GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There is no shortage of incredible restaurants in Grand Rapids. But with so many options, how do you choose where to indulge? We — 13 ON YOUR SIDE digital producers Riley and Amy — have set out to find the tastiest spots in the area and are documenting our journey with a new series called 13 Eats.
13 Eats is all about highlighting the best restaurants and eateries in the Grand Rapids area. This week, burger lovers unite! We’re hitting up Wahlburgers.
Wahlburgers isn’t our typical 13 Eats stop. While we favor locally-owned restaurants with downhome flare, we decided to try this fan-favorite burger joint when we realized just how many people LOVE it. Like...people are really, really into it. So let’s investigate the hype.
Wahlburgers, as many know, was started up by Paul Wahlberg and the Wahlberg family — AKA, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. AKA, New Kids on the Block. AKA, everything else. Yep, that family.
Paul is the mastermind and the chef, and started the business with family in mind. On the Wahblurgers website, Paul is quoted saying, “Like most families, our most cherished memories were made around the dinner table.” At Wahlburgers, the goal is to pull you in and invite you to the family table.
Today, Wahlburgers has 52 locations nationwide. They span the states and the continents, too. And the Grand Rapids front, located on 10 Ionia Avenue NW, only just opened Nov. 1 of this year. The restaurant is in the heart of downtown and represents the very first location on Michigan’s west side.
►Read more about Wahlburgers here.
We decided to order the ‘Buffalo Chicken Wahlbites’ ($9.25) to begin. We figured it would be some rendition of a classic buffalo wing, but we were wrong. It was a small basket filled with crispy, fried balls of buffalo chicken dip served with a side of creamy bleu cheese sauce. These were surprising and delicious and as certified buffalo chicken lovers, we give two thumbs up.
When it came time for entrees, we wanted to try a classic choice and a Wahlberg specialty in hopes of giving a well-rounded review. We decided on the ‘Our Burger’ ($11.25) and the ‘Supermelt’ ($14.45).
Our safe choice, the ‘Our Burger,’ is exactly the burger you’d expect it to be. It’s a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and Paul’s signature wall sauce. To be honest, we weren’t all that impressed by the bun. It seemed store-bought and was a little too small for our liking — after a couple bites, it was hardly there with all the other, heavier ingredients. We also figured it could use a little more sauce, but all in all, it was a solid choice.
The ‘Supermelt’ was absolutely delightful. It has two beef patties sandwiched between thick-cut bread and cheese, with classic burger veggies, bacon and a delicious homemade mustard sauce. It was greasy, meaty, cheesy, bitter mustardy goodness on the inside with a crispy grilled cheese-like outside that made us both smile when we took our first bites. We’ve deemed the ‘Supermelt’ worth the calories.
We also ordered a side of fries and a side of tater tots with our meals. These were definitely your run-of-the-mill freezer fries and tots, and quite honestly, very disappointing, so we say skip the sides and dive right into the entrees.
We had the opportunity to visit Wahlburgers on a snowy Monday. We sat by the window and marveled at the holiday decorations strewn across the city streets and were warmed up by the kind staff and steaming dishes.
If it weren’t for the modern industrial decor in the restaurant, it would’ve felt like an upscale, cozy diner from an old movie. People were sitting at the bar, eating a burger and fries while talking with staff. People in business casual clothes sat in a booth on their lunch breaks. No matter the type of customer, Wahlburgers has a little slice of delicious for everyone.
The only thing that detracts from the retro diner vibe is the pictures of each of the Wahlbergs strewn across the restaurant watching us munch on their burgers, but hey, to each their own.
With a great downtown location, a beautiful interior and attentive servers, it seems like it could be a perfect addition to the Grand Rapids food scene… but we still have a little to say about that. Here’s what we’ve decided:
If you’re feeling greasy goodness, we’ve found your new promised land. Wahlburgers is the classic American-style cuisine of our dreams. Its menu is packed with fried delicacies, double- and triple-stacked cheeseburgers and creamy milkshakes topped with whipped cream. If 10-year-old Riley and Amy could design a restaurant with food our parents wouldn’t want us to eat, it would be this place.
With the excitement of celebrities and delicious burgers, we can understand why the Ionia Avenue location drew a massive crowd on their opening days. However, a month after its ribbon-cutting, we’re not sure the food will be noteworthy for years to come. It seems the hype is only in the Wahlberg name attached to the storefront, and the fact that they chose our wonderful city to open up shop.
Don’t get us wrong, we had a delightful lunch with wonderful service and great food, but this isn’t a destination we would visit time and time again. Still, stop by if you're in the mood for Marky Mark and the Funky Lunch.
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