Wednesday, July 13, 2011


it's not that I forgot to make pretty title art, but I put an 'e' in that shouldn't have been there. Embarrassing! Must fix asap. 

Up an ambiguous little staircase at 609 King Street West, in a building that feels and looks like a cold brick, is WVRST. The pennant banners flapping against the brick walls sport the sausage halls dashing signature red against the dark exterior. The hallways is a bit misleading, it sports some posters for the downstairs business, too, a print place. Inside WVRST is astoundingly chilly, AC cranked high in contrast the the hot mugginess outdoors. It's a surprisingly big hall on the inside, with large wood trestle tables, a few bars, and one massive private booth that looks super exclusive. With naked lighting drooping from the ceiling and a hot red tile wall that I instantly fall in love with, reminiscent of Toronto's subway branding, there IS something warm about the place. Could it be from the thrifty c9ollection of mismatched stools?  Is it barnyard, or is it school cafeteria? One things for sure, the food here is miles above what you'd get at either of those.
The menu has some special divisions. First choice comes to how you want your dog: currywvrst, a diced up wiener of choice with a laddle of house tomato curry, and country bread. Or keep it traditional and opt for option b, a masticatable meat tube on a bun. Both under ten dollars (side dishes are extra).

This is followed by a rather daunting list of dozens sausages to choose from, with traditional varieties like Italian and Bratwvrst, not one but TWO veggie options, and then the very exciting game category, all house made. I've got a small army for this diner sausage-fest, and we wind up with a cornucopia of dogs (though somehow completely avoid any form of poultry). There is diversity here, with mixes that make me think the chefs must be having fun. I hear that the sausage menu will probably evolve or expand. Might we one day see blood sausage or my beloved chorizo? Or a non-tofu veggie option? These are questions that only return visits will answer. Preferably weekly.
WVERST also has a very nicely curated list of beers that fit more with the price point I'm used to from King West, many of them imports and unusual brands. I tried a Beau's, and think I've found a new favourite (also available from The Bellevue!).
It's a staggered ordering process, some of my friends arriving at different times than others. Even though there was maybe five minutes in between orders, Trevor and Jenn already had food by the time we were out of the short line! I forgot to mention an important detail: to perpetuate that high school mess hall feel, orders are taken at the bar, but the food is delivered to you. I like this, since we can take as long as we like with the menu, though I suppose some people prefer the all-hands-on-deck sit-down approach.
I was torn between rabbit and guinea fowl (made with cheddar and asparagus!), but decided to go with the gamier, since it had been nearly a decade since I last tried a cony (my thesaurus tells my this is how I can say 'Rabbit' and sound fancy).


Each variety of sausage is more than just the meat that goes into it, it's also paired with a certain spice profile, the other ingredients that go into it to complete the sausage. Rabbit is paired with tomato. To match that further, I only opt to add caramelized sweet peppers to it. My first impression isn't of the wvrst, but of the roll. It's a fluffy bread with a chewy skin. Even though it's clearly been grilled, the skin isn't hard, and is beaded with oil blisters. It's salty and buttery and hot, very fresh. I could eat a few of these. The sausage in this case is not what I had expected. I thought that rabbit would create a dry sausage with a palpable grain, but this fellow was fatty. There was more taste of rosemary than tomato, and it was generally a mild sausage, not too risky. 


The menu sports two varieties of fries, the regular frietkoten, or frietkoten fried in duck fat. There was no hesitation, and full orders of fat fries circled the table! Maybe we should have ordered the regular fries for comparisons sake. Though the duck fat fries were rich, they didn't really taste different from my perception of plain ol' fries. They did have a sweetness you could taste if you were searching for it. Overall they were crisp and dry, salty, satisfying, accompanied by two dipping sauces. We chose the maple-rosemary (a MAJOR hit, not overly sweet!) and the wvrst spicy mayo (made with sriracha, I believe).


Jenn ordered the currywvrst with an Italian veggie sausage. I don't think it's easy to pull of a noteworthy non-meat sausage, and WVRST isn't quite there. It tasted nice, though it was hard to focus on just the taste of the dog under all that mild, tomato curry. Still, the flavor of tofu was most present. I wonder if  WVRST will get more experimental, and trying making veggiewvrst from portobello or young jackfruit in the future? The texture was bang-on though, and the sliced medallions were flavourful. The toast served alongside the curry was rustic and grainy, crisp and buttery as a good crostini. It was sliced thin for that extra crunch.


Other sausages that were ordered were the Boerwors
The Boerwors takes the cake for me of everything we ordered. With a dash of coriander, and topped with vinegary saurkraut and fresh caramelized onions, it packs a punch. It was spicy with black pepper and the vinegar from the 'kraut multiplied the sharp winey taste from the vinegar already in the sausage. The proprietor of this order, Misha, mentioned an aroma of scotch. I found the sausage sour and buttery, herbed and heavenly.
The Italian pork was a rollicking, fiery red funhouse a bit like my distant uncle Mario. Who is actually Dutch despite his name. It was dense and colourful. I found the most interesting thing about it the undertone of fennel, a mild liquorice not quite hidden by the more overt garlic onion and tomato.
Last but not least was another gamey treat, this time of noble venison. Here was something falling closer to my imaginings of the rabbit sausage I ordered. It was a dark red with earthy, heady flavours. It had an iron taste, a memory of blood, and a sweetness from the red peppers.

There is so much to chose from, and so much we didn't get to try. Here is a place that is being creative in a narrow field. Blueberries in sausages? TEA? I hope WVRST keeps pulling out all the stops creatively. I would come here with a huge group, for the food, the price, the atmosphere.
But maybe, just maybe, they should add some kind of vegetable to the menu.


My Guests today were:
Trevor Henderson - Horror illustrator
Jenn Woodall - Fashion designer
Gillian Blekkenhorst - Cartoonist and animator
Misha Snyder - Video Artist
Wvrst on Urbanspoon

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