We ate at the top 10 burger restaurants in Des Moines to tell you what's worth your money
We tried 10 burgers in the Des Moines metro. See our top three favorites. Des Moines Register
If you’re looking for some nice buns, search no more.
The hamburger is an iconic American dish, and Iowans have learned how to perfect them.
Whether you're sizzling patties at a tailgate, chowing down on an Impossible Burger or ordering a fancy $20 dish, hamburgers break all cultural and economic boundaries.
Here in Des Moines, the fights are fierce over who flips the best patty in the metro.
Does it come from a restaurant with a drive-thru window, a fancy steakhouse, or a dive bar, accompanied by a bottle of Bud Light?
We went to the top 10 burger places across the Des Moines metro to judge the plates based on four criteria: meat, bun, toppings and overall flavor. We also factored in prices and what was the best quality for the cost. Here are the contestants and the verdict.
Angry Goldfish Pub & Eatery
If you’re looking for a solid burger with a little bit of a twist, head to Angry Goldfish on the south side of Des Moines.
The $11 AG burger includes two seasoned patties that are griddled on both sides for maximum charred flavor. The patties are topped with lettuce, onion, pickle and cheddar cheese that's melted nicely over the patties.
Overall, it’s a good burger, but what makes it unique is the “spicy special sauce” that comes with it. Reminiscent of tartar sauce, it has a horseradish taste that gives the burger a nice kick. And it's addictive enough that we wanted to ask for some for our fries.
Price: $11 with a side
Address: 2301 Southwest Ninth St., Des Moines.
Burgers are known for their greasiness and power to induce (figurative) comas, but if you’re looking for a fresh take, Ankeny Diner has it.
The California Burger is a large, half-pound patty topped with avocados, rather than the typical ketchup and mustard, for a guacamole-like flavor. Sprinkle some sprouts on top and you have a fresh taste with a crispy texture that gives the burger a good bite.
Like its namesake state, it's a little healthy and a little quirky, but in a delicious way.
Price: $9.49 with a side
Address: 133 S.E. Delaware Ave., Ankeny
If you talk to anyone from central Iowa about B-Bop’s, be prepared for a long soliloquy.
The popular, diner-style fast-food restaurant chain originated in 1988 at 1500 East Euclid Ave. in Des Moines. Ever since then, its signature pink-and-blue lights have beckoned central Iowans far and wide.
We ordered a classic quarter-pound hamburger with cheese from the drive-thru at the Ankeny location and sat down to eat at one of the restaurant’s outside tables.
Topped with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles, the burger was impressively easy to eat, without anything slipping off.
The triple threat of ketchup, mustard and mayo kept the burger moist, while the cheese added a needed creamy taste and texture. The beef patty was juicy and honestly gave some of the sit-in restaurants we ate at a run for their money.
With a pillow-y bun topped with sesame seeds, this drive-thru burger puts bigger competitors like McDonald’s or Wendy’s to shame.
Address: B-Bop’s is located across central Iowa
We tried Jesse's Embers Eddy’s Special, an open-faced rarebit burger drenched in cheese sauce.
When we say cheese sauce, don't imagine the infantile nacho cheese that comes out of dispensers at the roller rink. This sauce has a tamer, creamy taste that doesn't overwhelm the beefiness of the patty.
While the cheese sauce was one of the burger's most unique aspects, and some slices of bacon added saltiness, what really stuck out were the onions. The caramelized onions were slightly sweet and crispy and we could have enjoyed them on their own, but they complemented the patty.
Price: $12.84 with a side
Address: 3301 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines
University Library Cafe
University Library Cafe is a favorite place for Drake University students, beer fans and those needing a next-day hangover cure. The cozy restaurant offers a wide range of traditional American food, including its namesake Library Burger.
A one-third pound patty, cooked on a flat top, is crafted from a special blend of beef provided by Brewers Meats, a local butchery in Des Moines. It's fresh, juicy and the star of the show.
Encased in a plush bun, the burger comes with all the classics, like lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and mayonnaise.
It's a high-quality burger for a good price.
Price: $7.99 with a side
Address: 3506 University Ave. in Des Moines
Maxie's Restaurant & Lounge
This is a seriously big burger.
