Whether it’s arbitrarily calling young people born between certain years “Generation Z” or enjoying the zombie apocalypse depicted in the “Z Nation” franchise, the letter Z seems to be gaining greater currency than its status at the end of the alphabet might suggest. A burger joint at the Collier Center in downtown Phoenix has recently jumped on board the Z bandwagon with the name “Metro BurgerZ,” a reflection of the restaurant’s urban location, its primary menu item, and, of course, a capital Z in place of a regular S to signify a plural word just for fun.
Metro is operated by the same owners behind Spoonz Cafe, another downtown Phoenix business (or should that be buziness?) just a few blocks away. In fact, Metro replaces a second location of Spoonz that was formerly upstairs at the Collier Center but never reopened after a pandemic-induced closure. This time, the owners are on the ground level, with a location in the little restaurant row that faces Second Street. The space here has seen a lot of turnover, even before 2020, so it will be interesting to see if this place can make the location work.
The path to Metro Burgerz involves a half block walk from the Washington / Third Street (eastbound) station and a slightly longer stroll from the Jefferson / Third Street (westbound) station with the new downtown transfer hub under construction just a few blocks to the west. A bike rack is found in the nook where Metro and its neighboring restaurant spaces, many of them currently vacant, are located. Outside, a patio dining area greets customers. On the interior, colorful works by a local artist adorn the walls of an otherwise simple counter-service operation.
The overhead menu further indulges in the use of Z with the names of signature burgers. The Z classic burger begins with a patty that is thin but not too dry. The beef is accessorized with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, and chipotle aioli all inside a brioche bun. The Double Z Classic is the same with double the meat inside. Z Bacon & Cheese and the Zhroom burger are self-explanatory in terms of their toppings while the Z Border burger features sliced jalapeño with cheddar and avocado, and the California Z Burger adds pesto, Swiss cheese, and avocado.
All of these burgers are solid choices with consistently good patties coming off the restaurant’s griddle, slid between halves of brioche buns, and served in checkered paper that mirrors the quilted metal in the kitchen. They’re ready to be paired with any of the restaurant’s three sides: waffle fries, sweet potato fries, and onion rings. They’re all excellent accompaniments and are complemented by a purchase of a side of chipotle aioli for dipping. Ketchup and De La Viuda hot sauce, in both its original and green pepper varieties, are also available at the counter.
In terms of non-burgers in buns, Metro offers two choices. The first is a chicken club sandwich known as ScottZdale, presumably a stereotype of that particular suburb. When sampled, the sandwich was a little dry, and the meat didn’t pick up a lot of flavor from marination. If that seems like kind of a perfunctory way of addressing the customer who doesn’t want red meat, the VeggieZ burger is a whole lot more successful. Made from grains, vegetables, legumes, and studded with black beans, it’s less cohesive than a beef patty but just as flavorful.
As a complete alternative to burgers, Metro also offers a handful of salads, all of them drawn from the more extensive menu at its sibling Spoonz. The Greek-inspired Athena salad contains Mediterranean flavors of red onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. It could use a bit less dressing, perhaps reducing the excess saltiness. The Napa Valley salad has an impressive variety of textures from craisins, green apples, and bleu cheese over romaine. With either of these salads, as well as a classic Cobb and a Caesar, there is the option to add grilled chicken.
For dessert, Metro also picks favorites from the Spoonz menu with a case full of cookies, brownies, blondies, and pastries such as a chewy strawberry oat bar and a multilayered bar full of chocolate and coconut. Drinks include sodas, iced tea, and both regular and strawberry lemonade. The restaurant currently sticks to a schedule of serving only lunch only on weekdays, a business model that is becoming increasingly rare in downtown Phoenix. It might eventually be nice to grab a burger after a game, making Metro BurgerZ even more metropolitan.
2 S. 2nd St. Phoenix AZ 85004