Yeah, we had our doubts. Another fast-casual burger chain? Founded by the family with two famous pop/TV/movie stars in its ranks? And the basis for a reality TV show?
[Insert hype-weary derisive eye-roll here.]
With the chain opening up a massive location at The Piazza at Schmidt’s, we thought we’d give Wahlburgers a shot to see if it can live up to the hype. And for the most part, it did.
Like every other burger joint/bar on the scene, Wahlburgers makes a big deal about fresh meat, fresh ingredients and house-made condiments. But Wahlburgers seems to edge out the competition on a few fronts, mostly by making a damned tasty burger.
But first let’s talk about the sides (all $3.50 each). They offer fries, sweet-potato tots and tater tots, but the onion rings — thin slivers of red onions, lightly battered tempura-style and perfectly crisp — really stand out as a welcome break from what most of us are used to in deep-fried onion land.
If you want something more picnic-like, Alma’s Classic Macaroni ($5.95) is a refreshing macaroni salad with chopped red onion, sweet peppers, celery and parsley. If you order it, hopefully they’ll ask you if you want it like the employees take it, with some house-made Buffalo sauce on the side. The answer is, yes you do. The Buffalo sauce is spicy liquid perfection. (Wahlburgers, please bottle the stuff.) The Mac n’ Cheese ($4.95) with Smoked Bacon is another winner, with hearty chunks of bacon and great texture.
The burger selection ranges from the traditional to the decadent-bordering-on-outrageous. The latest addition to the arsenal is the seasonal Bahn Mi Burger (available through Memorial Day), a turkey burger topped with cucumbers, sriracha mayo, cilantro, jalapeños and kimchi. And while it definitely has the crunch of a bahn mi, the flavor is somewhat lacking. To its credit, the turkey-burger patty itself is killer, juicy and flavorful — thanks, we guess, to the fact that it’s cooked in bacon fat. The problem was the turkey burger stood out because the spicy kick anyone who has ever eaten a bahn mi burger woould expect was noticeably muted, if not absent, from the sandwich. Kimchi, jalapeños and sriracha on a sandwich should at the very least make you sweat, and it didn’t even come close.
More successful was the Invincible Burger ($9.95), a half-pound of beef topped with bacon, sharp provolone, caramelized onions and a balsamic glaze on a pretzel bun. Everything about this burger is meaty carnivore nirvana.
So basically we owe Mrs. Wahlberg an apology. We thought, because your offspring helped to create insufferable entertainment like the “Transformers” and “Saw” movie sequels, that it reflected negatively on you and your townie kinfolk’s ability to make a quality hamburger.
We were wrong.
Please pass the onion rings.
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