Sunday, January 6, 2013

Super sausages

Although Wurstkuche is the invention of two USC business grads, it's a pretty simple idea. It's a hot dog  and beer place.

You line up at the counter and order your choice of sausage from the menu. You can get fries with that. You can also choose the garnish for your dog, and your choice of dipping sauce for your fries. The beer selection is a beer-lover's dream; Belgian and German beers both on draft and bottled.

Pay for your meal and then find a place to sit in the large dining room down the long dark hallway - communal tables with benches, a few smaller tables, and a bar can accommodate some two hundred diners, and it's always busy.

There's almost always a line at the counter, and the helpful staff takes your beer order while you wait - and delivers it, so you can sip your suds while you wait - and decide what kind of sausage to order.

In addition to the beer selection, the draw here is the inventive variety of sausage. There are over twenty varieties, from the common kielbasa to the exotic crocodile andouille. There are vegetarian sausages as well as sausages made from duck, lamb, bison, rabbit and even rattlesnake.

We ordered and then found a free table by the windows. A folded steel artifact, painted in red and stenciled with our order number guided the server to us when our meal was ready.

I went for a kiebasa with caramelized onions and sweet peppers, while [The Man I Love] chose duck and bacon sausage with jalapeno, and hot peppers instead of sweet for his garnish.

We split a large order of fries, which were amazingly good. Belgian-style double-fried, they were hot and crispy and held up well as they cooled, without getting soggy. We had a little pot of curry ketchup and another of chipotle aioli for dipping. I loved the aioli; the ketchup just tasted like regular ketchup that had been given a shake of curry powder.

Big squeeze bottles of mustard in many varieties were arrayed on the tables, and patrons swapped and borrowed them with casual cheer and good nature.

My kielbasa was good - porky and juicy with a nice snap to the casing. The onions and peppers were almost too much, and I raked some of them off with my fingers and ate them like a separate amuse-bouche. The top-split bun was nice, too; warm and with a nice yeast-baked taste, but not overwhelming or too hard.

And the beer! Wurstkuche doesn't include wine on its menu, although the counter staff said you could order it at the bar in the dining area. I'd been enjoying English cider during our London trip, so I was intrigued by a Belgian witbier fermented with apples, called Floris Apple Ale. It had an extraordinary apple-y aroma and flavor - a bit sweet but refreshing.

Apple ale on the left, Tripel Karmeliet on the right

[The Man I Love] had a Tripel Karmeliet, which he said was delicious.

 The clientele is equally exotic, exhibiting a finely tuned hipster aesthetic befitting Wurstkuche's location in the downtown Arts District. The decor is brick, black, and angular. Tattooes, trilby hats, tortoiseshell spectacles - make up the fashion statement here. It's clearly a young clientele - the picnic benches and the loud music are aimed at a young demographic.

Even so, there were some families with kids there - young hipster families, of course, but kids and hot dogs are a universal combination, even when Dad can have his with a Belgian tripel draft and Mom's having her french fries with a white truffle oil glaze.

3rd and Traction, condos and street art. Click to "embiggen"
This neighborhood was once a dark and somewhat dangerous place, frequently by pioneering artists working in rough warehouses, but now the brickwork and garage doors are festooned with signs advertising luxury "loft" condos, and the warehouse walls are colorful with street art.

Just across Alameda is Little Tokyo and MOCA's Geffen Contemporary branch. The Southern California Institute of Archtecture - SciARC - is located just a block or two away.  This artsy and trendy milieu puts its stamp on a place like Wurstkuche, which probably has something to do with its success, drawing people from elsewhere in LA to check out the same.  Still, at its heart it's just a great place to grab a hot dog and a beer.


smalltownme said...

You find the greatest places.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Hot dogs and that's a diet I can support.

Jason, as himself said...

And now I'm hungry.

Are any of those chicken or turkey sausages?

cookingwithgas said...

Where I grew up many immigrant families made their lively hood off this sort of method of selling just hotdogs, fries and cokes. They would make enough money to bring over a brother and his family- then another and so on.
This place is one I think I heard about on a cooking show- smart and sounds so good!

Aunt Snow said...

You bet, Jason, there are turkey, chicken and vegetarian options!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

oh, WOW. I would have been disappointed in that so-called curry ketchup but the available options of mustard might make up for that... I'm hungry now!