Wahlbergs Set to be Sin City’s Newest Bun Slingers

Propelled by reality-show success, Wahlburgers readies a Vegas expansion
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Roll over, Gordon Ramsay and give Mario Batali the news: Marky Mark and his brothers are bringing the family hamburgers to Vegas. Or maybe Bobby Flay should tell Hubert Keller. In the expansive burger sector of the Vegas dining scene, it can be hard to keep track of all the big names. What’s one more clutch of burger-toting celebs?

The Wahlberg brothers—Mark (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Donnie (Blue Bloods) and Paul, a chef—announced recently that their chain’s aggressive expansion plans (Boston, Philly, Toronto) include three Vegas outlets, one to open early next year, the others to follow in due time.

The location hasn’t been made public yet, but they’re looking for a “high-traffic” location, so we’re guessing a high-end food court on the Strip, a glitzy location befitting the chain’s narrative of its founders ascending from neighborhood kids to the celebrity-sightings pages.

At least one Vegas foodie blog thinks it’ll be a big deal: “Wahlburgers to transform Vegas Burger Wars,” Vegas Eater whooped, conjuring a mental image of bacon cheeseburgers whomping from mortars as fry cooks shout “Fire in the hole!” And certainly a little marketing oomph from the A+E Networks reality show Wahlburgers, based on the restaurant, will give the budding chain some traction. (For a taste of reality TV’s drawing power, check the usually packed lines outside the Gold & Silver pawn shop downtown, site of the Pawn Stars show.) Wahlburgers is said to be evaluating potential hires with an eye toward how they’ll play on the small screen. A little extra ham in your hamburger, sir?

Still, two words of caution are in order: Flavor Flav. His celebrity chicken joint in an off-Strip neighborhood, while swaddled in grand-opening publicity thanks to Flav’s pop-culture status, couldn’t make it in the long run.

“Las Vegas seems like an easy target for celebrity-driven restaurants like Wahlburgers, but they haven’t always worked out,” says Brock Radke, food editor of the Las Vegas Weekly. “There’s a lot more competition now.” True, true: Take a look at the review pages of the indispensable Vegas Burger Blog to see just how many options there are here. You’re rarely far from a good slab of grilled beef on a bun. “In almost any other city, Wahlburgers could likely be the most famous burger spot, but not here. We just got Umami Burger, we’re about to get Shake Shack, and we already have burger-centric restaurants from famous chefs like Flay, Batali, Ramsay and Keller.”

Bottom line, he says, is that “Wahlburgers seems like a fun addition to our menu, but it’s not very exciting.” Or, as a commenter snarked in a thread under a local paper’s rewrite of Wahlburgers’ announcement, “If you had said Whataburger, I might’ve been interested.”

 

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