We have always loved hot dogs and sausage of all types. If it comes in a casing, we want to try it, except for maybe blood sausage. On the other hand, maybe if they put it on a stick and fry it…
But we digress. While you can get hot dogs on just about every corner of NYC, there is only one street vendor serving authentic German wurst, Hallo Berlin. The original proprietor, Rolf Babiel, died in 2009, but his brother Wolfgang, reopened the cart a little over a year ago. Rolf, with assistance from Wolfgang, won the very first Vendy Award back in 2005.
On this visit, we decided to get a bauernwurst, which costs $5.50, and opted for a side order of German fries for $2.50. It might seem like a lot to pay $5.50 for what some people consider a glorified hot dog, but this is so much more.
Last time I was at Hallo Berlin on 54th St just west of 5th Ave, the guy in front of me ordered a Bavarian meatball hero, and it looked pretty good. I’ve been wanting to try one ever since.
Hallo Berlin won the Vendy Cup in 2006, and every wurst I’ve had there has been delicious – but could Wolfgang pull off Bavarian meatballs? Today’s Lunch is a Bavarian meatball hero ($4) from Hallo Berlin.
I was walking down 5th Ave at lunchtime, and when I got to 54th St, I looked west and saw that Hallo Berlin only had 3 people on line. Now that’s something I had to take advantage of!
The line at Hallo Berlin, the winner of the very first Vendy Award, is usually at least 10 people at lunch. It turned out to be a good call, because by the time I walked away with my lunch, there were at least 8 people on line behind me.
For Today’s Lunch, I decided to get a smoked kielbasa ($5.50) and an alpenwurst ($5), both with “the works”. There are 9 different types of wurst available at Hallo Berlin, plus Bavarian meatballs, which the guy in front of me got. They looked really good too. You can view the full menu here.
If you love street food, one of the biggest stories of the year just happened last week – the return of the Hallo Berlin cart to 54th St just west of 5th Ave.
Hallo Berlin was founded by Rolf Babiel, who emigrated from Germany and opened the cart here in the early 1980′s. Hallo Berlin always had a reputation for serving excellent wurst, and Rolf was the very first Vendy Award Winner back in 2005!
Although Rolf passed away in 2009, the cart was resurrected by Rolf’s son Peter and brother Wolfgang. In fact, Wolfgang told me he was there at the 1st Vendy Awards, assisting his brother in serving that historic day.
There are two Hallo Berlin restaurants, but the cart is where it all started, and it’s great to have it back. You can find more on the history of Hallo Berlin here.
They have 10 different sandwiches at the cart, which includes 9 different types of wurst (!) plus a Bavarian meatball sandwich. You can get platters too. Check out their full menu here.
(left to right) potato salad, wurst, even more wurst & grilled onions
I decided to get bratwurst and weisswurst sandwiches, which were $5.50 each. The sandwiches run from $3-$6, but most are in the $5-$5.50 range.
Today’s Lunch is the Fifth Avenue Combo from Hallo Berlin Express at 744 Ninth Ave between West 50th and 51st Street. Hallo Berlin Express is significantly closer to me than the original Hallo Berlin food cart, which was the first Vendy Award Winner back in 2005, but has a more extensive than the cart.
The Fifth Avenue Combo ($10) was chosen because I wanted to try 2 different wurst in one visit. After all that’s been written about Berlin’s obsession with currywurst, I had to try one of those. The 2nd choice was bauernwurst, a beef and pork sausage that is on the lighter side, since the currywurst was expected to be heavily flavored.
After the wursts were finished being grilled, they were put into a “wurst slicer”, which was like a bread slicer, but smaller and used for wurst. They placed each wurst in the machine, pulled the lever, and it was sliced. The wurst was then put into a platter, the curry sauce and powder put on the currywurst, and the platter was topped with home fries, sauerkraut, onion and red cabbage. (Good thing I have my own office.)
The currywurst was the darker sausage, and I was expecting a heavy curry flavor, but it was not even close to overpowering. It was a bit spicy, but not heavy at all. I’m not sure why millions of Berliners are fanatical about currywurst when there are plenty of bratwurst, weisswurst, bauernwurst and knockwurst to go around, but I guess it’s something different from their usual routine, and spicier than their usual fare. I certainly did enjoy the lingering spiciness afterward.
The bauernwurst was very good, kind of like a cross between knockwurst and bratwurst. It was spiced a bit differently than the bauernwurst I’ve had at Lederhosen, a German restaurant in the West Village that we really enjoy, but very good nonetheless. (BTW, Lederhosen has one of the best German draft beer selections around.) In my opinion, the bauernwurst was good in the platter, but would have been great in a bun with the sauerkraut and onions. I tried a few pieces with the onion and sauerkraut, and it was definitely better than the bauernwurst alone.
With 2 wurst and all the toppings, Today’s Lunch was pretty filling, but very enjoyable, too.