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Owner/ chef Aldo Lanzilotta preps duck-fat fries and peppers for the many varieties of sausage.
WVRST (609 King West, at Portland, 416-703-7775, wvrst.com) Complete meals for $25 per person, including tax, tip and a bottle microbrew. Average main $7. Open Monday to Wednesday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11:30 am to 2 am. Closed Sunday, holidays. Licensed. Rating: NNN
Wvrst isn't the first time Hogtown has gone wild for haute hot dogs.
Anyone remember the dismal Buddha Dog on Roncesvalles a few seasons back?
That Buddha failed to find much of a following ($4 for a tiny designer dog no matter the provenance of the beef or pork - no thanks), but Wvrst is a much easier concept to swallow.
Start with owner/chef Aldo Lanzillotta's locally sourced artisanal sausages made with naturally raised ingredients.
Grill them to order and dress them simply with grainy mustard on whole wheat buns. Or load them up with sautéed onions, red peppers, jalapeños and sauerkraut.
Serve them with an impressive card of microbrews in a cavernous room furnished with communal tables that's best described as Salad King meets a Munich beer hall and watch the lineups form. Franchise (repeat).
From the entry-level dogs, the South African-style boerewors sausage sees densely ground beef tickled with toasted coriander seeds, while the Italian marries over-processed pork with fennel. A traditional veal and pork bratwurst (all $6) packs more of a punch than its veggie interpretation, more sawdust than sausage.
Wvrst veers from the norm with the likes of basil-scented chicken sausage with artichoke hearts and a turkey-chicken mix studded with mild-mannered Padrón peppers (all $7). But it's the King West cantina's game sausages that put Wvrst above the rest.
Fancy pheasant laced with apple or guinea fowl with micro-diced asparagus? You'll swear that smoky rabbit underscored by tomato tastes exactly like barbecued chicken, while bison goes locavore with notes of blueberries and maple syrup. And who doesn't do kangaroo (all $9)?
The vegan in the group will appreciate that Wvrst's pre-salted vegetarian Belgian-style fries ($3.50 small/ $5.50) are cooked in trans-fat-free oil in a separate vat from the markedly tastier spuds fried in duck fat ($4.50/$5.50), though they might disagree with that last assessment.
All 17-some sausages are also available as Currywurst, the weirdly popular German street food that combines sliced grilled wieners swimming in curried ketchup. The tooth-achingly sweet sauce all but overpowers a Mediterranean-inspired lamb sausage ($7) and obliterates any delicacy in the duck and foie gras ($9).
Who says the wvrst isn't saved for last? Wouldn't the tzatziki that's offered as a dollar add-on dunk with the fries be a better choice than this vile condiment?