We’ve just entered peak bratwurst season. As summer slides into Labor Day and fall football rises like a phoenix from the ashes of so many tailgating grills, sausage becomes the focal point of many red, white and blue barbecue traditions. Toledo’s full of grill jockeys who take their meat sports seriously. So where can you find the best brats in the Glass City?
The good news is, you won’t go wrong no matter which of these local creations you choose while searching for the best wurst. We tested six local meat markets to see who stuffed the best casing, assembled some serious carnivores, grilled up the competitors and let them go to work. The results are listed below.
In a perfectly controlled bratwurst taste test, all factors would be accounted for. But sometimes we have to work with certain X-factors that can augment and affect the test. The test was conducted on a Monday and Kilgus Meats closes at 3pm. We didn’t make it there by 3pm, so they didn’t get to participate (but we’ve included them, spiritually, as a sausage maker favored by at least one City Paper staffer, who said, “They could have been a contender.” True story, they have excellent meats). Takacs Grocery and Meats was out of bratwurst, so we subbed in a polish sausage. And Walt Churchill’s chicken bratwurst (gotta read those labels carefully when shopping for bratwurst— we didn’t) was a divergence from the standard pork brats (but a tasty contestant, nonetheless).
Additionally, with plenty of beers during the grilling portion of the exercise, there were certain variants in cooking time, hot spots on the grill, etc. But these were some masterfully cooked brats and, all things considered, each was a delicious representative of their respective shop.
Keeping careful track, brats from each camp were cooked and divided into bite-sized cuts to allow for tasting and contemplation. None of the judges knew which brat was from which butcher, allowing for a necessary blind tasting, and the brats were tasted without condiments to allow for untainted decision-making.
Everyone found different things to love about the selections. The Churchill’s chicken bratwurst was discerned to be notably different from the bunch, with two of the judges adamant that it tasted “like turkey.” “I like the skin,” another judge declared of Stanley’s Market’s offering. Hints of sage were detected in the House of Meats competitor— “It tastes like a Thanksgiving dinner,” one judge elaborated. Zavotski’s sausage was identified by several judges as having more of a “traditional kielbasa flavor.”
How they tasted
The moistness and seasoning of Sautter’s Markets’ entry (fennel was the agreed-upon defining taste) made their offering the close favorite brat in the contest. “That is, like, delicious!” a judge exclaimed. “It’s moist and flavorful with more herbs.”
Stanley’s Market came in as the closest runner-up, but even the Polish sausage from Takacs’ fared well when pitted against its German contemporaries. “If you dress it up, it will take
you to the dance,” one judge commented.
“It was a polish sausage in sheep’s clothing,” said another, upon
discovering the substitution.
The Best Moment
The best moment of the contest came though when the judging was finished and there were still a serious amount of brats to be eaten. Everybody did their part to make sure none of the contenders were left uneaten. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
The bottom line?
You aren’t going to go wrong at any local butcher shop.
Let us know about your favorites and grilling adventures at