Undeniably, the Wahlberg boys have made it bigger in the entertainment world, especially Mark, whose muscles have been featured in movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction, Patriot's Day and Boogie Nights. The Lachey fame is a little more local. Currently, you can catch Nick as the voice of the streetcar.
But that's irrelevant to my question. Who makes a better burger?
So I had lunch with some friends at Wahlburgers and then re-created the same lunch at Lachey's.
Oh, yes, there was a clear winner.
Wahlburgers is in the former Pi space at Main and 6th streets. Hosts seat you at a table and there are servers, but it's kind of an upscale fast-food vibe. I had the Our Burger, which is their basic burger. Its innovation is to put the toppings on the bottom so that your teeth encounter the beef patty first. A good idea, but like so many burgers, the beef is still somewhat overwhelmed with even the simple toppings: lots of onions, tomato, Wahlburger sauce.
The meat was cooked medium, so it was still pretty juicy, but not juicy enough to really drip. It's served on the currently popular squishy sweet bun.
The OFD Burger (Originally from Dorchester, the neighborhood in Boston that spawned the Wahlbergs) is beefier (1/2 pound to the Our Burger's 1/3), but also had more on it, like three strips of bacon and tomato jam. So it was tasty, but the beef didn't necessarily shine through.
The Thanksgiving Burger, a turkey version, was likewise overwhelmed by cranberry sauce and stuffing.
The crispy haddock sandwich could bring Boston and Cincinnati together in agreement. It's a huge piece of fried fish sticking out from its bun. The sweet potato tots were quite sweet but the onion rings, which are more like onion straws, were good because they were very thin and the onions still fresh and snappy.
Oh look, they have the same kind of onion rings on a burger at Lachey's. Our group immediately went over there and had the same lunch over again.
The burger there is build-your-own, and we got more or less the same toppings, except the onions were crispy instead of raw. It's served open-faced on a bun that's more French-bread style. Not chewy, but also not sweet and squishy. You could taste the burger, and cooked medium, it was juicy and even a little drippy.
Their fish sandwich is mahi-mahi, grilled instead of fried and very good. And their turkey burger is served with guacamole and with sour cream, which I thought unbalanced it a little but the meat itself was still the star. The tots are regular tots.
It wasn't hometown loyalty that made us all like Lachey's a lot more. Like, a whole lot more. Even though we weren't really hungry when we sat down, we did some good damage to this lunch which was nicely presented, fresh, well-cooked.
The comparison might not be strictly apples-to-apples. Lachey's is more expensive, doesn't have that quick casual vibe, though the service is good. Its atmosphere is overwhelmingly dominated by sports on TV and a crawl of sports news. And I'd never really noticed before how little Lachey's is about the Lacheys. No photos of them, anyway, while Wahlburger's has lists of Walhburger projects and a screen that supposedly Mark might occasionally FaceTime in on.
But in the end, you need more than celebrity to make good burgers and sandwiches.
Wahlburgers, 199 E. 6th St., Downtown, 513-457-7085, www.wahlburgersrestaurant.com (burger $7.95, Thanksgiving burger $8.95, Haddock sandwich $8.75, OFD burger $9.95)
Lachey's, 56 E. 12th, Over-the-Rhine, 513-275-0740, www.lacheys.com (burger $10, fish sandwich $12, turkey burger $11.50)