George Formaro meets George Romero in the Centro/Django chef's new venture, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab. The restaurant, scheduled to open in August in the E300 Building, 300 E. Grand Ave., combines Formaro's love of burgers and milkshakes and horror films.
"We do so much serious stuff that I wanted to do something fun," Formaro said. "Fancy pants burgers are the equivalent of one night stands to me. The dish you want to take home to mama is the classic burger."
While Formaro's other restaurants feature thick wood and gas grill cooked burgers, Zombie Burger will feature what Formaro calls the "quintessential American flat burger." If you've ever been to Steak & Shake or Smashburger, this won't be too far off. But sticking with the zombie theme, these burgers are "bashed" not smashed. He's also making a special bun that will be unique to Zombie Burgers, and the sauces, fries and onion rings will all be handmade at the restaurant.
The restaurant will be divided into two halves, a more quick service portion with counter ordering and a full service side known as the Drink Lab. The Drink Lab will feature gourmet milkshakes, with creative combinations and alcohol options. The whole restaurant will have a post-apocalyptic feel, like you've entered not long after the zombies have finished dining.
"We went back and forth on the zombie/horror aspect, but Zombie Burger just sounded like a cool place," Formaro said. "We'll deliver on the food side, but not as much on the visuals of zombies. More the feel of a zombie movie. Clearly you're not going to see things that would suppress your appetite. That doesn't work."
The restaurant will be open and serving food 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-4 a.m. Friday and Saturday (technically Saturday and Sunday mornings)
Formaro actually owns the head of Uncle Rege from the 1990 "Night of the Living Dead" remake, along with the fireplace poker used to bash him. When asked for his favorite zombie films, he said the list changes regularly, but right now here are his top three:
"Night of the Living Dead" (1990) — "I don't usually care for remakes, but I enjoyed this one. I wouldn't say it's better, than the original, but it is an entertaining film. If it wasn't being compared against the very first zombie film, people would probably like it better."
"Dawn of the Dead" (2004) — "Again, not a big remake guy, but if someone is just getting introduced to the genre they might not appreciate some of the early Romero films. Right out of the gate this movie gets your heart racing and just doesn't let up."
"Day of the Dead" (1985) — "The original. It's a solid zombie film."
Bonus pick "The Walking Dead" (TV series) — I think that's a well done series and I have high hopes for it. When I was pitching it to my partners, I think the popularity of 'The Walking Dead' helped show Paul (Rottenberg, president of Orchestrate Management) where we were going with it."