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I ate the same meal at Wahlburgers and BurgerFi, and I would splurge for the better food

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Burgers from BurgerFi and Wahlburgers
I ate a burger and fries from BurgerFi (left) and Wahlburgers (right).Rachel Askinasi/Insider
  • I ate a burger and fries at both BurgerFi and Wahlburgers.

  • One chain takes orders at the counter while the other has sit-down waiter service.

  • While eating at Wahlburgers felt fancier, I thought the BurgerFi food was far better.

I ordered the same thing at BurgerFi and Wahlburgers to see which chain had the better meal.

BurgerFi and Wahlburgers restaurant storefronts
BurgerFi (left) and Wahlburgers (right).Rachel Askinasi/Insider

BurgerFi and Wahlburgers are two hamburger-based restaurant chains that both focus on quality, according to each brand's website.

BurgerFi has 120 locations across 22 states, while Wahlburgers — the Mark Wahlberg-owned establishment — has 91 locations across 23 states and four countries.

I ordered a burger and fries from BurgerFi while in Florida, and the same from Wahlburgers while in Atlanta, to compare the food and atmosphere at both chains.

BurgerFi is a fast-casual chain that's been serving customers since 2011.

BurgerFi
Outdoor seating in front of BurgerFi at Delray Beach in Florida.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The chain has its headquarters in Florida, which is where I first tried it many years ago. On a recent trip back, I wanted to give it another try to see how it stood up to some other fast-food chains I've tried recently.

Wahlburgers also opened in 2011 as a fast-casual burger joint.

Wahlburgers
Outside Wahlburgers in Atlanta.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg opened the first Wahlburgers chain in 2011 in Hingham, Massachusetts.

I tried it for the first time while on a road trip through Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and Atlanta, Georgia.

While they're both low-key dining experiences, the biggest difference is that one uses waiter service while the other takes orders at a counter.

Ordering services at BurgerFi and Wahlburgers
Menus at BurgerFi (left) and Wahlburgers (right).Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The menu at BurgerFi was displayed on large TV screens above the register and kitchen window, and I placed my order with an employee who gave me a table number to take with me while I waited for my food to be done.

There was a small selection of on-tap beers next to the register, which reminded me of Shake Shack, a fast-casual burger chain that started in New York City.

At Wahlburgers, though, I was handed a laminated menu when I sat down (there were also QR codes to scan for contactless menus) and a team member took my order while I was seated, then brought it out to me when ready.

There was a large bar in the center of the Atlanta restaurant with liquor, wine, and on-tap and bottled beers.

I thought the inside of BurgerFi looked more like a low-key restaurant than Wahlburgers did.

BurgerFi
Inside a BurgerFi in Florida.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Inside, I thought the fast-casual chain looked like a cross between a bar and a low-key restaurant.

Using a mixture of metal and wood tables, pounded metal detailing, and art-like light fixtures, I would describe it as a soft-industrial decor style.

Wahlburgers looked more like an attraction, in my opinion.

Interior of Wahlburgers Atlanta location
Inside Wahlburgers in Atlanta.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

This Wahlberg family chain has an in-your-face approach to branding. From family photos on the walls to movie posters and references, I couldn't ignore the fact that this place is celebrity-owned.

A bright-green color scheme was constant throughout, and the Wahlburgers "W" logo was intentionally plastered on every napkin, on the walls, and on the menus. They also worked "Wahl" into different words, like "Wahlbrewski" for a beer advertisement and "Wahlgear" for the branded merchandise.

At BurgerFi, I ordered a cheeseburger and a side of fries.

Burger and fries from BurgerFi
A burger and fries at BurgerFi.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

My single cheeseburger came dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, American cheese, and BurgerFi sauce. The BurgerFi Cheeseburger typically comes with two patties and without pickles, so I customized my order a bit.

I also ordered a "regular" size fries, which is the smallest option.

