with gallery: Wurst Bar a fun and interesting addition to downtown Ypsilanti dining
There's so much to like about the Wurst Bar, the watering hole and artisan sausage eatery that recently opened in the space long occupied by Theo-Door's on Cross Street in Ypsilanti.
Clean and stylish with an offbeat decor that brings to mind something one might find in Seattle or even Brooklyn, the Wurst Bar deserves points right off the bat for ambiance and friendliness.
And the menu, which ranges from the traditional to the exotic — often finding ways to mix the two — never forces the issue by trying too hard to be different.
So the Wurst Bar is a great addition to the otherwise moribund stretch of Cross Street that sits across from Eastern Michigan University, right?
Well, yes. But, at least so far, that's a qualified yes.
Despite having been open for a few months, the Wurst Bar appears to be going through some growing pains that rendered our visits there both hit and miss.
Sausage is the main attraction at the Wurst Bar. Made on site, the choices range from the familiar — bratwurst poached in Pabst Blue Ribbon and spicy Italian sausage — to the unusual, like rattlesnake chorizo, turducken, bison and lamb, and beyond.
Upon our first visit, we were excited to find the Wurst Bar is a delightful space, full of oddball furnishings, comfortable booths, large tables for bigger groups, and a long and inviting bar.
705 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti
- Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
- Plastic: All major cards.
- Liquor: Full bar.
- Prices: Inexpensive; burgers and sausages from $5.75 to $7.
- Noise level: Moderate.
- Wheelchair access: Yes.
We tried the signature Wurst burger, which marries the bar’s ground brisket, short rib and chuck burger with a split bratwurst and topped with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on a choice of brioche or pretzel bun.
Because the burgers are handcrafted, our server convinced us to go against our better judgment and order our burger medium-well, promising that the burger would remain juicy and flavorful, while holding together better.
What we got was a flavorful burger that was difficult to enjoy because it was cooked about 30 degrees past our preference. Lesson learned, or so we thought. More on that later.
Tater tots instead of fries are an inspired choice, and the Wurst Bar offers both traditional and sweet-potato versions. We opted for traditional, which were crisp, delicious and oh-so-nostalgic.
An iceberg wedge salad was crisp and fresh, with bacon crumbles and onion, and we liked it quite a a bit, even though either the lettuce wasn’t drained well or the bleu cheese dressing was runny. Miso chicken soup, meanwhile, was light on miso and heavy on overcooked, rubbery hunks of chicken in a too-heavy broth.
Not a perfect initial visit. Still, we found enough to like about the Wurst Bar that we looked forward to our return a few days later.
After our experience with the burger the first time around, we made a point to have our next burger cooked to order. That's when we discovered that the well-done "recommendation" on our first visit wasn't really a recommendation at all: Our pleasant and helpful server informed us that the kitchen wouldn’t cook burgers to order. Anxious not to repeat our initial experience, we opted to finish our beers, regroup and come back another time.
For our third visit we brought a diner who prefers his burgers more cooked than we do. To that end, he raved about the nut burger, topped with crunchy peanut butter, aged cheddar cheese and bacon on a pretzel roll. The unusual-yet-inspired combination is a clear winner, perhaps so much so as to make us question our stance on well-done burgers.
Not to be outdone, we tried the alligator and crawfish boudin, which, despite its rather lumpy appearance, was delicious and rich on a brioche roll. Moist and savory, thanks to brown rice, pepper and parsley, it recalled a heartier version of a crabcake and was a clear winner.
The Wurst Bar has created a rare thing: a fun, comfortable, engaging, efficient tavern. The music is good, the servers are gracious and well informed and the beers range from the pinnacle of craft brews to $2 cans of the budget labels, like Carling and Blatz.
And we’d be surprised if some of the hiccups we encountered don't get taken care of before our next visit. In the meantime, the Wurst is a really fun place for a hang and a nice addition to Ypsilanti's food-and-drink landscape.