'It's finally happening': Donnie, fans excited to see Wahlburgers groundbreaking in St. Charles
Did you know bacon is a vitamin?
That's a whimsical observation Donnie Wahlberg made Friday during the St. Charles groundbreaking of Wahlburgers, the latest restaurant owned by him and brothers Mark and Paul, the restaurant's executive chef.
"(Paul) envisioned this idea. Mark and I jumped on the bandwagon," Donnie Wahlberg told hundreds of fans gathered outside the Meijer, 855 S. Randall Road, for the event, complete with green construction hats, green shovels and a green ribbon.
"To me, St. Charles is a no-brainer. I think it's going to be the biggest location in the country," Donnie Wahlberg said. "The entire city has just welcomed us and treated us like family since (my wife) Jenny (McCarthy) and I moved here."
Wahlberg said he was surprised at the level of support for the newest site of the Massachusetts-based chain and the amount of detail and dedication it takes to erect a building and brand from the ground up.
"There are towns where people wouldn't want a restaurant like this," Wahlberg said after the ceremony. "I've built other businesses before, but this is unlike anything I've ever done. The amount of work that goes into this is amazing. It really gave me a new level of respect for small business owners."
The restaurant is targeted for completion in late 2019, but Wahlberg said even March 2020 is fine with him.
"The mandate is get it right and not get it rushed," he said, adding he plans to be at the St. Charles site as much as possible.
And what would he recommend for a first-time Wahlburger's patron? The BBQ Bacon Burger, which he said also is known as the "Donnie Burger."
"It has all of the necessary food groups, including bacon, which is a vitamin," he deadpanned.
Afterward, Wahlberg took selfies with fans, signed autographs and did a photo lap for the hundreds of people who crowded the Meijer parking lot. The village estimated more than 500 people turned out for the event.
Suzette Turyna of Elgin got her selfie and joked that her life was complete.
"I can't wait to come in and try (Wahlburger's)," she said. "It's just a win-win all around. He has been so gracious to everybody."
Fans clad in "New Kids on the Block" shirts and green "Wahlburgers" apparel clamored for a glimpse of Wahlberg, who stars in a reality TV show and the drama "Blue Bloods."
"I'm kind of surprised there are so many people here," said Paul DeGrassi of Batavia. "The community is really excited."
Minesh Patel, store director of the St. Charles Meijer, said employees and customers have been buzzing in anticipation.
"Now they're all excited, saying, 'It's finally happening.' They're thrilled," said Patel. Some of his employees requested the day off so they could see the male half of the city's most famous couple, he said.
St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina said Wahlberg and McCarthy have been great ambassadors and residents of the city.
"They are treated and they treat people as ordinary citizens. That's why you have the kind of crowd here today," Rogina said. "I'm just happy they do such a great job spotlighting the city of St. Charles. This is going to be a destination."