Brand of Brothers: Wahlburgers Officially Opens in The Fenway

There’s a new juicy contender in the battle of the best Boston burger here in The Fenway. The legendary Wahlbergs opened their latest Wahlburgers restaurant in the neighborhood earlier his month. The expansive burger joint at 132 Brookline Ave comes complete with an outdoor patio, full bar and signature favorites on the menu including the tasty Originally From Dorchester (O.F.D.) burger, sweet potato tater tots and whatever-makes-you-happy toppings.

The Wahlbergs have been rapidly building a burger empire with locations in Florida, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania and even Toronto as documented on the A&E show “Wahlburgers.”

Chef Paul Wahlberg, who owns Wahlburgers with his famous brothers Mark and Donnie, has been busy with The Fenway restaurant opening and making sure it is camera-perfect for its inevitable spotlight on the A&E show. He sat down with us to talk about cooking the perfect burger, family values straight out of Dorchester and his excitement about opening a restaurant a pop-fly away from Fenway Park.

So, Wahlburgers is now open in The Fenway. You are a native son of Boston. Why’d you decide to open up shop in the neighborhood?
The Fenway is just an amazing location. Growing up as a kid, that’s where things happened. I waited out overnight in ‘86 for tickets to the World Series. I remember going to opening day with my brother Donnie. Being a true Red Sox fan, it’s the place to be for us. With the rejuvenation of the neighborhood, it’s really amazing what’s going on.

What was it like growing up in Dorchester? Do you go back there often?
There was never a dull moment growing up in Dorchester. We absolutely had our struggles. But you think about the connection with the city and being part of the city…lots of people say ‘oh I’m from Boston,’ but really it’s the suburbs. We are from Dorchester. We are from Boston. This is who we are.

I go back there more now because when I come home from The Fenway I cut through Dorchester. My brother Bob still lives there. I’ve taken my kids to the places we went growing up—like the Ice Creamsmith over on Dorchester Ave up in Lower Mills.

Let’s talk about your career as a chef. Mark and Donnie are famous entertainers. What inspired you to become a chef?
As a kid, watching my parents cook for nine of us…there were always people making food. I remember watching Graham Kerr on “The Galloping Gourmet” too. I was always fascinated by it. How much he enjoyed what he did and the happiness that he brought to people when they tried the food. Making people happy has always been the driving force.

Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to be chef?
I was working—my friend’s dad owned a restaurant called Trolly’s on Canal Street next to The Boston Garden. Somebody literally walked by and I was cleaning steak tips, and they said, “wow you’re pretty good at this, maybe you should think about being a chef.”

That was my Forrest Gump moment. From then on, I knew this is what I’m gonna do. I remember telling my dad and he was so impressed. He said, ‘I’m a grown man and I still haven’t figured out what I wanna do when I grow up.’

You’ve worked for years as a chef in high-end Boston restaurants. Now the focus is on Wahlburgers. Where does the passion for burgers come from? 

Well, it’s something I’ve always loved to eat. The burger is that simple, complete meal. A hot sandwich with all the stuff I like. I’m a lettuce, tomatoes, pickle guy. And, just thinking about when we were kids, cooking those burgers on the back porch with my dad…you get that nice sear, that crust on them that’s so awesome.

Do you have any pointers for what makes a perfect burger?
For me, it starts with the meat and the bread. I’m cooking for other people every day, and that’s what we do. The quality of the meat comes through, the quality of the bread comes through. The toppings—we have our favorite burgers on the menu and that’s an idea of which way to go. But for other people, it’s whatever they like! It’s not a burger without X, Y and Z. Everybody has an idea of the perfect burger, whatever makes them happy.

At Wahlburgers you give people that option.
They absolutely have that option. The specialty burgers, I stand behind them 100%, absolutely amazing and delicious. They should give all of our burgers a try, and then if they don’t like it, they can always make what they want.

Our signature Paul’s Burger is the best representation of what we do. It’s that classic burger. Not a lot of crazy ingredients on there. It’s that lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, cheese and Wahl Sauce that we’re really proud of because we think it really brings out the flavor.

Are you going have a full bar at Wahlburgers? Can you talk a little bit about the atmosphere?
We want people to come in and have a great time. We want to be happy, upbeat. And having that full liquor license is just another added amenity. You can have a drink, you can have a beer with your burger. We have the adult frappes, which are truly amazing. People can have a frappe with a little bit of Kahlua, a little bit of Bailey’s. It’s gonna be a fun atmosphere to hang out in.

And a great place to watch the game, too.
Absolutely, absolutely. But nothing compares to the real thing, I gotta tell you.

Are you ready for the Red Sox fans?
Oh absolutely. Trust me, I’m one of them. And, just the idea that we are around the corner from Fenway Park is just truly amazing. We live and die with the Red Sox. To think now, and people say, ‘oh you guys are just spoiled.’ Red Sox fans are now spoiled? Think about that. My dad stopped rooting for the Red Sox in ‘78. He said, that’s it, they’ve done it to me for the last time. And I couldn’t believe it—we were sitting there, all of us in my parents’ bedroom, watching this homerun… {sigh}.

What do you enjoy the most about running your own restaurant?
I’m still in awe of anybody who walks through the doors. They make it possible for me to do what I do.

Will the new location be featured on the A&E show?
Oh yes.

Do you enjoy doing the show?
I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it because it’s not what I do. It’s great for the exposure. The staff, they love it. Getting to spend more time with my brothers and my sisters and my mom, that’s been great. Mark and Donnie are gone all the time, filming. So when we have a chance to do the show together, it’s awesome.

We seem to be at the golden age of burgers right now. There’s Tasty Burger, Boston Burger Co., Shake Shack. What makes Wahlburgers different?
All of those guys do an amazing job. I’m not trying to be different, I’m just trying to do what we do. We’re out there, working hard. If they’re doing better than us, shame on us, we’re not delivering what we promised. Those guys serve a great product and so do we. We just want Wahlburgers to be on people’s lists when they think of burgers.


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