The burger alone cost me $6.39 at the South Florida location, and the side of fries cost $4.29 — in total, I spent $10.68 on my meal. (Prices vary by market and these items cost $7.87 and $4.97, respectively — $12.84 combined — at BurgerFi's Atlanta locations.)

I was impressed by all the components on the BurgerFi cheeseburger.

BurgerFi burger
A look inside by cheeseburger from BurgerFi.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The beef patty had an imperfect shape, which made me think it was shaped in-house, and the meat itself had a lot of savory flavors beyond saltiness.

Along with a slice of nice, melty cheese, there was a single piece of lettuce, which was large and offered more of a crunch than I expected — it looked very leafy. A single slice of tomato added much-needed texture and lightness to this otherwise rich meal.

I wished there were more of the slightly acidic pickles so that I could taste them in each bite — spreading them out more evenly on the bun may have also fixed this.

Speaking of the bun, I was impressed by how well it stood up to all the juices and sauce. The bread didn't get soggy or fall apart under the weight of each topping. Even when I put it down to taste the other menu items in front of me and came back to it around 20 minutes later, the bun was still dry and intact.

The fries at this chain were tasty but lost flavor once they got cold.

BurgerFi fries
Regular fries at BurgerFi.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

These potatoes arrived at my table both salted and hot, which is always a plus, in my opinion, and something I learned is never guaranteed.

They were cut to around 1/2-inch thick and varied in length. Some had brown potato skin on the outside, which I personally love because it adds texture. Once I bit into one, I could tell that they were soft inside and had a semi-crunchy exterior.

However, after around 30 minutes, the fries got cold. They turned stiff and lost most of their flavor as a result.

At Wahlburgers, the burger and fries come together as a meal.

Wahlburgers
A burger and fries at Wahlburgers.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

I went with the most classic burger on the menu, which came with a beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and Wahl Sauce (the chain's version of fast-food-classic pink sauce often called special sauce).

This order also included a side of fries and cost $11.95 total in Atlanta.

While Wahlburgers' patty was tasty, I was disappointed by the lettuce and cheese.

Wahlburgers
A cheeseburger at Wahlburgers.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

I noticed from my first bite just how juicy and flavorful the patty was on this burger — that was a huge plus. While the cheese was melted nicely, in my opinion, it didn't give a satisfying stringy pull.

There was a single slice of tomato on my burger, which was cut thick enough to add both flavor and texture to this meal. And as a pickle lover, I appreciated the thick-cut discs that were heavy on the dill flavor.

I thought the downfall of this burger — when comparing it to the one I ate at BurgerFi — was the lettuce. It was limp and slightly soggy, and added nothing in terms of flavor.

While the bread used for this bun was fluffy and sturdy, Wahlburgers used butter to make a seal on the inside, which worked well at preventing any sogginess. While I enjoyed the added crunch, I thought it was more impressive that BurgerFi's bun was able to hold up to the toppings on its own, without the help of added butter.

I thought Wahlburgers' fries left much to be desired.

Wahlburgers
Fries at Wahlburgers.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

These fries were good, but not amazing. The 1/4-inch thick shoestring-style potatoes were slightly crunchy outside and mostly soft inside.

While the texture was nice, I thought the flavor was on the bland side. Wahlburgers' fries reminded me of Wendy's when it came to texture and Burger King's in terms of flavor.

I didn't feel the urge to eat every last one like I typically do, which was enough to tell me that they were just OK.

Overall, I thought both meals were good. But If given the choice, I'd spend my money at BurgerFi over Wahlburgers.

Eating at BurgerFi and Wahlburgers burger restaurant chains
I prefer BurgerFi over Wahlburgers.Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Both meals had standout features as well as downfalls.

Personally, I would rather have the not-as-flavorful pickles and short-lived but delicious fries from BurgerFi than the soggy lettuce and bland french fries from Wahlburgers.

And while I did appreciate the Wahlburgers bun while I was eating it, I would choose to not consume the extra butter if I have the option.

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