Three sausages. All a little different. A wiener-like knackwurst, a white weisswurst and a traditional Bavarian bratwurst. I was awfully hungry, so the German sausage plate, offered on the lunch menu at Barb & Ernie’s Country Inn, seemed like a challenge I could meet.
I was wrong.
But, before we go any further into my wurst folly, let’s set the stage. Barb & Ernie’s has been an Edmonton mainstay for nearly 50 years, a larger-than-life centre for eating excesses and famous brunches. Your parents went to Barb & Ernie’s. You will take your kids there. Ownership has changed, but it’s not like the wheel has been reinvented. It’s not like you’re being introduced to something new. It’s that Bavarian cottage that sits in an industrial area of 99th Street, just north of Argyll Road, with two dining rooms that bookend the kitchen.
As I arrive, I hear the conversation from a neighbouring table about how a person can find some really decent art for the home at Cabela’s. I am entertained as I peruse the menu and order a dark Dunkel. I’m prepared to wash down my German lunch properly, with German beer.
A full strudel is brought from the kitchen to one of the empty tables to cool, filling the dining room with the warm autumn reassurance of apples and cinnamon. It’s also a pretty cool way for the kitchen staff to show off. I salute that.
I know pretty quickly that what I want is the German plate. Three sausages, spatzle, sauerkraut, side of potato salad, garden salad and a soup sounds… reasonable?
No, it is not. After polishing off the starter soup, the plate comes. First off, you don’t get sauerkraut as a condiment. You get a bowl, with pieces of pork mixed in, a full-on side dish. Sauerkraut scooped out of the jar you get from the supermarket is fantastic; warm sauerkraut with pork is sublime. Obviously, you must love sauerkraut as much as I do, because. if you didn’t, why would you be so far into a story about German food? The spatzle comes on top of gravy, with some soft bits, some crunchy bits, and the dumpling are altogether great.
The server tells me that the ketchup, curry sauce and mustard are all home-made. I squirt a healthy dollop of mustard near the sausages, and it provides a strong sweetness up top, then a nice spice rush just as you finish chewing your bite. The sausages are dense, filling and, about two-thirds through, I worry that I might be done. It’s an overload of meat and casings and all of the good things in life.
The server comes by with a sample of bread pudding from the kitchen. She is also trying to defeat me, to sway me from the goal. She succeeds.
The sausages cannot be finished, it is all too much. I will be back again, hungrier.
But it’s clear there’s one reason why I could not finish all of the sausage sampler. The damn side salad. I should know better than to have eaten those greens.