Heather Visits Wahlburgers

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Mark and Donnie Wahlberg have managed to make a name for themselves both in the music and acting business – Donnie most recently with his work on CBS’s Blue Bloods and his ongoing participation in New Kids on the Block while Mark is of course a movie star (Boogie Nights, Shooter, Ted, The Oher Guys) and producer (Entourage, Boardwalk Empire) whose humble beginnings started in Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. The siblings have decided to further expand their empire by going into the restaurant business with their brother Paul for the burger joint Wahlburgers. The restaurant is also a subject of an A&E reality show by the same name. I watched a few episodes of the show out of curiosity and while reality TV really isn’t for me, it was mildly amusing. By reality show standards it’s pretty tame and it feels pretty staged, but the interaction between the brothers, their other siblings and their mother Alma is generally relatable and fun. It’s mindless entertainment, but it’s still entertainment. I don’t watch the show regularly, but if I happen to come across it while surfing the channels, I’ll stop and watch a few minutes before moving on to greener pastures. Both Mark and Donnie are consistently featured on the show – the latter more than the former – which was a little surprising, as I figured their presence would taper off over time. You’d think that neither of them would have a lot of time or interest in a reality show on A&E, but family loyalty (and brand recognition) runs deep with this crew.

My friend Staci have been discussing for a while making the road trip to visit Wahlburgers; while the restaurant has plans for a rapid expansion into various new locations, currently the only spot that is open (according to their website) is in Hingham, MA (the family hails from Dorchester). It seemed like a win-win for us: we’d get to spend some time together while Staci would get a little NKOTB fix and I’d get to try a new burger. I could pretty much live on burgers if that was permissible without ever getting sick of them, so the opportunity to have a burger with a side of some pop culture made the three hour drive to the restaurant seem like an excellent way to spend a day. We hit the road at 8 am on Saturday to get to Wahlburgers shortly after it opened for lunch; we had bundled a visit to a spa in Boston in as part of the road trip as well, so we weren’t just driving six hours roundtrip to go to a casual dining establishment (though I have done dumber things).

Wahlburgers is located in a small plaza that is the home to many other restaurants, a movie theater, a brewpub and some retail stores. It was a little cooler and more overcast than we would have liked, but I’m guessing on a warm Friday or Saturday night the plaza would have been really hoping. It would be a nice one-stop shop for dinner and a movie and the plaza is located near a dock filled with either large boats or small yachts (I am not a nautical person). It was overall a pretty location and while it’s hard to make a plaza feel very exciting, it wouldn’t be a bad place to spend some time.

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Wahlburgers is located directly across from the family’s other restaurant, Alma Nove. We arrived shortly after 11 am, when they opened, and it was already fairly crowded. The restaurant was slightly bigger than I anticipated; one side was for “quick service” where customers order at the counter and pick the food up and the other side had wait staff that took care of individual tables. There is also outside seating with a fireplace. We opted for the full Wahlburgers experience and the hostess directed us to a high top to await our server. We were over by the bar and there were plenty of TVs to watch, though that early on a Saturday, there wasn’t much on other than soccer (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

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Since I wasn’t driving, I decided to go all out and have one of the restaurant’s adult frappes. I opted for the Fluffanuttah: vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, marshmallow vodka and crème de banana. It was a little pricey at $12, but since it’s not like I can go to Wahlburgers all the time I decided to go for it. I’m always a little wary of the dairy and alcohol combo – I still have PTSD from one too many Girl Scout cookie cocktails at a sorority formal in college – but the Fluffanuttah was pretty darn tasty. My only complaint was that there was a little bit of an alcohol after taste, so while the drink went down pretty smoothly, I was quickly reminded that this was not a frappe for kids. It was pretty filling as well, so one was more than enough, though I would have liked to try the s’more frappe as well.

