The city of Chicago is still going to feel the vibrations of Donnie Wahlberg and family’s burger chain — and the suburbs will too. More than a year after an initial report cited a franchisee to reveal that a Wahlburgers would open in River North, the chain finally gave an update.
CEO Rick Vanzura emails that the Massachusetts-based company hopes to open the River North restaurant by the end of the year. “The building presented a number of unforeseen obstacles, but the space has been designed, and construction is scheduled to begin by the summer,” he wrote. Vanzura still declined to reveal the upcoming restaurant’s address, however, saying the company is “not prepared to make that public yet.” Stay tuned for that information at a later date.
The River North spot isn’t the only Wahlburgers coming to Chicagoland, however. The St. Charles Plan Commission approved a location in that town on May 8 after Donnie Wahlberg himself spoke during a public hearing, the Kane County Chronicle reported. That restaurant will be part of a new development coming to the southwestern corner of Route 38 and Randall Road in the western suburb and include a patio and nods to St. Charles history in its decor. Wahlberg and wife Jenny McCarthy own a house in the suburb, which is why they chose to open a restaurant in that town. Vanzura writes that “no timeline has been set” for that location’s opening. St. Charles’ city council could approve the restaurant at June 4 meeting. Rita Tungare, St. Charles’ director for community & economic development, wrote via email she believes construction should immediately start this summer.
A Chicago Wahlburgers has been rumored for years, even before last year’s report about the River North location. The chain has embarked on multiple aggressive expansion plans over the years that led to restaurants in other Midwestern locales including two in Michigan, two in Ohio, and one coming soon to Iowa. The chain recently announced a new location in Olathe, Kansas. Last week its first Minnesota location also opened in a partnership with local supermarket chain Hy-Vee.
Wahlburgers’ food, which centers on an array of thick burgers, sandwiches, salads, desserts and more in full-service restaurants with full bars, has garnered mixed reviews around the country over the years. Eater New York critic Robert Sietsema was unimpressed with the food at the Coney Island, Brooklyn location back in 2015. That restaurant closed and another in Times Square has been long-delayed, yet the chain’s popularity is still evident in its many other locations around the country. Last month, Wahlburgers also announced that its burgers would be available at more than 1,300 grocery stores around the country, including Jewel-Oscos in Illinois.
Yet the chain had somehow ignored opening a restaurant in the Midwest’s largest market and the nation’s third-largest, until this year. Stay tuned for more details.