• Germany's news in English

LA goes crazy for Berlin Currywurst snack

The Local · 15 Nov 2011, 16:34

Published: 15 Nov 2011 16:34 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Hardly anyone living in Berlin needs an introduction to Currywurst, a sliced sausage slathered in curry ketchup. Since the 1950s, this street snack can be found on most corners of the city. But in far away sunny California, the combination's a novelty.

“It works well. It's just definitely un-American,” says Millie Jefferson who laughs as she spears a piece of sausage with her tiny wooden fork. “It's a mini vacation in my mouth.”

Jefferson and about a dozen other diners sit in Southern California's first Currywurst restaurant called simply, “Berlin Currywurst.”

On a Saturday afternoon, the tables are packed full of tattooed twenty-somethings. They sample a variety of non-traditional combinations like Bockwurst with jalapeno, and paprika sausage doused in a tomato-jambalaya sauce.

The owners of “Berlin Currywurst,” Hardeep Manak, his wife Lena and their friend Haike Buentemeyer, moved from Berlin to Los Angeles last year to fill what they saw as a gap in Southern California's culinary culture.

Manak says when they looked for interesting and inexpensive dining options in Los Angeles, “There was nothing much around. You had high-end dining, and fast food, but nothing in between. We asked ourselves why is there no Currywurst?”

The tiny restaurant squeezes into a strip of LA's hip Silverlake neighbourhood. A gourmet gelato shop hawks flavours like goat cheese and Sicilian pistachio next door. Around the corner sits a gourmet vegan restaurant. It's like restaurant row for hipster foodies.

Manak says even though many of his customers are adventurous eaters, this is their first time trying Currywurst.

“I would say 20-25 percent of the customers have been to Germany and know what Currywurst is,” says Manak. “But lots of people don't know. They think it's a kind of modern Indian and German fusion food. And they get even more confused when they find out my wife is German and I have an Indian background.”

Their restaurant pairs traditional preparation with modern flavours. The bread comes from a local German baker. The sausage is made by a German butcher. Even the small wooden forks are sent to the restaurant from Germany. To give the dish a modern twist, customers can add ingredients like chipotle, garlic and ginger to their bratwurst. A sauerkraut salad with oranges and carrots, or homemade french fries with onions are available on the side.

The restaurant's only been open a few months, but local gourmands have taken notice. Food websites like Yelp and Chowhound rank the place high and customers like Matt Saladino pop in several times a week.

“Oh my God, it is so good,” says Saladino as he scarfs down a double portion of Currywurst. “I really could eat it everyday.”

Saladino says the décor at the restaurant is what first caught his eye. He liked the black and white photos of Berlin and the stripped down look. German food though was the real novelty for him.

“I work with a lady who is from Hamburg and so my only impression of German food was that Wienerschnitzel is not like the hot dog chain that we have...that it's a pounded veal,” he says. “So I don't know that much about German food. But after eating Currywurst here, I would like to get across the pond someday and try real German food in Berlin.”

Berlin Currywurst's success is part of a German food phenomenon hitting the area. Since Manak's restaurant opened this spring, another Currywurst joint popped up in Los Angeles. There are also two new German-themed restaurants in the city of angels and a third opening this fall.

Story continues below…

The success could be a result of simple economics and aesthetics. These restaurants specialize at serving hardy food in a hip environment for under $10, a rarity in LA.

Manak is happy that the appetite for Currywurst is growing, but he sees his role in Los Angeles as more than a businessman.

“We are not just here to sell sausages. For us, it is also important to bring the message how the German youth culture is these days, especially in Berlin. It's more than sauerkraut, biergarten, brezel and dirndl.”

When asked if he might bring his brand of Currywurst back to Berlin (especially the vegetarian sausage option), Manak says “Yeah, many Germans ask us that. They say our Currywurst tastes better than the original in Germany.”

Sacrilege? Perhaps Berlin’s signature snack simply tastes better sitting in the California sunshine.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

09:44 November 15, 2011 by catjones
Local hyperbole. Failed to mention that a currywurst goes for 6 bucks...for a brat with sauce, that trend won't last past the novelty stage. Two restaurants does not equal a phenomenon.
10:30 November 15, 2011 by freechoice
Wait till they try Kebab!
12:01 November 15, 2011 by TheCrownPrince
Hmmmmm.... Currywurst!
17:30 November 15, 2011 by lenny van
I always knew that sausages were healthy.
18:41 November 15, 2011 by Englishted
"Southern California's first Currywurst restaurant called simply, ¦quot;Berlin Currywurst.¦quot;