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Though Wahlburgers is primarily a burger joint, the small menu does offer patrons plenty of options. In addition to the generic house burger, there are four specialty burgers on the menu as well as a burger of the month that rotates. The menu also has several sandwich and salads choices as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. So while the menu isn’t extensive, they manage to offer meals that would appeal to most people. The burgers don’t come with any sides, but those can be added a la carte. It dawned on me during the ride to Wahlburgers that in the 20+ years that we’ve been friends, I wasn’t even sure that I’d ever seen Staci eat a burger. So it would have been kind of hysterical if we drove all the way to Hingham and she ordered a salad. It turns out that she doesn’t have a beef with burgers (ha!); Staci ordered the “Originally from Dorchester” burger (1/2 lb burger with homemade tomato jam, bacon, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms) with a side of fires. I opted for “The Melt” burger (1/3 lb burger, served between thick-cut bread and grilled with government cheese, pickles caramelized onions, bacon and mustard sauce) with a side of sweet potato tots. Because reading comprehension is not always my strong suit, I completely skipped over the part of my burger’s description that discussed the bread, so I was super confused when my burger came out. It’s amazing that I did as well on the SATs as I did.

The Melt and Sweet Potato Tots

The Melt and Sweet Potato Tots

Fries and the OFD Burger

Fries and the OFD Burger

My main concern about Wahlburgers was that we would have driven all that way for a sub-par burger, which would have been a real drag. Thankfully, that was not the case; while my burger wasn’t the best that I’ve ever had (I love you In-N-Out), it wasn’t too shabby either. As confused as I was about the bread, it definitely added something to the burger; it was like having a burger inside a grilled cheese, which is not a bad thing in my book. My whole burger was tasty, but the pickles particularly stood out. They were just the right level of crispy and tangy. I’m a big fan of tater tots and my tots were also very good; I like my tots on the crispy side (rather than mushy) and these fit the bill. Staci enjoyed her meal as well, so it the trip was overall a success. We didn’t have any actual Wahlberg sightings, which I wasn’t really expecting anyway. Our timing probably didn’t help, since we were there so early; I’m guessing out likelihood of seeing at least Paul or Alma would have been better in the late afternoon or evening. Staci and I have both already met Donnie and it’s probably for the best that we didn’t run into Mark since I would have had to ask him for my money back for his movie Pain & Gain. Man, I really hated that movie. The staff that we did interact with were all nice and helpful; before we left we stopped by the counter to pick up some souvenirs – a Wahlburgers t-shirt for Staci and a Wahlburgers pint glass for me (because – of course).

All in all, it was a nice way to spend a Saturday, other than our close proximity to Fenway Park when we went into Boston for our spa visit on Newbury Street. I don’t know that I’d ever feel obligated to make a special trip to Wahlburgers again, but if I happened to be in the vicinity of the restaurant locations I would definitely stop in again. I wouldn’t put the Wahlburgers burger ahead of In-N-Out or Five Guys, but it’s way better than a lot of burgers that I’ve consumed in my travels. Good company and good food is not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

The full Wahlburgers menu is available at http://www.wahlburgersrestaurant.com. The Wahlburgers reality show has wrapped its third season on A&E.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Everything Old is New Again Edition

Hollywood is all out of ideas; that is the only conclusion I can draw from this installment of pop culture odds and ends, as the links are littered with stories about reboots and spinoffs. Original thought just doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Chances are if you loved something in the last 20 years, you’ll get to experience it all over again with a new version for the next generation. I’m not necessary against the idea of recycling ideas, but it is happening way too frequently now. Is nothing sacred?

While I sound like a crabby old lady and tell some kids to get off my lawn, enjoy your biweekly roundup of pop culture stories that you might have missed.

  • Marvel has announced that they will develop four original series for Netflix that focus on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, followed by a The Defenders miniseries.
  • 21 new characters will appear on Game of Thrones this season. Here’s the list and the actors attached. *spoilers*
  • The NY Times has a story on Fallon taking over The Tonight Show in February. He says he has his first guest in mind; I’ll be happy to do it Jimmy!
  • A local sports anchor did his entire segment as Ron Burgundy for Halloween:

 

  • Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang is 20 years old. We’re getting old, pals. But Wu
  • Notre Dame alum Regis Philbin re-enacted the Janitor’s speech from Rudy:

 

  • Adam McKay wants to make a movie about Ron Burgundy’s dog and kid going on adventures. I would totally watch this.
  • Dave Grohl played with the Zac Brown Band at the CMAs.
  • A study found that PG-13 movies are actually more violent than R movies.
  • Kate Upton may be the female lead in the Entourage movie. I didn’t think it was possible for me to want to see this movie any less. I was wrong.
  • Oh man – I love these Comedy Central spots featuring Loki:

