As food-savvy customers increasingly expect professional kitchens to crank out handmade edibles (rather than outsourcing to specialists), the daily grind of many a Denver chef has grown to include butchering, preparing charcuterie, curing meat and turning ground pork into delicious links. Some make fresh, rustic sausages that are served grilled or braised in beer, while others have tackled the complicated techniques of producing salumi in its various forms. But one thing is clear: Our access to bangers, wieners and wurst has never been better. Here are the ten restaurants plating the best housemade sausages in town, listed in alphabetical order — with the winner of Best Sausage in our Best of Denver 2016 awards in the number-one spot.
Grilled kielbasa at Blackbelly is one of many sausage options.
10. Blackbelly/Blackbelly Butcher
1606 Conestoga Street, Boulder
The butchering program was on the forefront of the menu when chef-owner Hosea Rosenberg opened Blackbelly in 2014, and a dry-cured salumi program was launched as soon as Rosenberg could get sign-off from the health department. And if that weren't enough sausage satisfaction for Boulderites and others willing to make the trek, Rosenberg expanded this spring, adding Blackbelly Butcher next door. Now a growing number of salumi and charcuterie options are available both from the takeout counter and on a list of breakfast, lunch and happy-hour offerings, from housemade scrapple to air-dried Italian specialties. Blackbelly's resident butcher, Nate Singer, even makes mortadella hot dogs for a not-so-guilty treat.
Pig out on sausage at Butcher's Bistro.
9. Butcher's Bistro
2233 Larimer Street
Launched in the fall of 2014 in the Ballpark neighborhood, Butcher's Bistro is a carnivore's dream, with local half-cows and hogs butchered weekly in-house and a case by the door so that you can pick up a steak for tomorrow when you're finished with tonight's meal. The kitchen cranks out a number of great sausages, which show up in everything from a steamy cassoulet to a pure punch of pork on the sausage shared plate. The menu changes regularly based on cuts available, so if the cassoulet's not there, check the sandwich menu for some other sausage option.
Try the liverwurst at Continental Deli.
Westword file photo
8. Continental Deli
250 Steele Street
Continental Sausage supplies a wide range of dogs — from a standard beef hot link to crazy concoctions packed with reindeer, rattlesnake and rabbit — to Biker Jim's downtown, but over in Cherry Creek, the company also runs a traditional deli with a few tables for a sandwich or a hot plate during lunch hours. Among the best on offer are a range of liverwursts with varying textures and spice blends. Try one on a liverwurst-egg salad sandwich or in the German-Vietnamese mashup called the Auto Banh Mi, a car wreck of flavors that somehow still works.
Cracovia's soft links of kiszka — Polish blood sausage.
8121 West 94th Avenue, Broomfield
Broomfield's old-world Polish eatery really isn't that old; Cracovia is going on eight years, but it seems like it's been in the northwest suburb for decades. Traditional Eastern European eats and equally traditional hospitality make it a great stop for families and culinary tourists alike, and a visit wouldn't feel quite Polish enough without a sizzling skillet of homemade kielbasa. For the more adventurous, the Connoisseur's Menu hides a robust farmhouse-style kiszka, a traditional blood sausage softened with oats.
Dinner at Euclid Hall wouldn't be complete without sausage.
Courtesy of Euclid Hall.
6. Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen
1317 14th Street
Euclid Hall is a German beer hall reimagined for a sophisticated urban set, where foamy steins of lager give way to a long roster of connoisseur-level brews from the world's great beer-producing regions. And to stand up to the superlative suds, chef Jake Grant cranks out a savory selection of sausage styles, like the popular beef short-rib kielbasa and a rich, dark boudin noir. While there are plenty of other tempting plates from the kitchen clever enough to bring us pad Thai pig ears, a trip to Larimer Square never seems complete without a Euclid Hall tasting board of its finest links.
Dry-cured salumi hang in the aging room at Il Porcellino.
5. Il Porcellino
4324 West 41st Street
Pepperoni, Genoa salami, cacciatori, mortadella, summer sausage, andouille, finocchino, chorizo, nduja. That's just a short list of the cooked and dry-cured pork products made on site at this Berkeley neighborhood salumeria. Get a sampling on an in-store platter or go whole hog with a sandwich stacked with meatiness. Thankfully this hidden spot, a half-block off bustling Tennyson Street, has a takeout counter for fresh and aged sausage by the pound so that you can continue hitting the links at home.
Housemade charcuterie at Old Major.
4. Old Major
3316 Tejon Street
Chef/restaurateur Justin Brunson's LoHi butcher's bastion is one of only a handful of eateries in town sanctioned to dry-cure its own salumi. That means there's always something spicy, fatty and housemade — generally from the canon of Italian classics — on the small-plates board. And along with lamb sausage that loses nothing to its porky pals, other cooked links pop up on the seasonal menu, like a green-garlic sausage on this spring's ever-changing nose-to-tail plate.
Sausage served in a pretzel roll at Rhein Haus.
3. Rhein Haus
1415 Market Street
Rhein Haus started slinging sausages in Seattle as Von Trapp's in 2013 before changing the name a year later. But we knew LoDo would come alive with the sound of sizzling when the beer-and-bocce hall settled into the former home of Old Chicago in late 2015. Backed by the clinking of beer mugs and clacking of bocce balls, the traditional eatery, decked out like a Bavarian hunter's lodge, goes deep into German-sausage territory, with diminutive Nurembergs and pfefferwurst and hefty, hearty smoked bratwurst and hirschwurst packed with beef and venison. To sample all ten choices (including a meatless veggiewurst), round up the gang and go for the grillwurstl schmankerl — a two-pound sampler to sate your sausage fixation.
Double up with Uber's Swiss, made from an old-world family recipe.
2. Uber Sausage
2730 East Colfax Avenue
This East Colfax sausage shack serves up split rolls stuffed with traditional sausages handed down from family recipes, regional specialties and newfangled creations — all plump and pleasingly dressed in colorful condiments and house sauces. Start with the Swiss, which faithfully re-creates the street food of its homeland. Two skinny siblings snuggle beneath a covering of clover sprouts, onion, mustard and a shake of curry-laced seasoning. Or bite into more exotic offerings like Thai chile-lemongrass sausage or Cajun pork and crawfish links. But Uber gets the classics right, too, from fat bratwurst to a hotdog made prairie-style by swapping out beef for bison.
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A charcuterie spread at Baur's.
1. Baur's Restaurant & Listening Room
1512 Curtis Street
Without getting too technical, the best way to describe what makes great sausage is a process called emulsification, which basically allows oil and water to coexist without separating. Sausages are mostly fat and meat, which holds plenty of moisture, and true sausage masters know how to grind and blend to produce a firm yet tender link that doesn't turn grainy or greasy when cooked. Chef Robert Grant, who heads the charcuterie program at Baur's downtown, is one such master. He learned his craft in the kitchens of France, Spain and Italy before perfecting the art of the grind at the Butcher Shop and the Belly Wine Bar in Boston. The years of study are evident in his currywurst, lamb merguez and jalapeño cheddarwurst, all of which pop with flavor and juicy goodness.