Henk’s European Deli is the kind of place where you’ll find a story behind everything you eat.
The crackling-skinned brats and sausages served by Adrian Winnubst, Henk’s son, are the handmade tradition of family friend Siegi Sumaruk, a sausage-maker from Austria. Sumaruk runs a little shop Tulsa and drives the sausages toward North Texas. Henk’s crew meets Sumaruk somewhere in between Tulsa and Dallas, transferring brats and sausages car-to-car like some sort of desert meth deal from Breaking Bad.
The German Burger, like everything else at Henk’s, comes with the same level of wonderful food fairy-tale past. In a city where chefs are tweaking and playing with burger tradition, Henk’s is a warming, simple and deeply satisfying break. Winnubst says the burger is a Sumaruk idea, too — the sausage-maker used to take it around to Oktoberfests and local fairs. It’s food imbued with storied tradition.
I’m sitting at the counter, cradling a basket of pretzel nuggets, bread and mini butter tubs close to my chest. The best thing to do while you wait for your food at Henk’s is to spoon its bronze-brown mustard onto a dish and dip the pretzels into the mustard.
The burger — which is basically a bratwurst sandwich — arrives on a plate with a pile of Ruffles, a dill pickle spear, lettuce, tomato and shaved onion.
Before that, pork mixes with seasoned salt, onions, lemon and parsley, like a flattened meatloaf, and slides onto the griddle to sear. It gets a good crust and a thick comforter of Swiss cheese. Four-diamond hotels have less cozy amenities than this sandwich. It’s the comfort equivalent of a bearskin rug and a crackling log fire, and it works despite the humid Texas summer.
That feeling is only accentuated by the disc of warm sauerkraut — cooked with black peppercorns, caraway seeds and white wine — resting over the pork patty. Spread some of Henk’s brown mustard on the bun, and you’ve got a simple, spot-on sandwich.
In a changing Dallas, the traditions and stories are hanging on at the this deli. Chicken schnitzel, a breaded chicken breast seasoned with paprika and herbs, remains a popular dish.
After college, Winnbust helped run the Kuby’s on Ross Avenue. His father, who died in 2014, spun off in February 1991 and started his own family operation by coupling with the Black Forest Bakery nestled into Northwest Highway. The family that ran Black Forest Bakery let him take over the cake business, and the Winnubsts added their love of German deli classics.
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The bakery side of the business grows every year, Winnubst says. On Mother’s Day, Henk’s sold out of cakes; about 1,200 went out the door that day.
“I imagine we’ll keep it going the way it is,” Winnubst says.
And like the burger, there’s comfort in knowing that a longstanding business — one that holds on to family recipes and stories — carries on.
Henk's European Deli, 5811 Blackwell St.