I want so much to say the Wurst Kitchen is really the best kitchen, but I’ll refrain from doing so. Tucked into a corner of Chez Pascal, this petite eatery – possibly the smallest in the city – reminds me of foreign lifestyles: pubs in Ireland, trattorias in Italy and cafés in France. It’s very much the kind of place where the workingman (or woman) stops in for a hearty lunch or a tasty dinner after laboring all day. And indeed you’ll find all kinds of people dining at the Wurst Kitchen – folks from the immediate neighborhood, die-hard fans of Chez Pascal and people looking for a unique dining experience.
Matt and Kristin Gennuso, owners of Chez Pascal since 2003, converted part of their beloved French-influenced restaurant into the Wurst Kitchen last year, following the solid success of their food truck, Hewtin’s Dogs. Fans simply can’t get enough of Chef Matt’s Grote & Weigle hot dogs, house-made sausages, cured meats and condiments offered via the truck, which parks here and there mostly during the lunch hour and regularly at the Wintertime Farmers’ Market at Hope Artiste Village. (The truck’s morning menu features a wonderful egg and ham sandwich on brioche with cheddar and sweet pepper relish.)
Rather than add that rustic fare to the sublime menu at Chez Pascal, the talented couple opened a walk-up window and eventually added a food bar with four stools and two tables for communal dining. On the Tuesday we stopped in for lunch, we had no trouble grabbing a couple of spots at one of the tables. On a subsequent Friday, we were lucky to get three seats together. Just about every spot was taken with the overflow crowd seated at the larger Chez Pascal bar.
One of my lunchtime faves is the Pork Butt Pastrami ($8.50) with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Dijon mustard stuffed into a warm roll. You’ll see me licking my fingers when I polish off one of those delicious sandwiches.
We thought we detected a hint of lemon in the mild Currywurst ($7.50), smoked weisswurst with curried onion sauce, but later learned that it was really golden raisins that gave this sandwich its very singular flavor. On the side of these lunchtime sandwiches was a scoop of excellent, bacon-scented potato salad – much too small, in my opinion.
On another day, and in a bolder mood, I took a chance on the Chorizo ($7.50) sandwich topped with egg salad, red pepper relish and just a hint of hot sauce. The Portuguese sausage was mild, and the sweetness of the relish tied all the flavor components together. I took a chance, and I won. As much as I liked that, it was the side dish of tender Sweet Potatoes with Bacon Butter ($4) that had me taking yet another bite even after I was quite full. Bacon butter... what a concept.
Another much-appreciated dish was a special that day, a cup of velvety potato bisque ($4.50) with slices of smoked hot links and chives.
At night all the lunch creations and more are served outside of the bun on wooden boards (priced at $8 to $12) accompanied by condiments. For instance, the lunchtime chorizo with egg salad in a lightly toasted roll is transformed into chorizo with beer-braised onions and crispy onion strings. Another solid dinner is the Thuringer Bratwurst ($8) with braised red cabbage and cranberry grainy mustard.
Small plates ($8 to $12), just right for sharing if you are feeling generous, are also offered on the dinner menu, posted on a huge chalkboard on the back wall. But these grazing plates are so good I want to keep them all to myself, especially the Pretzel Profiteroles, pastrami mini-sliders with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
The small size of this restaurant and communal tables make for a relaxed, friendly dining experience. I found myself recommending the pastrami to a total stranger, a rare occurrence in chilly New England. Seated at the tiled food bar, it’s easy to converse with servers while they assemble the sandwiches and dinner platters. When the place is humming at lunchtime, it’s not unusual to see Matt come out of the Chez Pascal kitchen to expedite orders. We were fortunate to have the friendly chef-owner delivering food to our communal table with a smile and delicious descriptions of what we were about to eat. He even treated everyone to bowls of really good popcorn, popped in-house with kernels from a local farm.
Now before you go to the Wurst Kitchen, you have to understand the rules. It is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30am- 2:30pm, and dinner from 5:30- 9:30pm. The Wurst menu is available only in the Wurst Kitchen and at the dining room bar, not in the Chez Pascal dining room. Likewise, the Chez Pascal menu is not available in the Wurst Kitchen. The menu changes now and then so it’s wise to follow this restaurant on Twitter, which will also let you know where their food truck is located. Daytime take-out orders can be placed at a walk-up window. Outdoor seating will be available in warmer weather, which is on the horizon.