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Review of WURST Restaurant & Beer Hall

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Summary: Looking like it could be a great overall addition to the YYC food scene, Wurst deftly navigates the line between classy and casual while bringing a classic alternative to the traditional watering-holes in Calgary.


Despite the rain a couple of weekends ago, Kent and I decided to join up with Kiran and head on over to Wurst, the questionably-named, German-inspired restaurant/beer hall that has taken the place of Wildwood in the district of Mission.  I had been meaning to check this place out for some time, though I had mistakenly thought that it had opened in April when it, in fact, was opening the same weekend as Craft – it was like two Hollywood blockbusters going at it for the opening weekend box-office title!

DAS BOOT! (or Stiefel, to be proper)

Much like Wildwood, Wurst has both a main floor and a basement with different styling and demeanour – the upper floor is classier with tablecloths and lighted trees (putting the garten into biergarten), while the lower floor is a boisterous beer hall with benches, barrels, and boots of booze.  No joke – for the price of $25 (though the website says $30?), you can have a 2L boot of beer, just like in Beerfest!  As we walked in without a reservation, we were relegated to sitting around a barrel in the basement – not the most comfortable of situations – but we were at least promptly served with some beer!  The waitresses were dressed in mock-Bavarian-beer-girl outfits (they were actually T-shirts), and while the service was quite average, it was a vast improvement over Craft that day (I personally thought it was excellent considering how how packed the place was –Kiran).  Unfortunately, Wurst had the same problems as Craft: of the 20 draft beers that they have on the menu, only three were available!  It was as though there was a mini-prohibition going on in the city or something (good social media marketing, poor planning, or are Calgarians just getting ready for Stampede? –Kiran).

Sausage fest!  It's like an engineering party :PGiven the storied history of its chefs (the executive chef has worked at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, the Drake Hotel, and Bison in Banff amongst other places), I had high expectations for the food at Wurst.  The schweinshaxen (pork knuckle) immediately caught my eye, as it was one of the dishes I associate most with beer halls in Europe.  As Kent had already settled on the knuckle, my aversion to ordering the same dish as someone else at the table caused me to order the pile of bratwurst instead.  The food came out in sizzling cast-iron pans – quite a striking presentation! – and definitely looked delicious (especially the pork knuckle… mmmm, 80% fat!).  Just as our food arrived, a table opened up. However, the table that we moved to was in utter darkness – the light bulb above us emanated only the faint glow of a dying ember (to be fair though, they turned the lights down in the entire beer hall in some misguided attempt to generate ambiance and mystique –Kiran) .  As such, I wasn’t able to see what I was eating – though given that it was just a pan full of bratwurst and beets floating in some sort of potato-ey substance, that wasn’t a huge problem.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the bratwurst, actually – I thought it was too dry and didn’t pack much flavour.  Wurst’s website boldly proclaims “We’re bringing mustard back”, but I could barely taste any on my dish, despite the picture clearly showing it.  Perhaps my taste buds were just numb from the couple pints of beer.  I did try some of Kent’s pork knuckle, though, and it was all I imagined and more!

Underneath the crackly exterior lies a heart of fat, interlaced with bits of meat - mmmm!

Kiran’s Observations

I was actually feeling sick that day, but still opted to check out WURST as I was pretty jazzed about the positive reviews it was getting in twitter verse. Twitter was abuzz with mentions of CRAFT and WURST, and it was quite clear from the tweets that most people were pretty unhappy with the level of service at CRAFT. Indeed, @300rwhp confirmed that he had, in fact, been so unimpressed by the poor service at CRAFT that he left 15 min. after he got there.

Walking into WURST, I was pretty taken by the expansive space that the classy main floor took up. This was clearly the restaurant part of the establishment full of families and groups of friends. I quite liked the ambiance and felt the like the designers did a pretty good job of utilizing the existing space and incorporating it into WURST’s vision to be both a restaurant and a beer-hall.

