Located just blocks from Little Tokyo, in downtown LA's Arts District, the exotic sausage grill and beer hall Wurstküche is raising the bar on comfort food with a menu that includes classics such as bratwurst and hot Italian, a variety of gourmet sausages filled with spices, cheeses and herbs, and exotic options such as alligator and rattlesnake.
Grilled to a steamy perfection and ready to burst, the gents there serve the sausages on a fresh roll with a choice of toppings and mustards.
After a requisite order of one of the more than two dozen German and Belgian beers on tap, patrons adjourn to a sleek but cozy communal-style dining hall to await their food order, which, if placed correctly, should include a side of Wurstküche's double-dipped Belgian fries.
Since Wurstküche doubles as a beer hall (replete with lively indie music), once the meal is finished, it's recommended that guests linger for a couple more beers while the food settles.
Following a delicious weekday lunch at Wurstküche, I took a moment to email partner and designer Joseph Pitruzzelli some questions about the establishment.
Where did the idea for Wurstküche come from?
For the most part, it was one of my favorite meals that I could cook...and mine and my partner's mutual love for the natural combination. The idea was also shaped by different city guidelines and battles that delayed our full spirits program. (It's about to come online and we have an incredible mixologist heading up the bar program.) And [we wanted to] be exotic, exciting and take a new approach to doing it. I lived in San Francisco and saw the potential in the symbiotic relationship between Rosemunds and the Toranado (a great Belgian beer bar), which lent inspiration to creating a new experience that could be appreciated by old German grandparents, baby toting parents and hipsters alike.
When creating the menu, what kind of factors influenced the choice of sausages and beers?
Interview continues with more images after the jump. We wanted to run the gamut of flavors and try to put a new spin on the traditional idea of sausages by thinking about the sausage as a neat way of encasing lots of different flavors into one bite. We also wanted to be affordably exotic and find meats and flavor combinations that worked, as well as gave a shock value to the food (e.g. rattlesnake and alligator meat). It was a way to make guests quickly understand that this wasn't just a hot dog stand, but rather a gourmet experience.
With the beers it was important to us that the majority be German and Belgian, which are not only arguably some of the best crafted beers in the world (specifically the Belgians), but also run in parallel with our Neo-German theme. We tried to cover all the distinctive styles of Belgian beers (lambics, triple, special golden, etc.) as well as represent many of the traditional German beers. And of course all the beers' flavor profiles had to be paired with our fare—but thats almost a given.
We again tried to have a variety of price points, with one of our only domestics brews, Pabst Blue Ribbon, ringing in at the street friendly $2.50, chosen for its quality among the major American brews (based on the German lager technique) and its cult following in the neighborhood.
How did you settle upon the Arts District downtown?
We wanted to support the rebirth of downtown. It's a strangely neighborhoody industrial artist neighborhood. (Everybody goes on a dog walk on Wednesdays). And it's a great area with Little Tokyo nearby, a very design centric demographic (especially with Sci-Arch next door) and a host of emerging young artists. Its a great urban landscape of old industrial buildings and an emerging restaurant culture hidden within just a short Dash bus ride away from the financial core of downtown.
The restaurant has at once a very contemporary aesthetic and a traditional beer hall sensibility. What was the design brief and who was responsible for the interior architecture?
Thank you. I was responsible for the design as I used to have a design firm out of San Francisco, which I roughly carried over to Los Angeles. It's always interesting to give yourself a design brief; the hardest client I've ever had was myself. And, as I mentioned when we spoke earlier that we were still probably only 70% through with the buildout.
The original idea was to create two separate spaces and essentially separate experiences: the grill area and an expansive "out of sight" back dining hall/ bar/ dance-floor. (If the occasion warranted it, as it was originally going to be a little ultra lounge). The building itself lent a lot of direction, being that it was an irregularly shaped triangle with lots of great angles. (And I love angles, see the sausage boats).
It had to be a comfortable place, working both during the day and the night, but retain that hard German minimalist aesthetic while referencing the historic beer hall. I tried to retain as much of the raw architectural elements as possible, and use reclaimed barn wood to lend a warmer, modernistic but traditional, touch. I suppose you could say the surfaces are coated with warm traditional weathered materials but that shapes the skeleton creates are contemporary and modernistic. At night the the hall is warm but very dimly lit, somewhat underworld.