We certainly had high hopes for Clifton's outpost of Zinburger, part of the Fox Restaurant Concepts group of restaurants. After all, if you read the reviews of the place on the web (many of which were from their free "VIP Preview" event), you'd get the impression that this place serves an exceptional burger. <mini-rant>Perhaps if bloggers and yelpers waited until they spend their own money, bringing a more critical eye to the table, rather than filling their egos with "VIP" treatment and bellies with free food, their opinions would be more insightful and ultimately more helpful. No offense intended here, of course.</mini-rant> But it doesn't serve an exceptional burger.
Burger-to-bun ratio - FUBAR. The brioche bun, while being a quite decent bun, was much too big for the burger patty. Even after gutting the top of the bun, there was too much bread. The bottom of the bun was actually thicker than the burger patty.
Cooking method - The burgers are cooked on a griddle. This is fine if they are cooking in a manner that creates a crust. Our burgers were ordered m/r but were most definitely rare. So rare that they hadn't enough time on the flattop to get seared to the point where the patty was being held together. It was falling apart.
The meat - The meat didn't seem to be seasoned very much. The meat from the "Kobe" burger was indistinguishable from that of the regular burger, but that's not surprising; a "Kobe" burger is pretty much nothing but marketing. Your Kobe burger has as much to do with a great piece of Kobe steak as truffle oil does with white truffles.
Composition - Along with the burger-to-bun ratio being FUBAR, there's some shredded lettuce or cabbage or something on the bottom bun (at least on the burgers we ordered), and the toppings weren't very assertive (other than some crispy bacon on the one). What this amounts to is a big mass of food that has no character, and in our case, little textural contrast or interest.
Truffle oil - Truffle oil is pretty dreadful stuff, and has no right being near my food. Unfortunately, Zinburger disagrees with me, and uses truffle oil on one of its styles of fries...and some of that oil made it into my order of non-truffle oil fries. I sucked it up, though, and ate them. Big of me.
The place is attractive. It's certainly a casual place, but not dirty, dated and depressing like Red Robin and others of its ilk. The soaring ceilings, music piped throughout, plenty of windows, and a somewhat open kitchen make for a very cheery, energetic room.
The bartender was pleasant and efficient, and seemed to be on board with the restaurant's vision (explaining that meat is ground on premises at least once a day, and making weak excuses for our rare burger - "the meat is so fresh that it stays red").
I'm told their sour mix is made from real lemons and limes. But, it's brought in from outside. I didn't taste it to confirm that it's not as good as fresh citrus juice.
The fries were quite good: crispy and nicely seasoned.
The bar is comfortable and long, probably 20 stools or so, with several TVs mounted behind the bar, and most importantly, hooks underneath for your bags. New Jersey denizens seem to be under the impression that putting their bags on empty bar stools is acceptable behavior, much more-so than their NYC counterparts. Mind-boggling.
The pint of Magic Hat #9 was completely acceptable (although they should ramp up that selection).
The red wine is was served at an appropriate (cool) temperature.
What we walked away with
If the burger was actually notable in any way, this would be a very fine addition to the area. However, it's not.
Zinburger will probably appeal to 20-somethings and the average diner. It's certainly worlds apart from TGIF and Red Robin, offering better food in a more pleasant setting. It's not an offensive burger necessarily, and for that reason alone most people will enjoy it; people are so used to crappy burgers that anything above the norm seems to stand out. But for those on quest for a notable burger, you should skip Zinburger and go to Smashburger, for a different, but better, burger.
Zinburger New Jersey : Promenade Shops at Clifton : Btwn Route 3 and Allwood : Clifton, NJ : 973.272.1492