In Los Angeles, we have access to a lot of sausages. They come in many different sizes, hail from almost every continent on earth, and boast a diverse representation of the animal kingdom. They can be raw or cured; smoked, grilled, boiled, fried, or steamed. But on a hot afternoon (they can happen at any time out here), few things appeal to us more than a big, plump, juicy German sausage, accompanied by a large, refreshing beer. It's a simple pleasure, perhaps born out of some baseless German fantasy playing out in our head. So for today's food fight, we are looking at two versions of bockwurst. One of them is the obvious choice to satisfy this craving, while the other is something distinctly different.
We began at Wurstküche, downtown, and finding no line, were in good spirits rather quickly. After ordering our bockwurst (containing veal and pork) with sauerkraut and caramelized onions, we were handed a tall, easy drinking German pilsner. Shortly after, our sausage arrived, its exterior browned and lightly blackened, hiding under a heap of soft onions and sour cabbage. The casing snapped between our teeth, revealing a juicy, moist, and very nicely grilled tube of meat. The flavor was pure and clean, with nothing overwhelming or seeming at all out of balance. A touch of mustard, another sip of beer, and we were well on our way.
For our second stop, we wanted to expand our horizons a bit, and stopped into Berlin Currywurst in Silverlake. It's a small shop, with friendly, genuinely eager counter service, and somewhat limited seating. The man behind the counter spoke excitedly about the dish, a tradition and much-loved street food in Germany for over sixty years. While there appears to be a bit of variation back home, the basics preparation involves sliced sausage, and a tomato or ketchup-based curry sauce — the ketchup, Worcestershire, and curry coming to Germany via British soldiers.
So we ordered bockwurst, and opted for the level three heat (out of four). It came on a long white plate, the sausage slices huddled to one side, swimming in sauce, dusted with spices. Beside the sausages is a thick-ish slice of German wheat bread. For utensil? A small wooden spear, sticking from one of the slices. The meat itself could not rival the tenderness at Wurstküche, but that will often happen with sliced sausage. The sauce, to be frank, was perhaps a little sweet for our taste, despite the attempt to balance it out with a bit of heat. Though the soft, hearty bread did mellow it out some. But our main question is: why so much sauce? We certainly felt no obligation to eat it all (and didn't), but if they ever feel a pinch from rising food costs, a bit less sauce might not be a bad idea.
Do we come off like jaded Americans, unable to enjoy a German sausage unless it seems to have come from an Oktoberfest party? Or maybe that ketchup-y currywurst sauce just reminds us too much of youthful camping excursions gone wrong. Either way, Wurstküche grilled a damn fine sausage, and they are the winner of today's food fight.
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