The Burger Bunch - Wahlburgers keeps it casual and in the family
Rarely do I get excited about elements in the “fast food” genre, but today was different. I was off to the Hingham Shipyard for lunch at Wahlburgers, the place that’s been stirring up excitement for South Shore residents since its grand opening in October.
I admit that the celebrity name was the first thing to spark my excitement as I approached the building, which has the look of a modern triple-decker much like the home where Chef Paul Wahlberg and his siblings grew up in Dorchester. The vibrant green circle with a white painted “w” high above the entrance is hard to miss — as is the chef, who can be seen crossing back and forth between his elegant Mediterranean style restaurant Alma Nove (named after his mother and nine siblings) and the new burger joint.
“When we were kids my dad would make burgers for us and we thought it was the best thing in the world,” says Paul Wahlberg, who collaborated with family friend Ed St. Croix and brothers Mark and Donnie to transform the classic “burger and fries” into something special at Wahlburgers. The three brothers set out to recreate the feel and flavors reminiscent of their childhood — with a bit of Hollywood and South Shore flair added to the mix.
The retro-modern style restaurant is split like a “V” into two distinct sections: a bar with additional full service seating and a “fast food” style casual dining area. During the lunch hour the bar is full of people indulging in burgers, some with towering toppings and I overhear one customer order an adult “dirty monkey” frappe. I, like many others, head to the “fast food” family dining section. One by one, customers place their order, take a buzzer, and scurry across the polished cement floor to one of the booths located adjacent to the large open kitchen. Service is fast and tables for two, graced by electric lime green chairs, rotate in new customers nearly every twenty minutes.
Families enjoy the Hollywood meets local neighborhood décor, with black street lamps lighting the booths, movie posters, and Wahlberg family photos on the walls. The celebrity factor also plays into the menu, which features a range of burgers and hot dogs with sides of fries, tater tots, onion rings, and old-fashioned frappes. Paul, Mark, and Donnie each have their own “choice” of burger. “Paul’s Choice” is Wahlburgers signature, a 5 – ounce patty topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, house-made sweet pickles and American cheese with “Wahl sauce” (a delightfully smooth and smoky sauce with a recipe the chef will never tell.)
Each beef patty is made of 100 percent all natural beef that contains a mixture of ground chuck, brisket, and short ribs and is served on artisan hamburger buns from Hearth Wood Fired Bread in Plymouth. Other inspired flavor options include the newest addition to the menu, a fresh ground salmon burger, topped with a ginger soy vinaigrette, wasabi aioli and pickled cucumber.
I order the Thanksgiving burger, partly because of whose “choice” burger it is, and also because its one of my favorite holidays.
“Mark likes turkey burgers, so we thought, ok, let’s make a Thanksgiving burger,” says Wahlberg, who tops the natural ground turkey patty with homemade stuffing, orange cranberry sauce, butternut squash, and a spread of mayo. I was shocked that a turkey burger could taste so close to what I would typically devour in a sandwich filled with leftover oven-roasted turkey and all the homemade sides.
Despite the newly added dessert options of homemade whoopie pies, cupcakes, and cookies prepared by pastry chef Christie Radeos of Alma Nove, I couldn’t leave a burger joint without having a chocolate malt frappe. The malt flavor mixed with farm fresh milk from Hornstra Farm in Hingham and homemade ice cream from Nona’s in Hingham was a delight. Celebrity allure aside, Wahlburgers delivers a one-of-a-kind casual dining experience and quality foods to keep you coming back.