Sunday, August 23, 2009

Downtown Dogs: Wurstkuche Sausage Joint

While adverse to balony, Slim Jims, weiners and other questionable 'pressed meats', I've recently become quite the fan of sausages. So yesterday, after taking a tour of downtown lofts (a fun, informative and surprisingly not-dorky way to spend your Saturday morning checking out cool NYC-style lofts hidden inside deceiving, flophouse-like exteriors in downtown LA), Ugly Shoe and I decided to hit up self-described 'exotic sausage grill' and beerhall, Wurstkuche, while we were in the neighborhood.

Wurstkucher sits on the sketchier edge of Little Tokyo in the Arts District, but it appears hipsters will brave the shadiness for their gourmet sausage. The back area's communal tables were full and the line to order when we walked in was a dozen people deep, but even with the simple menu of just sausages, I needed the entire time I was in line to decide between the 20+ various sausage options as well as which two dipping sauces I wanted to go with our cone of double-dipped Belgium fries.

The menu is separated into 3 categories; I skipped the Classics ($6; your basic bratwursts,bockwursts and hot italian), Gourmet ($6.75; the likes of mango-jalapeno chicken & turkey, sweet Filipino Marharlika, smoked chicken with sundried tomato and mozzarella) and headed straight to the Exotic dogs ($7.75); I briefly pondered the alligator, pork and smoked andouille sausage and was intrigued by the rattlesnake & rabbit (which was described as buttery but mildly spicy) but ended up going with the duck, bacon and jalapeno peppers which the guy behind the counter recommended as his favorite topped with grilled onions and sweet peppers. While our sausages were being grilled, we loaded up our table with ketchup and various mustards (yellow, spicy brown, honey, whole grain) from the condiment bar.

Although they had a couple of dozen German and Belgium beers on tap and even more bottled biers, we were headed off for some wine tasting at the downtown San Antonio Winery afterwards so I skipped the Chimay and ordered a bottle of Reed's Spiced Apple Ginger Brew from their selection of artisan sodas instead. The table of dudes across from us made up for our non-beer drinking with their monstrous, 6 liter, $250 bottle of Duvel.

As I bit into my duck and bacon weiner, I heard the lovely subtle 'pop' sound of the meat breaking through the casing. The menu's description didn't lie--my duck, bacon and pepper sausage was juicy and packed with flavor as promised and was better than Ugly Shoe's good but not memorable chicken-apple with nutmeg topped with sauerkraut. The crunchy, starchy fries were a delicious complement and as a condiment queen, I had fun rotating between our bleu-cheese walnut dip, 'sassy bbq' sauce and my various ketchup and mustard mixes.

While not expensive ($23 for the both of us), it's not super cheap for essentially hotdog (albeit exotic ones) and fries. Both sausages were tasty but essentially pretty comparable to the homemade ones you can buy at Whole Foods for a 1/3 of the price (and note, this is probably the first time I've ver used Whole Foods as a comparison for value). However, with its airy, warehouse-loft beerhall decor (exposed brick walls, overhead wooden beams, communal pine tables), fun and unpretentious atmosphere and a menu that boasts minced rattlesnake as an item, I'd still recommend this a downtown spot to check out. There could be wurst places to go for a spendy hotdog.

800 E. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013 (map)