 

  • Ali G is coming to FXX as part of a deal with Sacha Baron Cohen.
  • Hear The National’s song from the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack:

 

  • Lorde covered Tears for Fears for the soundtrack as well:
  • The History Channel is remaking Roots. 10 years ago I would have thought this was maybe an OK idea, but now that the History Channel lineup features shows about aliens and Swamp People, they have lost all credibility.
  • Bruno Mars released a new Gorilla remix featuring R. Kelly and Pharrell:

 

  • If you looking for some clarification about the ending of Thor: The Dark World, Slash Film has got you covered. *SPOILERS*
  • Jimmy Fallon let Harrison Ford pierce his ear. For reals:

 

  • The Fifty Shades of Grey movie won’t be released until February 2015.
  • Miley covered Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness”

 

  • A new initiative tries to get people to read and recite the Gettysburg Address. Plenty of politicians have participated, but so have Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien and Louis C.K.
  • I liked this sweet LEGO commercial:

 

  • The wrecking ball sculpture at GVSU will be reinstalled; it was removed after students rode it to parody the Miley Cyrus video.
  • Ylvis’ hit “The Fox” is going to be a children’s book. I’m guessing the same will not happen for their follow up song “Massachusetts.” Definitely not for kids (NSFW either):

 

  • HAHA….sorry Packers, but Dawson delivered a pretty good burn:

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  • Beyoncé fans have started a petition asking her not to attend Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding. For the record, I would totally attend a Kimye wedding.
  • What in the HELL did Lucky magazine do to Kerry Washington? Step away from the Photoshop.

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  • Rumors that a certain actress wouldn’t be appearing much in season 2 of Orange is the New Black may have been exaggerated.
  • Pitbull will host the American Music Awards.
  • Oscar the Grouch and Grumpy Cat hung out. The opposite of hilarity ensued.

 

  • The future for an Ender’s Game sequel is unclear.
  • Lauren Manzo from Real Housewives of New Jersey is engaged.

Trailers

  • A teaser trailer for Looking on HBO.

 

  • Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Trailer:

 

  • Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe in Winter’s Tale:

 

  • How I Met Your Mother is doing an all rhyming episode. Here’s a sneak peek:

 

  • The new Robocop trailer:

 

  • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones:

 

  • A Case of You with Peter Dinklage, who frankly deserves better:

 

A teaser trailer for Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent:

 

As always, we end with the supercuts and mashups:

  •  Cats remake The Hunger Games:

 

  • I shouldn’t have found this M.C. Thor “Hammer Time” rap as funny as I did.

 

  • Jimmy Kimmel re-cut Thor: The Dark World to be a romantic comedy (Thor Actually):

 

  • Sherlock gets the Friends opening credits treatment:

 

  • And finally, David Hasselhoff “sings” the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song:

If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

Happy Wednesday!

Boston – A Pop Culture Tribute

Given the tragic bombings in Boston yesterday, I can’t help but have the city on my mind. I have always loved the city of Boston; though it is one of America’s oldest cities, it also has a distinctively young vibe to it because of all the colleges and young professionals that settle in the area. After I graduated from college a large number of my friends moved to Boston, so I have been a frequent visitor to the city over the years (listen when people tell you to skip the climb to the Bunker Hill monument – it really isn’t worth it). I saw my first professional baseball and hockey games in Boston and it was the first major city I ever wandered around alone and unsupervised at the age of 11 (thanks inadequately chaperoned field trip!). As a Yankees and Bills fan, my sporting life in inevitable intertwined with the city.  I have so many fond memories in Boston that while I would weep for whatever city this happened to, this attack had special resonance to me.
To send a little love Boston’s way, today’s blog will feature some of my favorite Beantown inspired pop culture. The city has been the setting for many movies, books and TV shows and has given the world many actors and musicians, so it didn’t take long to come up with a short list of all the ways that Boston has influenced the world of pop culture.

