For Better or Wurst

. September 30, 2013.

It’s October in Michigan. While some of us might turn our thoughts turn to falling leaves and cozy sweaters, others think of beer and bratwurst. It was for the latter reason that my family of four ventured to the Wurst Bar in Ypsilanti. Located near Eastern Michigan University, the Wurst Bar, open since 2012, features house made burgers and brats, locally-sourced products and a large beer selection.

The inside is high-energy, decorated in red and black. There are black booths, high bar tables, animal mounts, and antler and crystal chandeliers dangling from above. We dined later than usual, past seven o’clock on Friday, and noticed no other families. The music was loud, but our six and ten-year-old kids bounced to the beat in our booth.

To start, we ordered Poutine Tots, tater tots smothered in gravy and Wisconsin cheese curds. The portion was ideal for four and the kids gobbled them up. My husband and I had to fight over the last bite of the crunchy potatoes doused in salty gravy and curds.

For entrées, the Wurst Bar serves chili, salads and sandwiches, like Lobster Rolls, along with their specialty, brats and burgers. The brats are ground and made in house from chef recipes. They offer “Usual” brats ($6.50), like the PBR Poached Bratwurst, with pork, black pepper, ginger, allspice and coriander, and “Unusual” brats ($7.75) like the Spicy Rattlesnake Chorizo, with rattlesnake, pork, chipotle, oregano and red wine. You choose a salted pretzel bun or Zingerman’s brioche and select toppings like sauerkraut or caramelized onions. My husband ordered the PBR brat on a pretzel bun with Kimchi-kraut, onions, and peppers. He also added a side of sweet potato and regular tater tots ($2.50).

The burgers are house-ground, 1/3-pound patties dipped in Umami rich sauces. Umami means a pleasant savory taste; the Wurst Bar uses a combination of seafood sauces to evoke such flavor. They offer a Traditional Burger ($5.95), plus gourmet ones like the Mr. Peanut with cheddar, bacon and crunchy peanut butter ($7.25). My ten-year-old ordered that one while I chose the Wurst burger: bratwurst atop a burger with sauerkraut and Swiss ($8.25)

There is no kids’ menu, so we asked for suggestions for our six-year-old. The best (or plainest) choices for kids are the PBR brat, sweet Italian sausage, the original burger or Curry-Wurst (corn dogs that can be prepared “easy on the curry”). Our daughter picked the corn dogs.

The kids loved playing Skee ball before the meal was served. Though at $1 a game, I was glad our food didn’t take too long. My son inhaled his Mr. Peanut burger. It was gone before I could ask how he liked it. I savored the surprising tang of red kraut on my Wurst burger, which complemented the flavorful, fatty brat atop a meaty burger. My husband‘s PBR brat had a great blend of grilled taste with spices. We all found his regular and sweet potato tots tasty.

My daughter’s corn dogs were too spicy for her palate and she could not eat more than a couple bites. We ordered soft pretzels for her instead. Then she knocked over her juice, which had been served in a regular pint glass. Without dinner and embarrassed by her spill, she descended into a funk. Thankfully, the soft, warm pretzels, with sweet butter cream sauce, arrived and cheered her up.

At the Wurst Bar, we missed seeing other families and found the menu challenging for our youngest. Yet we enjoyed watching our kids dance to the music and play Skee ball while dining on unique and flavorful burgers and brats.

Katy M. Clark is a freelance writer from Saline.