Passing through "The Bratwurst Capital of America" one has little choice but to stop for the local specialty. It might come as a surprise to Sheboyganites that the city of Bucyrus, about 60 miles north of Columbus, has proclaimed itself the national headquarters of the plump sausage (actually Sheboygan refers to itself as Bratwurst Capital of the World
). The annual Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival
will take place this year August 16-18 and may attract 100,000 visitors. The celebration commences when the reigning Bratwurst Queen takes a bite of sausage.
A portrait of this year's Bratwurst Queen is displayed in the Festival office's window.
Carle's, in business since 1929, is the oldest bratwurst maker in Bucyrus. It's mostly a meat market with nice looking fresh meat and sausages . . .
. . . including several varieties of bratwurst—in patty form, encased or bulk. The distinctive rye rolls of Bucyrus are displayed below the brats. A small cafeteria line at one side of the store offers hot food which can be eaten in the well-windowed front room. Bratwurst noodle casserole and Carle's famous ham loaf were too much to resist.
The casserole was about what you'd expect but had a little zip from sauerkraut. I'm not a big fan of tuna noodle casserole but enjoyed the brat version. Ham loaf probably would have been good but for an overwhelming sweet ketchupy sauce. Bratwurst was a quality sausage that suffered a bit from sitting on the steam table.
The Bratworks is another Bucyrus favorite. It's a hybrid business—part sausage stand, part drive-through beer store (buying beer without leaving the car seems quite popular in Ohio). Drive-through beer and brats is something they only dream about in Wisconsin.
I honestly thought we had taken a wrong turn and were headed into a car wash until I had time to read the signs.
We ordered a spicy brat which surely had a kick. Another good sausage that would have been so much better right off the grill. I don't know quite what to make of The Other Bratwurst Capital. Maybe the Bratwurst Festival would provide a better measure of brat quality. Having all those people ought to guarantee fresh-off-the-grill bratwurst.
Waldo is about 25 miles south of Bucyrus and about 35 miles north of Columbus. This village of 337 souls attracts probably several times that many bologna lovers every week to G&R Tavern, Home of the Famous Bologna Sandwich.
G&R has been in business since 1962 (with the current owners since 1985) and it looks like not much has changed. It has a classic small town tavern feel but seems unusually spacious and clean. Plenty of families chow down at the tables that fill the two rooms.
Hanging under the menu is an absolutely pristine Budweiser wagon carousel lamp. Plenty of appealing choices on that menu but the bologna sandwich and country boy seemed most interesting.
The country boy (left) is a cheeseburger sandwiched between thin slices of grilled bologna. It seems like a disgusting oddity but it's actually extremely tasty.
The quality burger would be quite worthwhile on its own but surprisingly the smoky, slightly crisp bologna enhances the whole sandwich. It's vaguely like a bacon cheeseburger. We got it with the recommended raw onion and tomato and didn't even think about adding condiments.
The standard bologna sandwich is a thick disk of charred sausage, perfectly sized for the bun, topped with melted white cheese, raw onion and sweet pickle slices. The pickles, with their strong clove flavor, are distinctive and essential to the harmony of the sandwich. The bun, too, deserves comment. It may look like a standard squishy roll but it has surprising heft and density. Both these sandwiches are thoughtfully conceived and carefully prepared. Each is $3.75, making them excellent bargains.
Another $3.75 buys a pound of bologna salad to take home.
Enjoyable on some good rye bread with a smear of Colman's mustard but I lost interest about halfway through my pound.
One problem is, having eaten at G&R, I'm not sure I can even think about eating a grilled bologna sandwich anywhere else.
1210 E Mansfield St
"We Make the Best Wurst"
574 S Sandusky Av
Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival
"Home of the Famous Bologna Sandwich"
103 N Marion St