Picture Coney Island in December: beachcombers are bundled up in parkas, sand blows down deserted Surf Avenue like tumbleweeds, and the countdown clock to Nathan’s Fourth of July hot dog eating contest reads 208 days, 21 hours, 33 minutes and 426 seconds. Unless you’re a local, there’s seemingly little reason to visit Brooklyn’s most season-specific neighborhood; unless, of course, you have an abiding yen to finally scope out Wahlburgers, which, when it opened this past summer, boasted customer wait times not unlike the numbers on that nearby Nathan’s clock.
Needless to say, the crowds have thinned considerably, and a sprawling upstairs bar and patio—complete with umbrella tables, misting stations, and a bird’s eye view of the Atlantic—is readying to close for the winter. But with all due respect to Nathan’s hot dogs, chef Paul Wahlberg’s burgers are still the most coveted comestible on Stillwell; or maybe passers-by are just hoping to score an errant glimpse of his brothers, Mark and Donnie, whose filmographies are advertised in black and white block letters against the ceiling, and immortalized by a series of large-scale, candid photos along the wall.
Or perhaps it’s because that—in a neighborhood best known for suntan lotion and cotton candy, ferris wheels and freak shows—Wahlburgers has embraced the Christmas spirit, adding a bit of holiday cheer to their established fast-casual menu. So in addition to signature burgers like the “Originally From Dorchester,” topped with tomato jam, swiss and sautéed mushrooms; and “The Melt,” cemented with mustard and government cheese; Wahlburger’s recently debuted a “Tis the Season” patty, a half pound of Pat LaFrieda beef paired with smoked cheddar, applewood bacon and pickled and crispy onions, stacked on a smear of maple-sweetened roasted pumpkin. And joining the extensive list of liberally spiked beverages (how else to stay warm in Coney?) you’ll find the “Hot Mocha Madness”—straight up Swiss Miss, enriched with Kahlua and Baileys—as well as an “Eggnog Adult Frappe” featuring vanilla ice cream, eggnog, crushed gingersnaps and bourbon; think a significantly boozier Starbucks frappuccino.
Not enough incentive to drag ass to Stillwell in the middle of December? Consider your indomitable Christmas list, and pick up some Marky-approved merch while you’re out there.
3015 Stillwell Avenue, Coney Island