Not just a burger joint
Wahlberg brothers’ restaurant is a hit
News of Hingham’s new burger joint exploded this summer in a Hollywood-powered media blitz that was hard to miss.
Even before the coverage on TV, newspapers, Us and People magazines, there was lots of local scuttlebutt: a deal for a reality show on the place; a green initiative, somehow linked to the White House, was underway; plans for a nationwide chain.
Whether or not these rumors come to pass, the brilliantly named Wahlburgers is lending some of Hollywood’s bright light to the Launch at Hingham Shipyard complex.
The 80-seat (there are another 40 on the patio) über-fast-food restaurant and bar is owned by longtime South Shore chef Paul Wahlberg and his celebrity brothers Donnie and Mark Wahlberg.
In June 2010, when Chef Paul opened his first restaurant, Alma Nove, across the street from the Wahlburgers site, his brothers were investors but quietly so.
Now, with Alma Nove’s success, the brothers have put their star power and family story on proud display.
The retro-modern diner-inspired décor is filled with movie memorabilia and the family focus is graphically encapsulated in the restaurant’s highly visible logo - Wahlburgers: Our Family, Our Story, Our Burgers.
That story - written on the rear wall in large letters - is a familiar Boston tale: Nine kids in a triple-decker in Dorchester didn’t have much but one another.
The bright, windowed space is a large V-shape (or maybe half a W?) with an open kitchen between the two rectangular wings. One side offers table service with seating either at large communal tables for 10, or at the bar.
On the other side, people order at the counter and either sit at a booth or a two-top, or get the food to go. In warm weather, there’s great patio seating.
Since it opened last month, Wahlburgers has been packed. On four recent visits, timed to avoid peak hours, the place was still crowded. The owners, who also include family friend Ed St. Croix, have created a clever business by including a full bar and making it the only place in the area that’s open seven days a week until 1 a.m.
The option, too, for self-service nicely removes the cost of a tip, as do the credit card receipts, which offer no line for writing in a tip.
Wahlburgers isn’t really about the food. It’s about fun and filling up on satisfying comforts in a lively, easy environment.
Eight flat-screens line the walls above the bar; the brothers are big Boston sports fans. Music, too, is important to the lads (Donnie got his start in the ’80s in the boy group New Kids on the Block), so the sound system is great and the play list widely varied.
The menu is small but well thought out. There are nicely seasoned turkey burgers ($6.25) and three main beef burgers - the cheapest being the single-decker at $4.50, and the most expensive, the triple-decker at $9.
The sandwiches have a grilled toasted bun and can be ordered with a large selection of toppings that include fresh jalapeños, smoked tomato salsa, and sriracha hot sauce. A single- or double-decker with, say, ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, tomato, and the “government’’ (American) cheese the Wahlbergs grew up on, delivers mouthfuls of hard-to-resist, classic fast-food burger flavor.
Three burgers with set toppings are offered as specialty choices. The Thanksgiving turkey burger ($7.50) is topped with stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted squash, and mayo. It is sweet, savory, and gooey - in a good way.
The beef is all antibiotic- and hormone-free, a nice boon, and healthier burgers, including salmon and mushroom, are to debut soon.
The kids’menu has good Bell & Evans hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken fingers with fries for $5; a simple grilled cheese on thick white bread with fries ($4); “smahlburgers’’ with fries ($5); and kid-sized sodas for a buck.
There are also tater tots ($3) and sweet potato tots ($3), which are fine but I’d rather have the fries ($3).
I love (God forgive me) Wahlburger’s hot dog ($4), with its snappy bite, the choice of some good sauerkraut, and its grilled roll. I don’t know where else around here I could get as good a dirty water dog as this one.
We also found the skinny onion rings outstanding, and one hard pull on the thick chocolate frappe ($4.65), made with ice cream from Nona’s Homemade Ice Cream, brings on flashes of pure childhood goodness.
The chef’s ingrained hospitality is evident in little touches aimed to please a variety of guests: good French roast coffee, house-made lemonade, locally sourced Hornstra Farms chocolate milk, and caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and avocado as optional burger add-ons ($1).
Noticeable, too, are a pair of salt and pepper shakers on each table - no need for paper packets of S&P at Wahlburgers.