Pedaling to Plano for the Wurst Reason
I'm typically pretty slavish to the seasons: I won't watch football in July or drink lemonade in January.
So I probably should have waited until October -- sorry, Oktober -- to investigate Dallas' sausage scene, when the weather's sure to be more compatible with ingesting mass amounts of pork. But since Kuby's Sausage House kept surfacing on the lists of must-eat spots I've been soliciting, I figured I should try to contextualize my first visit to the University Park institution.
And so I set out this morning to begin assessing the state of local sausage. My survey was by no stretch comprehensive: I look forward to learning more about where I should head next.
I started my sausage trek at For You Cafe, a cozy Polish restaurant and market in Plano. The market's stocked with all the seasonings, canned vegetables, horseradishes, mustards, meats and meat spreads a cook would need to make a proper Polish meal, but it's unlikely a culinary dabbler could produce anything as good as what's coming from For You's kitchen. The restaurant doesn't make its own sausage - the "balleron" and "grillewa" I had came from Chicago - but grills and plates it perfectly. The garlicky, caraway-studded sausages were sliced and served with a wonderfully sour carrot salad and sweet sautéed onions.
The sausages at Everyone's Frank, a new "artisan sausage grille" with obvious franchising ambitions, are made in Buffalo. I learned that tidbit from the second staffer I asked: The friendly young woman who bussed my table wasn't sure whether or not the sausages were made in-house. I'd always assumed sausage-making was the sort of activity you might notice at your workplace, but perhaps sausage-making isn't as messy as I've imagined. I recently met a professional sausage maker who told me he'd gotten involved with local government and was increasingly becoming outraged by the old saying about law and sausages. The comparison's an insult to sausage, he said.
The shtick at Everyone's Frank is all the toppings are free, so a customer could conceivably decorate their dog with dill pickles, black olives, citrus vinaigrette and blue cheese crumbles. But since I didn't want to treat my sausage as a salad plate, I went with the day's feature, horseradish Polish sausage, topped with mustard, onions and sauerkraut.
The sausage was extraordinarily fatty, and had a slightly off-putting onion powder flavor, but a good grilling session gave it a beautifully crisp, leathery skin. I love that Everyone's Frank offers a whole wheat bun, but it's far too big: The ratio of bread to meat ran about five to one. I ended up fashioning a new bun out of just the bun top.
I'd met a customer at For You Café who advised me not to eat too many sausages, since it might not be good for my liver -- and I hadn't even told him about my sausage tour plans. When he asked how I'd gotten interested in Polish food, I told him I grew up in Detroit.
No matter their ethnic background, Midwesterners grow up eating sausages in the shadow of a cuckoo clock. The sausage plate served at Kuby's, where I ordered the Polish sausage and Nurnberger bratwurst, was almost Proustian: The house-made sauerkraut, mustardy potato salad and lean, salty sausages were classical. Smeared with horseradish, the bratwurst was especially terrific -- and I suspect it would have been even if I hadn't biked to Plano.
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