  • New Kids on the Block – I may have retired from my boy band ways, but there is no getting around the fact that for a few select years of my life, NKOTB was pretty much the center of my universe. All the guys are from the Boston area and often paid tribute to their city in their choice of attire. It is because of my childhood crush on Joey McIntyre that I find the Boston accent so charming. My infatuation with the group helped spark my interest in Boston and is probably why I know so much about the city today.

 

  • Fenway Park – I have my issues with the team that plays there, but I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Fenway. Next to Yankee Stadium(s), it is the ballpark that I’ve spent the most time in and I love the old time feel of the place. I always have a good time wandering around Yawkey Way before a game and I’ve had one of the best sausage and peppers sandwiches of my life from one of the stands outside the stadium. Fenway is a great part of the history of not only Boston, but of baseball, and I’m glad that it exists.
From my most recent trip to Fenway

From my most recent trip to Fenway

 

  • Dennis Lehane books – I am a big fan of the author Dennis Lehane, who wrote Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island, and the majority of his books take place in the city of Boston. His novels have a noir feel and tend to portray the working class neighborhoods of the city (“Southie” is a particular favorite local of his); Lehane is from Dorchester, so he knows that of which he writes and his novels have an authentic local feel to them. He may focus on the seedy underbelly of many of the neighborhoods, but he does so with respect and love. His books have been successfully adapted into movies and I think the ease of that transition is due to the fact that he creates such a clear picture of the world that his stories are occurring in that it makes it harder for a director or screenwriter to screw it up.

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  • Cheers – Who wouldn’t want to go to a bar where everybody knows your name? The Bull and Finch bar in Boston was the loose model for the bar in Cheers and is used for the exterior shot of the bar during the credits (though the actual bar is much smaller). While Cheers felt like a lot of neighborhood bars, there is no denying that the show had a Boston flair to it – references were often made to the city and the sports teams and many Boston figures found their way into Cheers for a pint.

 

  • Dropkick Murphys – They are technically from Quincy, but I feel like that is close enough to count. Boston has historically Irish roots and the Dropkick Murphys’ brand of Celtic punk adequately pays homage to that ancestry. Their cover of the song “Tessie” became the unofficial anthem of the 2004 Red Sox team and their quest to finally win a World Series after an 86 year drought. I used to listen to Dropkick Murphys to get myself pumped up on the elliptical and before fantasy baseball drafts (when you are the only girl in the league, you need to bring your game face to be taken seriously).

 

  • The Departed – Lots of movies have been set in Boston, but I think The Departed is among my favorites. A great cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson) and fantastic director (Martin Scorsese would win an Oscar) helped make this adaption of the Korean film Infernal Affairs (which I also have seen) so successful and memorable. And yes, that is a Dropkick Murphys song playing in the background.

 

  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – Both these actors have been ambassadors for the city of Boston during their careers. The two actors grew up together in Cambridge and have always been loyal to their Boston area roots. Their first collaboration, Good Will Hunting, was set in Boston and Affleck cut his teeth as a director with two movies that were both located in Boston (Gone Baby Gone and The Town). The city means a lot to them; in the wake of the bombing, Affleck posted the Facebook message “Such a senseless and tragic day. My family and I send our love to our beloved and resilient Boston.”

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  • Sully and Denise on Saturday Night Live – I always got a kick out of these characters played by Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch.  These sketches never failed to make me laugh, even if they were exaggerated caricatures of how people see Boston residents. Besides, it is well established that I love just about anything associated with Fallon (though even I didn’t like the movie Taxi – that was terrible). This sketch features an appearance by another one of my favorite things from the Boston area – Conon O’Brien!

 

  • Aerosmith – My love for the “bad boys of Boston” is well documented and no list of my favorite things would be complete without them, even without the Boston specific focus of this list. After more than 40 years together, they still know how to rock; when I saw them live last year, they seemed just an energized as a band half their age.

 

I’m sure the list could go on and on; the Boston area has given us so much and now it is our time to give something back to them. All of my friends in the area were fortunately safe and sound yesterday, but many people weren’t so lucky. Boston is a resilient city and I have no doubt that they will come out of this terrible experience only stronger. The entire nation is thinking of them during this dark time. This message last night on the Brooklyn Academy says it all:

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Stay strong Boston – we’re with you!