In case you missed it, movie star and producer Mark Wahlberg popped up in the Queen City February 26 to promote the new Walburgers franchise that opened last month in the AT580 building downtown. The chain was founded by the Wahlberg brothers (chef Paul and musicians-turned-actors Mark and Donnie) in their Boston-area hometown in 2011. Mark and Cincinnati franchise owner Nino Cutraro held court to describe what sets their burgers apart in the crowded fast-casual dining landscape.
When he’s not filming a movie or training for a role, as he has for the past five months, Wahlberg says his favorite item on the menu is The Our Burger. The flagship burger includes a 1/3-pound beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, so-called “government cheese”—a nod to the brothers’ humble beginnings—house-made pickles, and Paul’s signature “wahl sauce” (think Thousand Island dressing with a kick).
We stand by his recommendation. The Our is a crowd-pleaser that mimics the “classic” homemade cookout burger—simple but not simplistic, and well balanced. The wahl sauce takes it up a notch, but certainly not to highbrow levels. But why stop there? Adventurous souls might prefer Wahlberg’s tasting method: “I’ve been binging on Wahlburgers for the past couple weeks since I’ve been home. I usually order four burgers, and I’ll split them with somebody.”
Aside from the restaurant’s family-friendly appeal, diners can look forward to a possible virtual appearance from the Wahlberg brothers during a future visit. Using live-stream technology, the founders can be hands-on in their locations and do the publicity rounds on a whim by broadcasting live via the restaurants’ TV screens. “With the touch of a button, I’m able to go live in any Wahlburgers restaurant, so I’ll be showing up periodically if we have someone throwing a party or for some special occasion,” Wahlberg said. “I’ll be able to check in and say hello, and my brother can talk to the staff.”
For those who caught the chummy photos of Mark and his buddy Jeff Ruby last fall, no, Ruby wasn’t at the event, but he was invited, Wahlberg said. “He’s out of town… laying on a beach somewhere.” The actor said the local restaurateur has been supportive along the way, despite sharing the same turf. “He’s a competitive guy. He didn’t mind that we exist in a different space—you know, we’re fast-casual. He’s been a great help.”
If you swing by the restaurant for a Reds game, you might just catch a glimpse of the Wahlberg brothers in the flesh as they commute back and forth shooting their A&E series Wahlburgers. “You’ll be seeing lots of us,” Mark said. “We’ll be coming back for baseball season.”
The Cincinnati spot is the chain’s second in Ohio—after Cleveland—adding to more than a dozen locations across the U.S. “We love being in the Midwest,” said Curtraro. “We love the people in Cincinnati.”
Wahlburgers, 199 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 457-7085, wahlburgersrestaurant.com