Trip to Hallo Berlin Wurst cart NYC (w/pics!)
My GF had an appointment in midtown Manhattan the other day, so I went along and decided to do some walking while she was busy and to grab lunch at the Hallo Berlin Wurst cart on the corner of 54th Street and 5th Avenue. I'd been there once before a couple of years ago and loved it and have been wanting to check it out again for some time now. It is best to call ahead as they don't always have the cart out if the weather is bad or if they're doing some catering/special event at the restaurant. The phone number to call is 212-977-1944.
As I walked there, I noticed this plaque outside of the building at 28 East 44th Street and thought it was pretty neat. I'm a big fan of the New Yorker magazine, so I'm glad I stumbled upon this.
I think this says it all. I really like their sense of humor. More on that in a bit...
I went for this shot early on. There was a pretty big line when I arrived around 12:15 pm and it only got bigger.
Which soup would you like? The wurst gumbo sounds pretty good to me.
So many choices on the menu. I've had the currywurst before, which is excellent. Very beefy, with a nice crust and a wonderful curry flavor. I love how the sandwiches are named after German automobiles! It'll take me a while, but I'll get through this menu someday.
Can't choose? Go with the Joseph Stalin "Dictator" special. Feeling a bit more democratic? Let Winnie lead the way. I was debating between the "Freakin Deal" and the "Churchill Special", but ultimately decided I didn't need all the food in the Democracy Special. I'll have to get it eventually as it sounds just too good to pass up.
Rolph and his co-worker were kind enough to pose for me when I asked. He said, "You want our picture? We are handsome men? Ok." Rolph is on the right and has had this cart in operation on the same corner since 1980! When you get one of the deals, they cut up the wurst(s) using a manual cutter that looks like a bread slicing machine and turns out uniform cuts of some tasty meat. When he put my bratwurst in and cut it, I said, "Looks beautiful!", to which he replied with a smile, "I know!".
A shot of the wursts and franks, getting nice and crusty! The German fries are on the far left and the onions are on the far right. Notice the crusty rolls underneath keeping warm.
I HAD to get a shot of this. They have a real great sense of humor and watching them interact with the customers in line is a huge part of the appeal of this cart for me.
You can't see it with the truck in the way, but that line is even longer. I feel bad for the Sabrett's guy who has a cart next to Rolph's. The line for the Wurst cart goes past the Sabrett's guy and it doesn't look like he does a lot of business.
This may not seem like much, but it is an important part of the presentation. When you get your food, if you order a can or bottle of soda, Rolph puts it in the bag and twists the bag around it, He doesn't put the can or bottle on top of the food so as not to crush it. He hands you the bag and has you pause, telling you to hold the bag around the can or bottle and saying that it is "German efficiency for you", with a smile of course!
They have a selection of different sodas, but when I saw this bottle of Saranac Root Beer, I had to have it. It's one of my favorites from home, brewwed at the Matt Brewing Company in Utica, NY. Not far at all from my favorite BBQ sandwich stand, Voss' BBQ.
My "Freakin Deal" meal. The price has gone up since the RF review. It's now $7.50, but IMHO, it's still quite a freakin deal indeed!! Two meatballs, a bratwurst, sauteed onions, german potato salad with spicy mustard and another sauce whose ingredients I'm unsure of. And a crusty roll to mop up the remnants of the meal. This really is one of the best meals I've had in the city and do wish I could eat it every day. The brat has a nice snap and crust to it and is very juicy. The meatballs are moist and the spicy mustard complements them very well. The cool, vinegary potato salad and onions mix into everything making for one tasty mess of food. I'm always surprised though by the roll. Upon tearing it open, the crusty exterior flakes off and reveals a soft, chewy interior perfect for soaking up the sauces and bits remaining. Some more shots below...
If you're in the city, I HIGHLY recommend checking this cart out. I was in line approximately 35 minutes and it was totally worth it. None of the combos, sandwiches, etc... are pre-assembled. It's done to order. A lot has been said on different sites about waiting in lines for food in NYC (Shake Shack in particular). Is Hallo Berlin worth a 35 minute (or perhaps even an hour-long wait)? It really depends. If I'm on my lunch break from work and only have 30 minutes, obviously not. If I have an hour long lunch break, I might not want to use most of it waiting. But, if I'm on my own time, I totally think it's worth it. I do think that it's worth making a special trip and I would go out of my way for it. It's the best that I've tried in the city and the experience of meeting Rolph and his sense of humor only add to the enjoyment of this great food. Oh, there is a plaza one block south on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, across from the American Folk Art Museum, where there are lots of places to sit. I usually go there to enjoy my "Freakin Deal" and people watch.