First Taste: Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar

It may be their shared Germanic roots -- or their common Midwestern ubiquity. But for some reason, we've always associated burgers with beer and beer with burgers.

But not anymore. Now we're thinking burgers and wine, baby!

The genesis of this happy change of heart? Sam Fox's latest gift to Phoenix, Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar. There's already a Zinburger in Tucson, but the only one outside that fair city just had its "soft opening" at Biltmore Fashion Square last night.

We were there to gulp the wine and gourge ourselves on the burgers. And suffice it to say, we quickly learned that this is a happy combination indeed.

We started with the aforementioned wine -- a very nice $8 Cabernet from Sonoma County. At that point, we ran into a friendly acquaintance, who recommended that our party of two share a burger and share a salad; the burgers, she noted, are big.

Ha! This dear woman had no idea how much we love a slab of ground meat. We each ordered a burger instead.

Thanks to that choice, we can tell you nothing about the salads other than to point out that Zinburger has them on the menu. But we can tell you about the truffle fries, which were a steal at $5 and come just the way we like them: with a tub of heart-friendly aioli (that's mayo to you food philistines).

We can also tell you about the burgers. The Zinburger, priced at $10, was divine, a hunk of really lovely cow served with wine-soaked onion, manchego cheese, and even more mayo. Spectacular. Perhaps even better? The Kobe burger, for $14, with that deliciously subtle/sweet Kobe beef, wild mushrooms, cheddar, and, again, mayo.

Now, at this point we were enjoying ourselves so much (wine and burgers! wine and burgers!) that we ended up ordering a shake -- double chocolate mint, as a matter of fact. Despite our relatively small tab, we can aver that at this point, we had in fact eaten had way too much food, and were desperately wishing we'd followed the advice of our friend and gotten at least a few greens in there. Ah well.

But even in our way-too-full state, we concluded that Zinburger burgers are spectacularly satisfying, and we don't think it's just because of all the wine we spilled while eating them. Our bet is on the buns: They're perfectly soft, with a touch of butter and salt -- sort of what you imagine the buns at McDonald's should taste like, but don't.

This sort of buttery bread is a divine complement to any burger, whether consumed with wine or beer, and one reason why we decided we ultimately preferred the Zinburger to the brioche-sandwiched Delux burgers just down the road. Yes, you will have to knife and fork it, unless you're the worst sort of slob. But that's a good thing: As the bun soaks up the juices, the burger becomes a juicy, flavory mess.

We liked, too, the happy space at Zinburger. From the mural of cows grazing along the back wall, to the celadon bar stools, to the cheeky chandelier that appeared to be made from milk bottles (seriously), this is a fun atmosphere that would be great for burger lovers, shoppers, and even families.

Just please: Keep the kids away from the wine! This is a combination they're better off not knowing about that ... not yet, anyway. That can be our little secret.

Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar officially opens Monday at 2502 E. Camelback Road, next to True Food (another Sam Fox concept). Call 602-424-9500 for more information.

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