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June 21, 2019

Mark of distinction for Trumbull mall burger joint

PHOTO | Makayla Silva Making his Mark: Actor Wahlberg Thursday afternoon at Westfield Trumbull Mall for the opening of his family’s namesake burger joint.

Thousands “Wahled out” at the Westfield Trumbull Mall Wahlburgers Thursday — and not just for the ubiquitous government cheese.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of actor Mark Wahlberg, known for roles in Boogie Nights and Planet of the Apes, a sea of Marky Mark fans lined the entrances of his namesake burger joint like sardines.

Sporting a Wahlburgers T-shirt and clutching a Ted DVD, Mike Sciuto, 34, of Stratford, was one of three fans who lined up at 9:30 Thursday morning hoping to score a VIP bracelet to the event.

“I’ve been a fan of Mark Wahlberg for a very long time. He’s my favorite actor. I came here to eat on Monday and found out Mark would be coming, so I had to come back. I want him to sign my DVD,” Sciuto said.

Michelle Cahill, 31, of Oakville, was also part of the original fan crew in front of the Lord & Taylor entrance near Wahlburgers.

Cahill drove an hour with her brother, mother and nine-year-old daughter, Sophia Leigh, in hopes of meeting Wahlberg.

“My daughter loves Mark. Her favorite movies are the Ted series. We’ve been here all day hoping to take a photo with him,” Cahill said.

Wahlberg made his appearance at 6 p.m., first in front of about 75 fans in a roped-off VIP section. He then made his way through the restaurant stopping at tables for photo ops.

Wahlburgers has made a name for itself in the better-burger sector, thanks in part to its celebrity brother founders.

Debuting in October 2011, Wahlburgers launched its flagship location in Hingham, Mass. The Wahlburgers chain, which has 31 locations in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, is co-owned by executive Chef Paul Wahlberg, celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and other investors.

The brothers also star together in a reality television show about the restaurant. Wahlburgers is the subject of an A&E reality series of the same name, which follows the brothers, their mother and assorted family members and employees through the operations of the restaurant chain. The tenth and final season of the Wahlburgers began airing in May.

Opened in 2017, the Trumbull Wahlburgers is the first and only location in Connecticut, franchised to John Sullivan, with another restaurant slated to open in Springfield, Mass., as part of MGM Springfield’s dining options. Wahlburgers has a franchise fee of $40,000 and a development fee of $10,000 per location, according to the restaurant’s website. The royalty is generally 6 percent of gross sales.

At the mall, Wahlburgers occupies the old Ruby Tuesday’s space, next to Cheesecake Factory. The retro-modern inspired eatery shares the same uniquely Wahlberg design with contemporary dark woods, high industrial style ceilings and Kelly Green accents throughout. Black and white panels hang from the ceiling showcasing a listing of Wahlberg films while family photo collages celebrate the story of the Wahlberg brothers’ life journeys from Dorchester, Mass. neighborhood kids to rising chef and international superstars.

Family has driven the restaurant’s success, with Mark Wahlberg crediting his brother Paul Wahlberg, a classically trained chef, for the bulk of it. The family has given its history to the business: from Mom’s Sloppy Joe to Alma’s Macaroni Salad. Crafted by Chef Paul, the menu takes center-stage at Wahlburgers.

Hungry? You can gorge on a Triple Decker of three burgers piled between buns. Or take a bite of Donnie’s favorite BBQ Bacon Burger. Wahlburger’s signature product is a custom-blend patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, house-made sweet pickles, "Wahl sauce," and government cheese — a nod to Wahlberg’s hardscrabble childhood in Dorchester, Mass.

Does the self-proclaimed “health nut” Mark Wahlberg actually eat his own fare? He says his favorite is the Thanksgiving Burger, a turkey burger topped with stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted squash, and mayo. But, the star is known to order four of five burgers and have half or at least of a quarter of each one.

Donnie Wahlberg, was the first of the Wahlberg family to become famous via the boy band juggernaut that New Kids on the Block. He later became a successful actor in movies like The Sixth Sense, Ransom and multiple Saw sequels and various TV shows, including CBS’ Blue Bloods, which he has starred in since 2010.

Mark Wahlberg burst onto the scene as Marky Mark, who, along with the Funky Bunch, scored a huge hit with “Good Vibrations” in 1991. He later became an underwear model and eventually an in-demand actor starring in films like The Departed and the Ted and Transformers series. He is also executive producer of several HBO shows.

With a filming schedule went viral — a 2:30 a.m. wakeup, 7:30 a.m. tee time, and a 9:30 a.m. round in a cryochamber — it’s remarkable Mark Wahlberg has any time left in the day to build a restaurant empire in between the hours he is busy starring onscreen. But when he realized he wanted to build “something to pass on to the future generations,” he made the time. When Paul Wahlberg suggested Wahlburgers, Mark Wahlberg wasn’t sold. Now they’ve got Wahlbowls (deconstructed burgers served as salads), Chef Paul’s signature Wahl Sauce (something like ketchup, mayonnaise and hot sauce) and, to quench your thirst, a Wahlbrewski, a pale ale from Boston’s Harpoon Brewery.

Wahlburgers is open Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. and until 10:30 on weekends.

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