L.A. may be known for its street food, but currywurst, Berlin's most popular grab n' go snack, was largely off our radar. That is until two weeks ago when three German transports opened the aptly-named Berlin Currywurst restaurant in Silver Lake's Sunset Junction.
Owners Lena and Hardeep Manak and business partner Haike Büntemeyer moved to the neighborhood three months ago for the sole purpose of opening the restaurant. They have friends in L.A. and have visited many times, and couldn't believe there was no currywurst to speak of, especially since they've had an easy time finding it in New York.
Legend has it currywurst was created Berlin housewife Hertha Heuwer in 1949. Supposedly a few British soliders with some extra tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and curry powder bestowed their castoffs onto Heuwer, who created a sauce with it. She dubbed it Chillup and poured it over pork sausage, and currywurst was born. As Lena explained it, "She had little food in the house to feed her family so she used what she had."
Lena wouldn't tell us exactly what's in their sauce recipe, but confirms the tomato base and the use of yellow curry.
Customers can choose the type of sausage they like (pork, veal, beef and chicken varieties are all available, as well as tofu) and the spice level of the sauce from a four-level scale. Feeling adventurous, we chose 3, but Hardeep suggested we stay at the entry level and gave us 1. We quickly saw why, as 1 was far spicier than we'd imagined. The strange asterick on the chalkboard menu indicating diners must be over 16 years of age to try levels 3 and 4 suddenly made far more sense.
As we ate, we suddenly found ourselves in a European Bermuda Triangle: German sausage, British-inspired sauce, Italian sopping-of-the-tomato-sauce with the accompanying bread. This trifecta was further complimented by the French fries, which we believe should be in the running for best-of-the-best next time around. Topped with grilled onions and jambalaya -- Cajun spices and lemon, Lena specifies -- they are a real treat dipped in the mayonnaise they're served with.
Currywurst is also a lovely place to take in a sunny day in Silver Lake, whether in the small open-air seating area or on the patio. A beer might go nicely with that afternoon, huh? No liquor license on tap yet, but the Maneks are looking into the BYOB option.
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