I finally cracked and made it out to Wahlburgers to try out their burgers, and let me say that I’m mostly disappointed by pretty much every single aspect of the experience. The prices are a trap, the burgers are surprisingly small, the menu is tiny, it’s nowhere near Boston, the text/call seating system doesn’t shut the hell up, Markie Mark/Donnie/Camera crews were nowhere in sight, and the bar isn’t even stacked to the brim.
Let’s start with the saving graces of the place:
- Two Ordering Styles: One side is the classic sit-down restaurant where you’re served by a waitress, and the other side is a burger bar where you can stand and order while you watch the cooks make the burger. When I went, I sat at the end of an eight-top table with my friend, and there was a group of four on the far end of the eight top table with an empty chair between us and them. This would seem weird, but it gave the restaurant a welcoming family feel sitting at a table with a bunch of randoms. I think that’s the point of Wahlburgers?
- Cheap Booze: The other saving grace was that my friend ordered a giant Long Island Iced Tea that we were only charged $5.50. Amazing.
However, all that being said, there’s a diatribe of issues I have with Wahlburgers:
- Price: Burgers are about $6-$8 a piece, which sounds like a great deal, but factor in the soda is $2, and the fries come on the side at $3.15… And it’s not a big thing of fries either, there these tiny little noodle fries that probably came from the bargain bin at a local supermarket. The amount of fries is comparable to a small or medium at McDonald’s, so not a whole lot for the price and quality of the fry. That being said: a burger, fry, and soda at Wahlburgers is going to run you about $13, not including tip.
- Burger Size: The burgers were really, really small for the price. I think they’re supposed to be 1/3 pound burgers, but I was still very hungry after eating my burger, fries, and some of my friends tots. I wasn’t completely satisfied. The burger itself was delicious, I ordered “Donnie’s Choice,” which is a BBQ burger with bacon, jalapenos, guacamole, and government cheese. That sounds like it should have been a beefy punch to the stomach, but instead it was a very light pat on the tummy.
- Menu Is Bare: There are options to customize the burgers there, and there’s a pretty decent kid’s menu, but for the most part, Wahlburgers doesn’t have a heck of a lot of options to order from. It’s basically Donnie’s Burger, Markie’s Burger, or Paul’s Burger. For the kid at heart, there are tots available instead of fries, but again the quality and portion are so not worth the price.
- It’s Nowhere Near Boston: The main attraction of Wahlburgers is that it’s the food and story of the Wahlbergs. Except it’s really not. Once you’re in the restaurant, it feels like any other burger bar, and there’s nothing really there to make it feel like I’m actually living the life of Mark or Donnie. Wahlburgers is also located at the premium shops in the Hingham Shipyard, not exactly the “rough streets” of Dorchester, and about 13 miles away.
- That Stupid Text/Call System: A kitschy thing about Wahlburgers is that they use a text message alert system to let you know when your table’s ready. If you’re taking a few minutes too long, they’ll call you to remind you that your table is ready, and the call even asks “Press 1 if you’re on your way to the restaurant.” This seems cool, right? It kind of is, except it ended up being annoying as hell. Two text messages within six seconds of each other to alert me my table is ready. Thirty seconds later my phone rings to inform me my table is ready, I answer and press 1 to let them know I’m literally across the street at Hingham Beer Works, but my phone rings again right after I hang up. Then my phone rings again. I had already pressed 1 to tell them I was coming, but literally my phone exploded and it didn’t even let me have 60 seconds to walk across the street to the restaurant.
- Markie and Donnie Are Not There: If Wahlburgers is supposed to prize itself on being about the lives of Markie Mark and Donnie, there should be a boxing ring in the center of the place and live fights going on, or a group of southie thugs yelling at Dorchester brats the whole time. This place just felt like a burger bar, there was nothing that made me thing of Mark or Donnie or the Wahlbergs at all. Sure, sitting at the same table as someone else reminds me of a family dinner, but there isn’t a single thing here making me believe that family is the Wahlbergs.
I guess my complaint is that I was expecting this place to somehow be about the Wahlbergs and Mark and Donnie and Paul, but it was basically any other place on the map. If this was any other place, I wouldn’t exactly have a problem with any of the issues I’ve addressed, but to put a celebrity label to the restaurant and have a TV endorsement, then it needs to be understood there are higher expectations that I completely expect to be met to make this pilgrimage worth my goddamn time.
This trip wasn’t worth my time, or money. Maybe if they put a boxing ring in there or play episodes and movies of the Wahlbergs, I might change my mind. Until that point, this is any old burger place with a fatter price tag.
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