SALZ BRATWURST CO.
10556 115 ST.
Tues. to Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: $20; loaded, $30
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Let there be no denial. Small is beautiful.
Salz Bratwurst Co is the cutest miniature beer hall/sausage house you have ever seen, a hole-in-the-wall on 115 Street south of 107 Avenue, with two long tables to sit at and a TV to watch the Oilers.On the chalkboard menu were three choices of made-in-house bratwurst sausage (with or without the piggy-in-a-blanket bun), goulash, currywurst, three salads, cheesy spätzle and Butcher’s Cake, described as charcuterie within a bread pudding mix.
The meat dishes are constant. The sides – such as pretzels, dumplings and perogies – take their turns in the daily line-up.
Behind the simple bar are two draft-beer taps, through which are rotated made-in-Alberta, German-style craft beers. The Fahr North Dunkel was a rich, nutty, brown beer from a Turner Valley craft brewery specializing in German brews. My dinner pal downed his Medicine Hat Brew Company Town Lager with no problem at all.
Nothing is fancy at Salz Bratwurst, no kitschy declarations of ethnic food pride: Just an unpretentious German-style sausage house offering an $11 to $15 lunch or dinner with tasty German-style Alberta-brewed beers.
At the heart of Salz are the sausages themselves, made in-house several times a week by sausage-maker Eric Jalbert, who learned the skill in the meat department of Old Strathcona’s venerable K&K German Foodliner.
The Salz sausages are out-of-this-world good.
The classic brat-in-a-bun was hot, juicy, rich, all garlic and pepper within the rich ground pork. The “blanket” is made by skewering a half-loaf from the Vienna Bakery on a heated spike, making room for the brat in the middle. Other restaurants have tried this dog-in-a-bun technology, but not with such an excellent outcome.
The Kasekrainer is of Austrian heritage, a ground pork and beef sausage packed with cheese – in this case Sylvan Star gouda. As you munch down on the Kasekrainer, little pockets of melted cheese burst in your mouth, adding flavour and delicious contrasting creamy texture to the crumbly ground meat.
The Salz Bratwurst sides are good, but not outstanding.
I’ve never quite understood the attraction of a coarse coleslaw as a common companion to sausage, other than being easy to make, inexpensive and long-lasting. The Salz Bratwurst Co gives the lowly cabbage distinctiveness by an aromatic sprinkling of toasted caraway and mustard seeds.
The cheesy spätzle (German-style egg noodles) is an interesting and unusual side dish, but needs adaptation, as it too quickly cools on the checkered-paper metal trays Salz uses as plates. Within five minutes of serving, the spätzle had lost its heat and mushed into a gummy mix of chopped noodles and cheese.
Salz is the latest food concept from the quality-conscious Nate Box and his Black Box Hospitality Group. Nate specializes in multiple “small is beautiful” restaurants. Currently in the Black Box stable are the sandwich-specialty Elm Café off Jasper Avenue, the crusted pizza-specialty District Café on 109 Street, The Little Brick Café in Riverdale and now the Salz Bratwurst Co.
The Burrow Café was an experiment, to see if Edmonton could sustain an underground coffeehouse in the LRT system, at Central Station. It didn’t last. Outside the morning rush hour, customers were sparse.
The Salz Bratwurst Co. is where it is, in a drab commercial zone, because the upstairs is Black Box’s corporate headquarters. The ground floor was part of the lease but not being utilized. Originally intended as a lunch outlet, Salz has been discovered as a fun and inexpensive evening eatery.
One lingering thought: Although Box and crew shun deep-fryers, these sausages would be so good with rustic French fries!
Chinatown Food Festival
Finally, another part of the city is emulating the downtown’s late-winter Downtown Dining Week.
Chinatown Dining Week, Sat. Jan. 20 to Sun. Jan 28, will see five Chinatown restaurants offering pre-set two course (appetizer and main) dinners for a bargain $15: Asian Express Hot Pot, Cua Hua Gui Lin Noodle House, King Noodle House Pho Hoang, Taipan Café Restaurant and Viphalay (Stadium location). More info at Edmontonchinatown.ca