And whether it’s to try a new topping combination, or to get a shake flavor that they were wondering about, first-time customers will surely become repeat visitors to sample a menu with so many possibilities.
Z-Burger is located at 3325 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-636-2577 or visit zburger.com. Restaurant hours are Sunday – Thursday: 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 4 a.m.