Yes, franks and ketchup have been bedfellows since the dawn of hot-dog invention, but the Germanic staple of currywurst really takes things to the next level. For those who haven’t sampled the dish, sausages or hot dogs are chopped into bite-sized pieces, then doused in ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder. While ubiquitous in Berlin, the dish hasn’t really caught on here. Maybe New Yorkers can’t get beyond the true matchmaking that couples hot dogs and tropical fruity drinks (thanks, Gray’s Papaya). There aren’t many places to sample the dish, but you can find it at both Currywurst Bros. in Greenwich Village and at Wechsler’s in the East Village. Which only meant one thing: We’d have to battle for the best of the wurst.
We started off at newcomer Currywurst Bros., whose gimmick is that you can choose from several different types of curry powder, ranging from mild and aromatic to spicy and sharp. The interior is bright and airy, though possesses a bit of a fast-food-franchise feel. We opted for the traditional bratwurst ($7), which came with a warm roll. The portion size was rather large, and contained big chunks of juicy sausage. The ketchup was somewhat acidic but not overly gloppy, though we couldn’t really taste the nuances of the curry powder. But all in all, a decent dog.
Next we swung by Wechsler’s, a German beer-and-sausage bar in the East Village. It’s much smaller than Currywurst Bros., but offers a quaint little setting for eating. And the booze selection is an instant plus, because who doesn’t want to drink beer with their sausages? The currywurst ($6) also came with french fries, which we enjoyed more than the roll at Currywurst Bros., because fried always trumps baked. The ketchup here was slightly thinner, but with a more complex tomato flavor. It tasted more like homemade ketchup, and the curry powder was assertive but not overpowering, matching nicely with the sauce. The sausage (which comes from a German butcher on the Upper East Side), however, tasted a little on the dry side. Which poses the true question of this battle — what’s more important when it comes to currywurst: good ketchup or good sausage?
Ultimately we decided that the pieces of franks were really just a vehicle for the ketchup and the currywurst should be judged by its sauce. Currywurst Bros. does replicate the taste of Berlin’s currywursts, but in terms of which we actually thought tasted better and which we’d want to consume on a regular basis, that goes to the lighter, more complex ketchup offered by Wechsler’s.