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Walking in to the basement, I was immediately struck by the row upon row of beer steins. I didn’t realize it at the time, but according to Calgary Foodies, the steins are for sale for a low $250/year that goes to charity. Although long sold out, this is definitely one of those “cool factors” about WURST that adds to its buzz. Imagine walking into a restaurant and getting served beer in your customized stein! Pretty freakin’ cool…

The basement level is definitely where the debauchery takes place. I was immediately struck by how similar the beer hall was to the ones at Oktoberfest in Munich (there were even people breaking out into random bouts of singing –Richard). The long tables force people in smaller groups to mingle with each other, which can only be a good thing in a conservative city like Calgary where people are generally reserved. I definitely caught myself wishing that we had come in here sooner so we could sit at one of these tables and meet interesting new Calgarians. This place is definitely going to be an absolute gold mine during Stampede…!

A good place to chat to random strangers

I ordered a litre of the only German-sounding beer on the menu that night: Kolsch. It was an alright beer, nothing to get excited about. What I was really excited about was the side of egg noodles (spätzle, $7.99) that I had ordered. It was also pretty much the only vegetarian option on the menu. Digging in, the first thing I noticed was how goddamn salty it was. Having never had a spatzle before, I cannot ascertain whether this is intentional or just a misstep on part of the line cook. Either way, it was nice to have a liter of beer to down what was essentially a German-style macaroni and cheese. The menu items looked expensive at the outset, but once I saw the portions, I was a bit placated – they sure do not skimp out on portion sizes in Germany!

IMG_0194I had the chance to shoot the shit with one of the owner’s of WURST regarding the drastic differences in service quality between the latter and CRAFT. It just seemed like the WURST staff were trained better and had their shit together. I can understand running out of beer, but poor service just reflects badly on any establishment. Research shows that people are more likely to tell their friends of the bad experience or service they received than about a positive experience. I am pretty sure that CRAFT will bounce back from it’s rocky start, but at the same time, why take the chance? Why bother opening and have people turned off by poor service when you can take the time to get your shit together? Maybe, just maybe, this was a soft opening for the Stampede week and the CRAFT management wanted to iron out any kinks before The Greatest Show on Earth began. Let us hope so…

Summary

Wurst is a great alternative to the generic pubs around the city that serve the traditional mainstream brews. While the basement level definitely caters to the rowdy young crowd, older people and families will feel right at home on the classy-yet-casual main level. Wurst made a better first impression on us than Craft, though it wasn’t without troubles itself – the selection of both seating and beer could be improved over what existed during the opening weekend.  If you don’t mind dying early of heart disease, I recommend trying the schweinshaxen. For those who value their health a bit more, there is a good variety of other German-inspired fare as well Winking smile.

-Richard

Ranking

Kiran Richard
Ambiance 5/6 5.5/6
Service 5/6 4/6
Plating 3.5/6 5.5/6
Authenticity 5/6 4/6
Taste 3.5/6 4.5/6
Value 5/6 4.5/6
Overall 27/36 = 75% 27/36 = 75%

WURST Restaurant and Beer Hall on Urbanspoon

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4 responses to “Review of WURST Restaurant & Beer Hall

  1. Tatiana June 29, 2011 at 09:28

    I’m eagerly awaiting to check out Wurst, and am letting them get their feet under them since I’ve reviewed one or two places too soon to my detriment. Sounds like the food is worth visiting at least, and after the trial by fire of Stampede they should be running well. I like how your impressions match the urbanspoon score pretty exactly.

  2. kiransomanchi June 30, 2011 at 00:15

    Yeah, it’s great to get out to a place as soon as it open, but at the same time, I agree – it’s nice to go to the place after they have ironed the kinks out. WURST is definitely fairing better than CRAFT, who have a lot of work to do to catch-up.

    Thanks!

  3. Left Thirsty July 4, 2011 at 19:04

    I have been to both places and while I agree that the service at Wurst was better, it mostly consisted of sorry-looking waitresses telling us all the things they couldn’t serve us from the menu! They literally ran out of all German draft beer and I had to go Czech, totally unacceptable for a German beerhall!

  4. Elsie July 7, 2011 at 21:35

    Wow, great post! I don’t do well with beer, but I just may have to try it now! 🙂 Thanks for the great post!!

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