What a original name .I bet the advertising agency charged a fist full of dollers for that.
19:04 November 15, 2011 by Loth
I bought some curry ketchup at a small grocery that sells European foods. It was ok but I like Indian spices like Curry hot or spicy. Thing is we do not have really good sausage like Germany has. Our Sausage Meister's are most likely just not as good as Germany's. America uses too much fat in its sausage and the quality is low, to keep it cheap. My dog won't eat some hot dogs.
01:57 November 16, 2011 by strahlungsamt
"Currywurst" and "Healthy" don't belong in the same sentence. I'm totally not surprised hipsters are adopting yet another stupid idea. Also, fancy (fake) Indian sauces don't belong with Currywurst.

Currywurst was invented in Berlin after WWII, when food was short as a way to make something half way edible out of what rations were available. It was designed to be full of calories to try and fatten up hungry people. It's about as healthy as McDonalds.

Then again, we're talking hipsters here!
02:58 November 16, 2011 by Berlinica
If you actually want to make a Currywurst at home, try our new Berlin Cookbook!

The Berlin Cookbook. Traditional Recipes and Nourishing Stories. The First and Only Cookbook from Berlin, Germany, with many authentic German dishes

The Berlin Cookbook reveals how to make Schnitzel, Currywurst, Eisbein, Döner Kebab, and those jelly donuts known as Berliners—and how easy it is, since Berlin cuisine is simple, wholesome, and down-to-earth. This cookbook offers traditional recipes and also tells stories about the heritage of Berlin food: how Eisbein got its name, why Friedrich II made Prussian farmers plant potatoes, how meatballs were imported by Huguenots, and how Bismarck got his herring.

07:46 November 16, 2011 by Wobinidan
Traditional currywurst is crap. It's just a sausage drowned in ketchup with some curry powder on it. Whatever they are serving in California doesn't sound very authentic. And to suggest that it's anything more than fast food is double crap.
11:41 November 16, 2011 by domoresti
The only healthy thing about currywurst is the generally unsatisfactory portion size.
18:30 November 17, 2011 by mugen
was very dissapointed with currywurst. had it a couple of times in berlin however it tastes more of bbq than curry.

there was a place just outside kadewe that was the final straw (which may have tasted better)
03:43 November 18, 2011 by stablemate
i find this hard to believe currywurst in losangelas ca usa they are more to eat rabbit food salad.......smile)
19:13 November 18, 2011 by Drewsky
Not all Currywurst is created equal. I was in Berlin for about a week last year and it varied widely. I might try this place next month when I'm in LA, but the experience might be like having a Packo's hot dog outside of Toledo. Just not the same ...
19:26 November 19, 2011 by JAMessersmith
Haven't seen the Currywurst restaurant yet, but here in the Beach Cities, we have a rather sizable German-American population, and several German themed restaurants.

The biggest one is a Bavarian-style biergarten/restaurant called "Alpine Village". They mostly serve traditional food like goulash, wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten, etc.. It's pretty good, but not quite the same as the real thing (brats are cooked in beer, for example). The best thing about the place is they have a massive Oktoberfest (the biggest in LA) every year, and viewing parties for the German team during the World Cup and UEFA Cup (in 2010, everyone was getting hammered at 7 in the morning, due to the time difference with South Africa). They have loads of German beer on tap, like Spaten, Paulaner, Wernesgrune, Weihenstephan, Reissdorf, etc.. We actually have several German-themed bars down here by the beach as well, so the Deutsche Bier is always flowing.
06:48 November 20, 2011 by Outlander
I paid 4 euros for currywurst near KaDeWe yesterday, not impressed. But then again that is both an expensive and tourist area. Curry 36 has a good name in Berlin though...
11:54 November 24, 2011 by freedom1776
Hurray for Curry Wurst -- While stationed in the Army in Frankfurt West Germany; there was a little snack stand - with stand up chest high tables, that served: currywurst, french fryes or potato salad with mayo or ketchup, St. Pauli Girl Beer, or (American Soda Pop which contained that poison - High Fructose Corn Syrup.) Anyway- the food and the Beer were good. After that a few steps to the streetcar and home. Good Memories, the Army had it's down side especially the Bombing of the Frankfurt Post Exchange in 1985. The bomb blew in the glass doors of the building I was in, fortunately I was standing just to the side of the doors at the time. The bombers placed a bomb in a BMW car next to the LaundroMat and scurryed out to the Air Port and flew home to their Terrorist base in Damascus, Syria. 37 people were injured. No one died.
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd