Hey campers, it's time for a weenie roast! Put down your tie-dye kits and stop looking for coyote scat on the hiking trails, because I've got your guide to the best wiener slingers in town. Read on for the best tube meats for tonight's campfire.
Siesel's / Iowa Meat Farms: Same company, two locations: Bay Park (Siesel's, 4131 Ashton St.) and Grantville (Iowa Meat Farms, 6041 Mission Gorge Road). You don't have to be a whole-animal hipster to know this is where everyone in San Diego has gone for good quality meat for decades. And if you have a hankering for franks and brats, start here. The meat counter is glorious, and the bratwursts are delicious, including one version with bacon ground into the filling. The bourbon brat is tender and sweet but needs a bit more spice and heat. Stick to the classics at this granddaddy of meat and you can't go wrong.
Vine Ripe Market: Not a butcher shop, but an independent market in La Mesa (8191 Fletcher Pkwy.), specializing in food and delicacies from the Middle East and Mediterranean. What makes it unique when looking for sausages is that they sell many halal products (foods considered permissible under Islamic law). There's a fun mortadella made from all beef and blended with pistachios, and a dried and cured sausage called sujuk laden with spices, with a dense texture reminiscent of the best, most exotic piece of Hickory Farms Summer Sausage you've ever eaten.
Bisher's Quality Meats: Would you like a side of alligator or ostrich with your summertime sausages? Bisher's Quality Meats (with locations in Poway and Ramona) is your nirvana. Sure, they sell kangaroo along with beef and pork, but not for novelty's sake; this is a full-service butcher shop with beautiful cuts of meat and unique, house-made sausages. I dug the havarti and jalapeño combination, with bright, juicy chunks of peppers throughout a creamy, warm sausage. Looking for something more traditional? The cheddar-and-onion bratwurst will put a smile on any beer-drinking, flag-waving pal at your backyard cookout.
Tip Top Meats: This Carlsbad place (6118 Paseo del Norte) is fantastic and King Ludwig-insane, from the breakfast menu packed with all that is gravied, fried and schnitzeled, to the frozen butcher case in which I found a headless pig wrapped in plastic and ready to take home. Pick a type of sausage and Tip Top has it. Polish "kishka," English "bangers" and every variation of "wurst" you've ever heard of (knock, knack, bock, beer, brat). Two standout links are the Hungarian and the Bavarian Bockwurst. The Bockwurst, made with pork and blended with spices and milk powder (yes), is creamy and smooth (one friend of mine compared the texture to that of a matzo ball) with a mild but well-rounded flavor. Consider boiling this one over your campfire; ours kept exploding on the grill. The Hungarian is exceptional: warm with spice without burning your taste buds and a casing with snap and flavor that says, "We know what we're doing."
T&H Sausages: My personal fave. Sausage "meister" Jacob Kappeler cranks out amazingly flavorful and juicy sausages for the Regal restaurants (Beagle and Seagull), sells meat wholesale and has a retail market in San Marcos you can visit three days a week (735 East Mission Road). Like Tip Top, T&H has a spectacular selection of sausages from around the world. Check out the Danish "Medisterpolse" or the delicate Swedish sausage filled with herbs and potatoes. Locavores will enjoy the Cherry Bomb, a sausage made with Julian Hard Cider and chunks of dried cherries.
Cape Town Pub: This wildcard isn't a butcher; it's a restaurant, pub and the best location (7580 Miramar Road in Miramar) to get South African boerewors. Boerewors is a totally different sausage than you've ever had and one that will make you the envy of the coolest counselors in camp. The all-beef version is deep and rich with cloves and coriander making it spicy and fun for summer, but with a warming flavor reminiscent of winter holidays.
Now let's all rub each other down in Calamine lotion and talk about how the sausage is made!
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