Ryan O’Bryan’s Burger Tour Stop # 3 – Zesto Hamburgers
After stops at Jake's Wayback Burger and Major Munch, my final stop on the tour in celebration of National Hamburger Month, took me to place that has been a fixture in Evansville for decades...Zesto Hamburgers.
I have lived in Evansville since the day I was born and somehow have never been to Zesto. I've always heard great things, but for whatever reason, I never thought to go when the craving for a burger struck. I decided the burger tour was the perfect time to right that wrong. It also helped that so many of you suggested it on our Facebook page a few weeks ago when I first asked where the best burgers in town were.
In case you're unaware, there are two Zesto locations in Evansville (until this stop, I had been to neither). One of which is located somewhere near the intersection of Riverside Drive and Kentucky Avenue on the south side, and the one I had always heard about (the one pictured above), on Franklin Street between Mary and Main Streets near downtown.
Zesto isn't exactly the prettiest girl at the dance , nor is the neighborhood that surrounds it (but it has a great personality!). Tucked away among paint-chipped houses and lawns that are overdue for a mowing, the small red, white, and blue painted building (Yay America!) is itself showing signs of aging. That's not meant to be a dig toward Zesto or its neighborhood, I'm just simply painting the picture and telling you what I saw. I'm sure in its heyday, when Main Street was what a "main street" was intended to be, a hustling, bustling business district, Zesto and the houses that surround it were one of the nicest parts of town. But as the city expanded and modernized over the years, the area just kind of fell behind. It happens in cities all over the world.
Enough about the area, let's get to the food. While Zesto is known locally for its legendary burgers, the menu also offers tenderloins, grilled chicken sandwiches, corn dogs, hot dogs, and even soups like chili, stuffed green pepper, and vegetable beef. They're also known for their ice cream, but I was there for one thing and one thing only...a burger.
Zesto offers single patty, double patty, and triple patty hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I chose the original single patty, "jumbo cheeseburger" with crinkle-cut fries and a medium drink. Each incarnation of a Zesto burger comes dressed with pickle and onion, and that's it. Lettuce, tomato, and bacon will cost you extra. As for condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayo, from what I could tell, if you want them, you have to ask for them. I didn't. My total bill was $4.99 including tax. Hands down the cheapest stop on the entire tour.
I got my order to go. While Zesto does offer a counter top and stools to eat at as well as a tented patio area outdoors, I brought mine back to the station so I could sit in our break room and watch SportsCenter on ESPN in hopes that they would have some sliver of football talk mixed into their monotonous barrage of NBA coverage that I couldn't care less about (I've tried, and it's physically impossible for me to care any less about pro basketball than I already do).
I settled into my seat, laid out my food, and added some mustard we had in the station fridge . It was now time for the moment of truth. Would my Zesto burger live up to the hype? In my opinion...no, it didn't.
The patty was by far the thinnest of the three I tried on the tour which seemed to have dried it out. I even gave the sandwich a gentle squeeze to see if I could get some juice, and got a whole lot of nothing. The only moisture the burger had came from the pickle, onion, and mustard. The one bright spot came from the sesame seed bun which was still soft even though it had been buttered and grilled.
As I sat in the station break room, kitchen, whatever you want to call it, a coworker came in and asked where I got my burger, when I told him Zesto, he instantly began to gush over how "off the chain" their burgers were. When I told him I wasn't impressed, he asked which one I went to. I told him Franklin Street and he said the Riverside Drive location was far better in his opinion. So maybe I'll have to give that one a shot at some point in time.
Maybe I caught Zesto on a bad day this time, or the maybe the hype surrounding their burgers was so great that my mind expected something astonishingly stellar and anything less would be a disappointment. Either way, I'm not giving up on Zesto. Even though my initial experience didn't quite pan out like I had hoped, I will make a return trip. It may not be for a hamburger, but at some point in the future, I will go back.