Posts Tagged ‘Wurstkuche’

Single Diner: The Würst Way to Spend Jury Duty

March 16, 2009

Sausage on grill at Voderer Sternen
When I visit my friend Elaine in Zurich, I make a daily stop at my favorite Swiss culinary establishment, and serious sausage stand, the famous Voderer Sternen Grill. The line is always long, but quick and orderly, and when one finally makes it to the front, the gentleman behind the grill has no time for dawdlers. Like a Swiss German version of Seinfeld’s International Soup Kitchen Nazi, you have to choose fast, a Bratwurst or Servelat, white or red. Holding the steamy link in my left paw, a hot crusty roll in my right and a small container of salaciously sinus-opening mustard in my teeth, I find a standing table and order a good German beer. I alternate flavors as I take a dip, a bite, a bite, and a sip until all has disappeared and I have to decide if I can legitimately order another without rolling home.

In comparison to the Voderer Sternen, my biased opinion is that American hot dog stands, like Pinks in LA, truly pale in comparison. I highly doubted that the level of sausage pleasure I experienced at the VS could be matched in the United States until I heard about Würstkuche in downtown LA’s Little Tokyo. Taking advantage of an extended stint on jury duty at the lovely Metropolitan Court House on Hill Street, I visited the restaurant two times last week…a definite perk of the two-hour jury duty lunch.

With twenty-two sausages to choose from, cooked on an open grill similar to the Voderer Sternen, the links come from local vendors. Classics like Bratwurst, Hot Italian and Kielbasa (and their veggie rivals) are included on the list and the two gourmet ones I tried—Austin Blues, a hot and spicy, tri-pepper and hardwood smoked pork link and Santa Fe jack cheese and jalapeño peppers, a turkey dog, were both good, with my preference leaning to the Austin Blues, a reminder of the Louisiana hot sausage and smoked kielbasa I grew up on as a child. The crazier exotic link selections, such as rattlesnake and rabbit with jalapeño peppers and the alligator and pork, will have to wait until I get through the classic terrain first. Each sausage purchase comes with your choice of mustards, like my favorite whole grain, as well as quality toppings like carmelized onions, sweet peppers, and sauerkraut, all packed into an over-sized, freshly baked, hot roll.

While the menu beyond the sausages is simple in concept, offering fries and drinks, it’s the depth of selection and variety within each category that impresses the foodie in me. Hot, thick-cut, and sea-salted Belgian fries come in a white wrapper complemented by a moving selection of ten dipping sauces like bleu cheese walnut and bacon or chipotle aioli. Innovative and hard to find bottled sodas, including locally bottled Nesbitts, and a dizzying selection of Belgian and German beers on tap, bring this tasty meal to under $20.

A corner restaurant with minor signage on the outside and a line of hipsters out the door, Würstkuche is challenging to find in Little Tokyo but of course, well worth it. Sandwiched into a really cute neighborhood that is a neat discovery in itself, the restaurant is industrially modern in design, with the eating area structured like a modern beer hall. Long tables, for large communal groups who want to hang awhile, take up most of the floor with a seated bar in the back. Unlike the Voderer Sternen, that only offers two sausage choices with a line that moves at a clip, be prepared to wait a bit for your on-demand dog, fries and beer. If you ask, the owners will offer you trial tastes of the beers on tap while you wait. As this place gets found out, that’s not a bad idea in order to make sure the starving sausage lovers are kept at bay.