Business

Wahlberg family’s burger chain, Wahlburgers, is coming to downtown Raleigh

mcornatzer@newsobserver.com

Donnie Wahlberg, from left, Paul Wahlberg and Mark Wahlberg attend the Wahlburgers Coney Island preview party in New York, June 23, 2015.
Donnie Wahlberg, from left, Paul Wahlberg and Mark Wahlberg attend the Wahlburgers Coney Island preview party in New York, June 23, 2015. AP

Wahlburgers, the burger chain owned by the family of actors Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, is coming to downtown Raleigh.

The company confirmed that it would be opening its first North Carolina location in early 2017 in The Hudson at 319 Fayetteville St. The site was most recently home to the Oxford restaurant.

“They liked the space and its prominence,” said Bill King, senior director of planning and development for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

Late last year the Massachusetts-based chain announced it wanted to open more than 100 new locations over the next five years. There are currently Wahlburgers – most owned by franchisees – in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing Wahlburgers to the vibrant and eclectic downtown center of Raleigh,” Rick Vanzura, CEO of Wahlburgers, said in a statement. “With such a dynamic group of shops, restaurants and attractions, downtown Raleigh is at the height of economic growth and we look forward to serving this diverse and thriving neighborhood.”

Kelvin DuMas of Colliers International, who brokered the deal, said the franchisee behind the Raleigh location is also opening Wahlburgers in Atlanta, and Charleston and Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Myrtle Beach site is scheduled to open in a couple of weeks.

DuMas and the company’s public relations spokeswoman declined to name the franchisee.

The chain also is looking to open a restaurant in Charlotte, but hasn’t been able to find the right location there yet, DuMas said.

DuMas said that Vanzura, the CEO, walked through the old Oxford space and gave it a thumb’s up before the deal closed in August. None of the brothers visited Raleigh during the negotiations, but Mark and Paul Wahlberg, the family chef, showed up for last year’s grand opening of the first Wahlburgers in Orlando, Fla. Of course, there’s no guarantees that will happen here as Mark Wahlberg is busy with his film career (“Deepwater Horizon” has just premiered and “Patriots Day,” about the Boston Marathon bombings, is due out before the end of the year) while Donnie Wahlberg stars in the CBS drama “Blue Bloods.”

The first Wahlburgers restaurant opened in 2011 in Hingham, Mass., a suburb of Boston, just across the street from the family’s first restaurant, Alma Nove, named after the family matriarch Alma. The menu, created by Paul Wahlberg, includes burgers, housemade condiments, haddock, chicken and vegetarian options. Signature items include Mom’s Sloppy Joe.

The restaurant is the basis of the reality show by the same name on A&E. The show has been nominated twice for an Emmy Award.

According to a review in the Orlando paper, a Wahlburger “Our Burger” was “full-flavored, flame-licked and a spot-on medium. Topped with a vine-ripe tomato slice, nicely sliced lettuce (not ubiquitous shreds), farmhouse-style dill pickle slices, a sweet onion that was nicely translucent not raw, “government cheese” and the house “Wahl” sauce.

Government cheese for anyone who hasn’t watched the reality show is the square, creamy American cheese the Wahlberg kids grew up eating. The Wahl sauce is a family secret.

Mary Cornatzer: 919-829-4755, @capeditor

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