Wurstbar: Extensive Cider Menu and Sausages in Jersey City

February 27, 2018

 

Rocking chairs filled with people sipping cocktails, children on bikes weave through the outdoor tables where parents chat holding dogs on leashes, indie music calls the passerby to enter into a near by watering hole. This is the new downtown of Jersey City; filled to the brims with street art, good vibes and of course great food. One place to put on your list to visit is Wurstbar, a neighborhood bar featuring beer, an extensive cider menu, sausages, and some kick-ass burgers.

We sat down with the owner, Aaron Kahn to chat about his inspiration for the dried seaweed hot dog on the menu, his perspective on liquor licenses in Jersey City, and the challenges of his catering business.

 

 

Bvster:

 

Tell us how you developed your concept.

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

My business partners own the Pilsener Haus & Biergarten in Hoboken, which has lots of bigger commercial European pilsners and lagers on draught and a traditional German menu. I have a craft beer background and managed their beer menus for a while. When I brought them over here, we wanted to try for a more intimate setting than a beer hall. We wanted to focus our beer program on smaller craft breweries and rare limited beers that a big beer garden couldn't get.  This way customers can come here and try a lot of different rare beers and sausages, which is what helped pioneer a theme here.

 

But we wanted to diversify so we came up with the idea that every culture and every ethnicity does some sort of sausage. We wanted to touch on sausages from around the world, rather than just classic German and Eastern European sausage. The cider program developed because apples and pork has never been argued as a good pairing. So I started building the cider program; we started at 12 and now we're up to 40 bottles of cider and two on draught. It's been a big hit here for us.

 

 

Bvster:

 

Can you tell us about your process for recipe development?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

We have an executive chef here named is Abe but we work together on it. We take inspiration from different worldly cuisines and a lot of inspiration from our travels. Abe was in a band and traveled around the country. Before I moved back to the east coast I spent six months traveling abroad. Between the two of us there was a lot of great ideas flowing. He's great in the kitchen; he could take my visions and make them a reality.

 

 

Bvster:

 

Can you share with us tips for pairing beer and food.

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

That's a big thing here at Wurstbar. I try to train my staff a lot-we do a lot of tastings ourselves.

I think one of the easiest ways to pair food with beverages is matching the intensity of the food with the intensity of the beverage, whether it's beer or cider.

 

Rich, sweeter sauces and curries pair very well with stouts , which are also dark and intense. Lighter and brighter flavors pair well with lighter beers. That’s how we pair out sausages. We have ciders that are sweeter which go well with the sweeter sauces on the sweeter sausage. We like using dry ciders with the rich, fatter sausages. When in doubt, you could always just pair anything with a saison.

 

 

 

Bvster:

 

What is one of the biggest challenges you've faced and how did you resolve it?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

One of the biggest challenges is maintaining consistency, continuing to grow and develop, and not getting too comfortable. Everybody's opening great spots around here and you want to keep yourself relevant. We added some new items to the menu recently so we're always trying to expand and stay ahead of everything.

 

Bvster:

 

Are you a fan of the restaurants in downtown Jersey City and do you draw inspiration from them?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

Oh yeah I take a lot of inspiration from other places around here. For example just across the street was Koro Koro. We love them; the whole staff would always eat lunch there. We have a hot dog called the samurai snack which is totally an inspiration from them. Our sriracha ginger sauce is very similar to their spicy mayo and we have chunks of sweet dried seaweed on the hot dogs. So we absolutely take inspiration from our surroundings.

 

I'm a really big fan of Indian food which was the inspiration for the New Delhi Curry. We used the Masala Curry instead of a German Berlin type curry. There is great food scene here-you can find me at the Kitchen Step every Wednesday after work.

 

 

 

Bvster:

 

Can you talk about your recently expanded menu?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

I love burgers. If I was in jail on death row, my last meal would be a cheeseburger. So it was killing me I didn't have a burger on the menu. Burgers were a big addition here; it took about two months of development but I'm very happy with the execution of it. Also we like listening to our customers and a lot of people love the sausage sandwiches but we wanted to have sausages by themselves in our snack section. We also added a few salads to add healthier options.

 

Bvster:

 

We hear from a lot of restaurants in Jersey City about the challenge of getting a liquor license. What is your take on the town getting involved to make them more affordable?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

That's a tough debate. I got my liquor license right before the price skyrocketed, as did a lot of people around here. But the way the price has jumped up, it would be very difficult for someone like me to come into the city and try to open up a place. So then who can afford these liquor licenses? The answer is a lot of corporations and developers. At the same time issuing new licenses opens a huge can of worms. Some people borrowed and raised so much money to buy their liquor licenses and then you started adding new licenses to the market. What's that going to do for them, you know? I mean in Jersey City the price is still fairly reasonable compared to other parts of the state where it really becomes a challenge. There are places where licenses go for a $1 million plus in a town that has great demographic but maybe only 7 or 8 liquor licenses. It’s tough-I think a good solution is issuing just beer and wine licenses.

 

Bvster:

 

Do you think that it would be beneficial for each town to issue licenses by neighborhood, such Jersey City Heights and Bergen Lafayette?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

The redevelopment plan in downtown Jersey City has been amazing for the city. While it’s been great for downtown, it's going to start hurting some of these other neighborhoods. As the price of liquor licenses go up, businesses are going to buy their licenses from these other neighborhoods and bring them to downtown. But how is a neighborhood like Bergen Lafayette going to develop if no one's going to pay the money to move the license over there? I think it's great that you could move licenses to downtown because it's helped build what downtown has become. But now neighborhoods like the Heights and Bergen Lafayette are going to need restaurants and bars. It's going to be a lot more challenging opening them without liquor licenses.

 

Bvster:

 

You have a unique selection of beers at Wurstbar. How do you go about selecting the menu?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

That part of the business comes very easy to me because I've been in the beer industry for a long time so I know a lot of people. I'm a certified cicerone so it's really my passion. I work with a lot of importers. A lot of these breweries and importers really like what we're doing here so I get offered a lot of unique limited products. I help them and they help me.

 

 

Bvster:

 

What are your plans for the future?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

We built the menu with the idea of opening multiple locations and creating a product that we can maintain consistency with and expand. I think the next thing is a mobile set up. Not a food truck but something like festivals or street fairs where we can execute really quickly and consistently.

 

 

Bvster:

 

Can you talk about your catering program?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

Catering I haven't perfected yet to be honest. French fries don't exactly travel well so we'd have to do onsite frying. I feel our menu is an off-the-grill-to-your-mouth concept but catering is big business. We have done sausage platters and cut them up into little sliders which has been great. But again it has to be close by so we can get it off the ground.

 

 

Bvster:

 

How are you relevant to your local community?

 

Aaron Kahn (Wurstbar):

 

I lived in this neighborhood for seven years which is kind of cool. I know a lot of the neighbors and I'm always meeting with local businesses here. Karl at Van Hook Cheese and Grocery and  Kevin, John and Jill at The Fish Stand are always talking about the neighborhood and how we could work together. For New Year’s we're doing a collaboration dinner here at Wurstbar which is going to be really cool. The whole month of November we did Dogs For Dogs with Liberty Humane Society  and See Spot Rescued. I love this neighborhood so I try to reach out to my community a lot.

 

 

 

Wurstbar

Address: 516 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City

Phone: 201-479-8396

Hours: Sunday - Thursday 12PM-12AM; Friday & Saturday 12PM-2AM

 

 

Love a good burger? Pat La Frieda is the man responsible not only for the burger at Wurstbar, but also Shake Shack, The Spotted Pig, and Emily. Read our previous article to learn all about Pat LaFrieda. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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