Ever since Adam Richman declared that DiNic’s served the “best sandwich in America,” it’s not only been virtually impossible to get through the perpetual line there, but the snake of humanity curling around the neighboring stalls has made navigating Reading Terminal Market’s lanes even more fraught that it used to be.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other delectable meat-filled options at the market, including the newest entry: Wursthaus Schmitz, the new temple to all things sausage-y and German, brought to you by the team behind South Street’s excellent Brauhaus Schmitz.
Although it’s only been open since late autumn, and despite the fact that the ‘Haus just started to actually cook on premise, it feels like it’s been at the market forever. Much of that has to do with the fact that it fits right into the ethos of what Reading Terminal has become: a destination not just for the inevitable throngs of tourists and poor souls who couldn’t get out of jury duty nearby but also a legitimate destination for locals to get their gorge on, too.
The menu is far more limited than it is at the South Street flagship, and there’s no beer served here. But that doesn’t keep this Schmitz from earning its spot as a top meat-centric destination even this soon after it opened.
Sausage is king here, as the name implies, and the five sandwiches I tasted were all well considered and beautifully executed. My personal favorite was the Hungarian, centered on a Hungarian brat that possessed enough toothy heft and spice of its own to more than stand up to the tongue-tingling onslaught of roasted hot Hungarian peppers—they may resemble the much tamer roasted green bell peppers, but they pack a serious punch—and beef goulash. The dance between the spices and smoke is intricate and beautiful.
That goulash is also available on its own, and I strongly recommend it, especially this time of year. On a cold night, I can’t think of a dish more perfectly suited to curling up on the couch than a bowl of this burnished, paprika-streaked stew of pulled beef and tender hunks of potato. With a side of the excellent potato pancakes—crisp and nutty and thoroughly un-needing of the accompanying sour cream or apple sauce—and a glass of beer at home, you’ll be set.
The Polish sandwich was another complex winner, a gorgeous kielbasa resting on a base of sweet stewed cabbage and tomato, the horseradish-pilsner mustard breathing even more life into an already vivid affair.
Not all of the sandwiches worked quite as well. The Lyoner was better on paper than it was at the table. The luscious horseradish sauce and perfectly melted Munster cheese formed a slurry as addictive as any bread spread you’ll find, and the slices of raw onion and pickle cut through it all, but the triangles of thick-cut bologna could have been fried up on the flattop a little longer, the better to tense up their sides. In the context of the sauce-and-cheese blend, the meat’s own silkiness diminished its impact.
That was really the only letdown, though. And even simpler constructs, such as the Bavarian, were addictive. This one, the bauernwurst carried along on a sea of Bavarian coleslaw with punchy batons of bacon, horseradish sauce, and deep-fried onions, was like a Teutonic cousin of the famous Schmitter in the best possible sense. And the Munchner, with its delicate white sausage and simple application of sauerkraut, is a great introduction to this vastly underappreciated style of meat.
Of course, without beer, pairing these up might seem like a tricky sort of business—Coke works, sure, but it feels like a cop out. You’d be much better off to peruse the aisles of German specialties while you’re waiting for the sandwiches to be prepped and choose one of the German soft drinks for sale. I loved the Vitamalz, a malt beer (ohne, or without, alcohol) that is infinitely better than it sounds.
The Wursthaus also offers a huge assortment of German deli meats and sausages, from whitehead cheese and technicolored Berliner Presskopf to more familiar offerings such as Black Forest ham and generous slices of smoked pork chop. They also have entrée-style dishes as well, pre-packaged and ready to be warmed up at home. Not that you’ll be able to consider doing such a thing after gorging yourself on the gorgeous sandwiches here.
And that, really, is the truest measure of Wursthaus Schmitz’s potential. The sandwiches here are sizable and rich, and yet, despite your best intentions, you’ll likely be unable to stop munching on them, even well past the point of fullness. Just get there soon. Once word gets out, I fully expect DiNic’s-style lines here, too. And they will be very well deserved.
Reading Terminal Market
12th and Arch Streets
267-922-4287 | brauhausschmitz.com