Sunday, July 19, 2009
Third and Traction in downtown LA has long been the unofficial town square for punkers, loftdwellers, artists, and the slightly unbalanced denizens of LA's outer reaches. With the closing of Al's Bar, and the more recent closing of Bloom's General Store, the corner has had little more than a sushi place, a Mexican hole-in-the-wall and a proliferation of guerilla art keeping it alive.
Wurstkuche, which opened last November in the former location of the Wolfskill Theater (and before that, Alberto's underground "Clubhouse"), has brought the crowds back to Third and Traction with free-flowing Belgian beer and simple food done right.
The door to sausage heaven
Restaurants that try to diversify too much are always a bad sign. Cousins Tyler Wilson and Joseph Pitruzzelli knew the secret of a successful restaurant is to serve one or two items that are pure perfection. What goes better with beer than sausages and french fries? As American as that may sound, this place has a decidedly brewhaus bent, with over 20 German and Belgian beers on tap, along with one concession - a Pabst Blue Ribbon - maybe just for the irony.
The food is simple, but not without flair. The thick pomme frites are served with a variety of dipping sauces, like Curry Ketchup, Thai Peanut and Pesto Mayonnaise. You can also order them with a white truffle oil glaze. Swank.
Along with some truly exotic sausages (Rattlesnake and Rabbit with Jalapeno Peppers, Alligator and Pork smoked Andouille) there are four vegetarian sausages, including Mexican Chipotle and Apple Sage. Other than the vegetarian options, all of the sausages are made with natural casings, all of them pork casings except for the Apricot and Ginger, made with chicken and turkey in a lamb casing.
You can even pick the specific sausage if you want, "No, mister! That one! On the left!"
There are four toppings available for your meat: Caramelized Onion, Sweet Peppers, Spicy Peppers, and Sauerkraut, not to mention a wide variety of mustards.
The sausages come from at least four different purveyers, so although they are all high quality, there will not always be a consistency from sausage to sausage. The Kielbasa had a tight snap and was nice and juicy with lots of flavor. The andouille had a similar snap, but a much heartier, slightly tougher texture. The heat was not so intense as to make the sausage inedible, which is a common mistake with Louisiana sausages. The apple and sage flavors in the vegetarian sausage were not very pronounced, even after scraping all of the toppings off. Without a casing, there was no snap at all. The texture was that Gardenburger-esque veggie softness that may not be to everyone's taste. But vegetarians should love it.
Top-to-bottom, Kielbasa with sauerkraut, Alligator Pork Andouille with onions and sweet peppers, and Vegetarian Apple Sage with onions and hot peppers
The fries are like thick pomme frites, with a crispy exterior and steaming hot soft insides. This was the large, or "Groot" Hey, if Starbucks and IKEA can make up their own languages, why not these guys?
The ambiance is open and comfortable, with wall-to-wall crowds at lunch rush and weekend nights. During a weekday afternoon, the mood is slow and easy.
The restaurant stays open until midnight, but sometimes the bar will stay open a little later if there is a good crowd. Prices are reasonable, starting at six bucks for a classic sausage, and only 7.75 for an exotic. Beers are mostly 5.50 or 8 dollars, but we are talking about imports.
Speaking of sausage fest, did I mention that most of the employees are really cute and flirtatious boys? (makes the "call me" gesture)