The half-pound beef patty is cooked on both sides with a criss-cross char that deserves a spread in a food magazine. It's topped with the classics, including lettuce, tomato, onions and melted on American cheese.
It comes not only with a side of fries but Maxie’s famous onion rings, too.
Price: $10.95 with sides
Address: 1311 Grand Ave. in West Des Moines
There isn’t a person in Des Moines who hasn’t heard of Zombie Burger + Drink Lab and its unique aesthetic that draws fans from across the country.
The restaurant is known for its zany, experimental burgers, but the real standout is the original Zombie Burger, which garners at least 1,200 orders a week.
Flavorful, fresh and locally sourced, the Zombie Burger has all the makings of a classic burger, but with some twists that elevate it to another level.
The griddle-smashed patty is thin and cooked diner-style, with crisp edges. Each bite delivers bursts of juicy beefiness.
One of the stars is the bun, sourced from South Union Bakery. Pillow-y and satisfying to bite into, it's so delicious that we wanted to butter it up and eat it on its own.
The Zombie Burger is topped with the classics: lettuce, tomato and red onions. What gives it an extra kick is the Zombie Sauce — a zesty and satisfying Sriracha mayonnaise.
This burger is good enough to bring the undead back to life.
Price: $7.29 for a double patty
Address: 300 East Grand Ave. in Des Moines
Top 3 Best Bang for your Buck
Cooper’s on 5th
In picturesque Valley Junction, Cooper's on 5th brings an old-school vibe to West Des Moines.
We tried the Bourbon-Glazed Junction Burger. Each bite was flavorful. The tastes complemented each other, and the burger was so juicy we found ourselves frequently reaching for our napkins.
The burger itself isn’t complicated, but each topping elevated the dish to the next level.
Layered on the patty is melted white cheddar cheese, offering a stretchy, creamy texture.
On top of that is a criss-cross of perfectly cooked bacon strips, chewy in the middle but with crispy edges.
The star, though, was the house bourbon glaze, similar to A.1. Sauce in its savoriness and sweetness. Combined with the saltiness of the bacon, it was a flavor explosion that left us craving more.
Price: $10 with a side
Address: 227 Fifth St., West Des Moines
Exile is known for its beers — especially its Ruthie lager.
But what happens when you take one of your most popular beers and make an onion bacon jam with it? The answer: a burger jam packed with complicated but complementary flavors.
The ground chuck burger is cooked to well-done perfection, and with each bite, there is an Instagrammable stretch of white cheddar similar to a pizza. On top of that are onion strings, which provide a twist on a popular topping. A subtle, earthy truffle aioli helps bring it altogether.
All of this is piled atop a pretzel bun — soft on the inside with a slight crust on the outside.
The well-cooked, juicy patty combined with the Ruthie jam is other-worldly. The savory, onion with the slightly sweet, faint beer taste is a delicious contrast of flavors that elevates the meal.
Exile, please jar your jam and sell it to us.
Price: $15 with a side
Address: 1514 Walnut St., Des Moines
B&B Grocery, Meat & Deli
It’s not often that you have a near-religious experience with food.
Maybe you can remember it. Your grandmother’s goulash. A restaurant’s corn chowder.
For us, it was the B&B's two-third-pound Killer Cheeseburger.
In comparison to all the other burgers we ate, this was truly the simplest: Two buns. A couple of griddled beef patties. A nice helping of American cheese.
But the quality of the meat at this unassuming little deli on the south side of Des Moines puts expensive restaurants to shame.
We decided to sit down inside the deli where old-time posters and newspaper clippings hung on the walls.
The service was quick and workers put our patties on the griddle as soon as we finished our order. We waited for our burger along with local construction workers on lunch break. When the burger was ready, it was passed to us in butcher paper.
B&B's cheeseburger was reminiscent of the burgers with glistening, greasy patties you see in old movies. But while it was oozing with juice, it wasn't the greasy type that leaves your stomach churning. Instead, it enhanced the beefy flavor. You wish you could cook your fries in it.
Charring on the outside of the patty gave it a nice, crusty texture.
The bun was perfectly toasted without any frills. And the oozing American cheese reminded us why these yellow slices belong on burgers.
If you’re looking for a mouth-watering burger that will stick in your memory long after you bite into it, go to B&B, our best bang for your buck.
Address: 2001 S.E. Sixth St., Des Moines