An old feeling of skepticism for a new Wahlburgers

By Jack Yu and Brittany Tesoriero

Wahlburgers in Port Jefferson Station, a restaurant chain owned by famous brothers Paul, Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, has only been open for two months but is restoring faith in a location that had been home to unsuccessful restaurants.

The new restaurant, located at 4837 Nesconset Highway, is the first to open on Long Island and the second in New York.

“We are excited to be here,” Adam Subbiondo, the restaurant manager of Wahlburgers in Port Jefferson Station, said. “It’s a great atmosphere, staff, fantastic town and great building and busy area.”

The restaurant sits in Nesconset shopping center, where franchised restaurants, such as Five Guys, Taco Bell, and KFC, are densely spread. When traveling west on Route 347, the restaurant is across the divided, busy highway. This makes it difficult to reach.

“The location is ok if you’re coming from the east because you have to pass it and turn around. That was something I didn’t like for all of the places that were in there,” Rich Gandolfo, a customer from Coram, said.

“It’s very high-quality beef and they cooked it perfectly to order,” David DeSanto, a customer recalled his experience at Wahlburgers. “But 50 bucks out of the door? Seriously, just go to Friendly’s or Five Guys. They are just across the street.”

Mr. Desanto thinks even though the quality of food at Wahlburgers is good, he wouldn’t go to Wahlburger again just because food at other restaurants around there is cheaper and served in a larger portion.

In 2013, El Dorado, a privately owned Mexican restaurant located in the same building that is currently Wahlburgers, closed because the previous owners sold it to focus on opening Cabo Fresh, a newer, faster and more relaxed Mexican restaurant 13 miles away from Wahlburgers.

“I wouldn’t say it shut down, it was more like it was sold,” Jim Devilio, a former employee of El Dorado and son of the owner, said.  

Last year, Road Trip American Ale House, which was opened in late 2013 after El Dorado was sold, closed its doors.

“It seems like an appropriate venue for these types of restaurants — why they’re not surviving, I’m not sure,” Barbara Ransome, the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Director of Operations, said in an interview.

“In the business world there are two types of bricks-and-mortar stores,” Adam Alter, an associate professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, said. “There are locations people travel to on purpose, and those that people travel to intentionally.”

For restaurant patron Suzanne Oleaga, this was true.

“We traveled from West Islip,” she said. “I heard from my niece who lives in Port Jefferson. My grandaughters wanted to go.

Oleaga believes that the location will be successful because of the high profile of the Wahlbergs, who have also turned the restaurant into a television series. Oleaga enjoyed the food at Wahlburgers, but thought it was overpriced. It is for the price, and not the location, that she will not return.

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