Not the best wurst.

You expect great things from a place that has a sandwich called “sausage heaven,” even if it’s insecure enough to trumpet the length of its staple specialties on its menu (WTF?).   But, is Mandler’s, on 17th near Broadway, really great as great as it thinks, or just the most obvious choice in a category of questionable depth?

These questions are important to me, as a former resident of the German-speaking portions of Europe – the Germans and Austrians, at least, take their sausages quite seriously, and it’s a rare town of decent size that lacks a late-night trailer flogging all kinds of sausages – between wurst and doner kebap, it’s a veritable paradise of greasy inebriation.

That said, I’m not sure Mandler’s would satisfy the average German, and there are a few reasons why, but the most obvious is egregious: no good senf!  Senf is the German word for mustard, and while Mandler’s most assuredly has plenty of mustard, they lack the kind of senf that is a staple accompaniment to each and every sausage served in Germany and Austria.  Germans and Austrians, as far as I’m aware, do not fool around with things like honey or maple mustards, and to have no plain variety available is unconscionable bordering on T.G.I. Fridays-ish.  While the “three peppercorn” Dijon mustard is the closest and least-strangely adulterated of the bunch, it ain’t exactly right.

(A quick aside: This link will bring you to a German mustard manufacturer’s page – if you don’t read German, the varieties are, from the left, horseradish-infused (new and probably ill-fated), medium spicy, Munich sweet-hot, chili-pepper, with herbs, Bavarian “home-style,” a weisswurst-specific flavor, and a kids’ mustard made with ground-up Smurf.  Note that I don’t recall seeing ANY of these except the medium spicy variety at any sausage stand.  And, yes, they do buy their mustard in toothpaste tubes.  Wacky.)

Compared to that, the other problems are less aggravating.  Sausages at Mandler’s are served sandwich-style, instead of with the roll on the side, but I feel like this is an acceptable concession to American tastes, in every case but one: Bockwurst ($5), frequently called “weisswurst” in Germany after its pale color, and usually served boiled or simmered rather than grilled, should never be eaten in sandwich form as a whole sausage, as you’re not supposed to eat the casing.  Pretend it’s a vanilla bean, cut it lengthwise and scrape out the innards.

I guess I should say something nice.  I’ve had their krainer (also $5) before, and I recall it being fine.  Of course, my favorite krainer is the Graz specialty kaesekrainer, in which the sausage is somehow infused with small pockets of cheese, to the tune of 10 to 20 percent of its total volume.  Of course, I can hear about 80 percent of you cringing at the thought of a cheese sausage, so perhaps it’s best that I remind you of how drunk I usually was when ordering one.  As far as you know.

The sausage of your choice, by the way, will be served to you on white, whole wheat, onion, multigrain, or pita, with a choice of sauerkraut or onions and mushrooms atop.  The whole wheat bread is about Subway-quality, for what it’s worth, but I haven’t tried the other kinds.  If you order a pita, by the way, consider yourself a total failure.

So, is Mandler’s actually sausage heaven?  It strikes me as more like purgatory, but I’m not sure what’s better out there.  Any ideas?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Not the best wurst.

  1. When I lived in Austria, a teacher that I worked with told me that they referred to Kaesekrainers as “cumming monks”, though for the life of me I can’t remember how she said it in German (ausspritzenden Moenchen?).Agreed, Mandler is no wuerstkartl.

  2. For nice weeknights in the spring/summer, you can do a lot worse than the beer garden at loreley on rivington/bowery. It’s not cheap but it’s a nice garden with good beers and brats.

  3. I’ve been and I wasn’t that impressed, to be honest, with Loreley. I liked the WV’s Lederhosen better, food-wise and price-wise.Then there’s Zum Schneider, which I really don’t like.

  4. Ludwig

    Yes, bad mustard = bad sausage experience. Fire up your grill or broiler and hi thee hence to Schaller & Weber (www.schallerweber.com) on 2nd Ave. and E. 86th. They not only carry fresh (uncooked) house-made bratwurst — much better IMO than the pre-cooked version they also sell — but also several good imported German mustards, including Löwensenf (www.loewensenf.de) and Händlmaier’s Süßer Hausmachersenf (“der beliebteste süße Senf Deutschlands!”, http://www.haendlmaier.de), plus a decent Schaller & Weber domestically produced house brand. Available as well is the addictive German condiment curry ketchup (Hela Curry Gewürz Ketchup scharf, and other Hela flavors, http://www.hela-food.de), which is also delicious on wurst.

  5. Hi Mike,I am sorry to hear of your disappointment with our restaurant. I just want make known that we are not trying to be a German sausage place but an American sausage place. II have a lot of respect for the German sausage and I do love it, but the American palate is very different and is what we are targeting. I hope you don’t feel I intruded on your blog but I felt it necessary to at least defend our establishment. Regards,Gil Mandler

  6. That’s fair. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Anonymous

    Get thee to Schaller and Weber, where my grandfather was once a butcher. And while loading up the wurst, don’t pass on the smoked bacon…it is the best there is.

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