LOS ANGELES - Tucked into the streets and boulevards of this sprawling culinary mecca are places in Little Tokyo to slurp ramen soup, in central LA to savor Guatemalan tamales, in Chicano neighborhoods to dine on authentic Mexican specialties.
Now you can also find two little restaurants that feature currywurst, Germany’s popular street food. Currywurst is traditionally made with thickly sliced sausages grilled or fried and seasoned with curried ketchup and a generous sprinkle of curry powder. In Germany it’s comfort food, sold at fast-food stalls where you stand and gobble it off a paper plate with a tiny, disposable fork. Accompaniments are french fries with mayonnaise or a bread roll to sop up the sauce.
Chef and caterer Kai Loebach, born in Wuppertal, Germany, and a Los Angeles resident for 26 years, opened Currywurst in August here on North Fairfax, once a mostly Jewish neighborhood with kosher butchers and markets. Rather than a street stand, Loebach opened a brightly lighted storefront with several tables, a counter, stools, and a short menu.
He makes his currywurst, which costs $6.50, with grilled and sliced bockwurst (a pork and veal sausage), and sprinkles a choice of mild, medium, or hot curry powder on the meat before ladling on spicy organic tomato sauce. Crispy fries are topped with roasted garlic mayonnaise.
“When people who grew up with this heard we opened, they came from even two hours away,’’ says Loebach. As for the unitiated, he says, “They’re surprised how well it works.’’
Six miles away, husband and wife Hardeep and Lena Manak opened Berlin Currywurst in February. They moved from Frankfurt in part to bring currywurst here, and decided on the hip Silver Lake neighborhood to open a small, urban-chic restaurant. Walls are adorned with black and white photos of Berlin scenes.
Here, comfort food has gone upscale. The couple offer a choice of wursts (brat, bock, paprika, chicken) made from organic meats, adding a tofu variety for vegetarians ($5.89 a plate) and Hardeep’s mother’s secret recipe for curried tomato sauce. You can pick a flavoring to add to the sauce (chipotle, jambalaya, garlic, ginger orange), and a curry-pepper blend (1 to 4 heat level) is dusted on last. It comes with a slice of hearty bread but homemade fries are a must.
The sausage dish is such a part of German culture that two years ago, to commemorate its 60th birthday, the Deutsches Currywurst Museum opened in Berlin. The museum traces currywurst’s origin to postwar Berlin. A woman in the city made a ketchup-style sauce with curry powder she got from British soldiers and sold her concoction at a street stand. It was cheap and substantial.
“Nowadays currywurst is more than a kind of fast food. It stands for a whole mood of life and is an expression of the social and cultural identity,’’ museum manager Veronika Schutt writes in an e-mail.
While the dish is wildly popular, and filling, to say the least, it’s also very high in calories. Both Hardeep and Lena Manak are slim, so you have to wonder if they actually eat their own currywurst.
“I eat it at least twice a week,’’ says Hardeep, who claims that a plate of currywurst is the perfect food to relieve a hangover. “It’s the combination of the meat, sauce, and bread. You feel way better after eating this.’’
Currywurst 109 North Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-413-2627, www.currywurstus.com.
Berlin Currywurst 3827 West Sunsest Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-663-1989, www.berlincurrywurst.com.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a previous version of this story listed the wrong telephone number and website of Currywurst restaurant in Los Angeles. The phone number is 323-413-2627; the website is currywurstus.com.