Bostonians of a certain age have a strong affinity for the pride of Dorchester, the Wahlberg family. Among the nine siblings, we knew Mark back when he was Marky Mark, and Donnie back when he was a teen heartthrob with NKOTB. While those two have gone on to become globally famous, each with one foot out of town, it's their older brother Paul who has strengthened the family's local presence in recent years thanks to his culinary forays.
Paul, who spent his time in the family kitchen with family matriarch Alma, paid his dues in several kitchens around Boston including The Charles Hotel, The Four Seasons, and Bridgeman’s in Hull. In 2011, soon after Paul embarked on his first solo venture, Alma Nove in Hingham, he opened the first Wahlburgers directly across the street. The subject of an A&E reality show which has run for 10 seasons, Wahlburgers currently has 32 locations throughout North America. Each location offers a fun menu with solid burgers and a casual, upbeat environment with lots of Boston decor, including family photos celebrating the brothers' life journeys from Dorchester neighborhood kids to superstars.
Time Out recently caught up with Paul to see how his successful burger chain has been handling recent events and the current, unprecedented dining climate.
Time Out: How have you handled the sudden pivot to takeout?
Paul Wahlberg: At Wahlburgers, we were fortunate to have already had the foundation built for online ordering and takeout. We had introduced our Wahlburgers App and loyalty program just this past October so thankfully, we were able to switch gears from being a primarily dine-in experience, to completely takeout. While we had the foundation built, there have still been a number of challenges, but our team has been incredible, working quickly and diligently to start delivery options, create curbside offerings and also adapt daily to the CDC and local health official guidelines to ensure we maintain the health and safety of our team members and guests.
Time Out: How have things gone for your staff during this time?
Paul Wahlberg: It’s pretty amazing to see the team rise to the occasion in situations like this. Everyone has come together to make sure we are making smart decisions, adjusting menus, implementing new offerings for the guest, and ensuring we have the right policies in place. Culinary, Operations, Marketing – we’re all working as a team and getting it done.
Time Out: What extra steps can customers take to help their favorite restaurants during this uncertain time?
Paul Wahlberg: Grab a gift card for a future night out or pick up take-out to enjoy your favorite meal at home.
Time Out: How have you personally been dealing with the current climate, what is your schedule like?
Paul Wahlberg: I’ve actually been spending almost all of my time in the restaurants. I’ve been doing a lot of cooking at Alma Nove in Hingham, making family style meals and serving the community.
Time Out: How have you been spending whatever 'downtime' you have?
Paul Wahlberg: There hasn’t been too much downtime for me! I’m just trying to make sure I get caught up on sleep whenever I can.
Time Out: Do you have a guilty pleasure or easy-to-make-at-home dish that gives you comfort?
Paul Wahlberg: I’m a New Englander. Ice cream, lots of ice cream – whatever flavor is in the freezer. And grilled cheese sandwiches. Those are my comfort foods.
Time Out: How has it been staying in touch with your family? Have you have a Zoom/hangout with all your siblings?
Paul Wahlberg: My brother Jim Facetimed me and my Mom yesterday. It’s nice to be able to stay connected even though we can’t be physically together.
Time Out: Any people you want to give a shout out to during this time?
Paul Wahlberg: All my fellow restaurant industry peers…We’re all working through a unique set of challenges that we’ve never experienced before.