Meet the sausage kings of the Valley
Thank the region’s strong German heritage or the simple fact that a perfectly grilled brat is one of life’s greatest joys, but it’s safe to say that summer is sausage season in the Fox Cities. Take a look at some of our favorite ways to enjoy the wurst of your dreams this summer.
Old World Tradition
Mark’s East Side in Appleton is beloved for its Friday fish fry, hand-muddled old fashioneds and classic supper club vibe. But many patrons are just as devoted to Mark’s traditional German cuisine. In fact, owner Mark Dougherty says about a third of the dishes coming out of his kitchen are German fare. A particular fan favorite are the German sausages.
“We like to say we have some of the best wurst,” Dougherty says.
The appetizer menu features a sausage sampler which offers a taste of the full sausage dinner.
The grilled sausages on the sampler are sliced in rounds and are best enjoyed atop a slice of grilled bread mounded with caramelized onions and German mustard which are served on the side.
“The sampler is a shareable way to try the different sausages. It’s ample for two to four people,” Dougherty says. “And if you like the sampler, you’ll love the dinner.”
The sausage dinner features three sausages served as whole links – weisswurst (veal sausage, light in flavor), knackwurst (similar to a bologna grind) and mettwurst (course ground like a brat and smoked).
“For dinner, we set the sausages in Bavarian kraut with caraway and sugar. The Bavarian-style kraut has a little more sweetness to it,” Dougherty says. “Then you can choose a side of potato dumplings or spaetzle.”
Looking for a lunch fix? A two-sausage version is served during the day.
Over at OB’s Brau Haus in Appleton, the Valley’s only exclusively German brewpub, General Manager Marrisa Belling says the brat dishes are especially popular.
“One of the most popular appetizers is the curry bratwurst,” she says. “That’s two brats smothered in a German curry sauce. It’s not like Indian curry. It’s very different with touch of curry powder and it’s out of this world.”
The brats are served whole with the intention of being cut and shared among the table.
If brats as an appetizer just isn’t enough, try the brat dinner entree. The brat dinner includes two sausages, sauerkraut and two fresh-made sides like German spaetzle with a mushroom and white wine sauce. The German fries, sliced potatoes fried with bacon and onions, are the most popular side choice, Belling says.
The Old Bavarian sampler is the perfect choice when you can’t decide between schnitzel and pork shanks. It includes one brat, a handmade meatball, a mini art des hauses schnitzel and a wild pork shank covered in peppercorn and mushroom gravy.
“Those are four of our most popular dishes and you get a nice little taste of each if you can’t decide,” Belling says.
Belling says all the brats pair well with any of OB’s locally-produced German-style beers.
“Brats and beers go together like peanut butter and jelly, so you really can’t go wrong,” she says.
At the Ball Game
For some of the most creative brat creations, head to Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Chris Prentice, assistant director of food and beverage, says brats are a staple at the stadium. All the brats are from Cher-Make Sausages in Manitowoc.
“We have regular brats at every concession stand in the stadium,” Prentice says. “We also offer a chicken brat in original and pepper jack because our fanbase likes a healthier option.”
If counting calories isn’t the concern, check out the Wisconsin poutine served at the third base main concession stand. This reimagined poutine starts with waffle fries topped with cheese curds, beef gravy and brat coins. Fans can also order this poutine as a burger, called the Wisconsin Poutine Burger.
For the past four years, fans have been able to submit their culinary creations to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Food Fight competition. Winning recipes are featured on the season’s concession menu.
“This year we had about 75 submissions,” Prentice says. “We narrow it down to the top five that we feel we could serve, then open it up to fans to vote for their favorite.”
Fans picked The Almighty Pork Sandwich, submitted by Amanda Baranczyk, as the 2019 winner. The Almighty Pork Sandwich is a grilled, Cher-make brat cut in half, topped with BBQ pulled pork, melted Swiss cheese, peppered bacon, red pepper jelly and fried pickles served on an onion roll.
Last year’s Food Fight champion, Rattlers Bites, also incorporates brats and can still be found on the menu as well. Rattlers Bites are sauerkraut, chopped brats and cream cheese deep-fried in a wonton wrapper served with spicy brown mustard.
It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a…Brat?
Attend a Timber Rattlers home game and there’s one tradition you will definitely not want to miss – the catapulting of brats into the stands filled with hungry fans.
This is accomplished with help from the “World Famous Bratzooka,” a custom-designed compressed air-gun shaped like a giant brat, that debuted in 1998.
Director of Marketing Hilary Bauer is the Timber Rattlers’ on-field emcee and designated Bratzooka shooter. During each home game, she launches roughly a dozen brats into the stands of Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.
“People go crazy for it, that’s for sure,” Bauer says. “People stand right in the front row and want me to shoot [the brats] right at them. The kids swarm, they jump over chairs. It’s like a foul ball.”
The Cher-Make brats that are shot out of the Bratzooka are in buns, wrapped in foil and zipped in plastic bags, making them completely edible for the lucky fans who catch them. The Bratzooka is typically deployed during the fourth inning to the tune of “Go Daddy O” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddies.
Bauer says shooting the Bratzooka is a two-person job. She works with Ryan Cunniff, Director of Corporate Partnerships, who loads the brats and offers insights on wind direction to help achieve the optimal brat shot.
“There’s a learning curve in how to shoot over the net behind home plate and the dugout. It takes a bit to learn with the wind,” Bauer says. “If it doesn’t make it to the stands, of course we get booed, but we are pretty seasoned now.”
For even more brat fun, hit up a Thursday game for Craft Brews & Brat night when 16-ounce craft beers and Cher-Make brats are just $2. The Timber Rattlers will transform into the Wisconsin Brats for one more game this season on August 29. Celebrate as the ballpark turns into Bratoberfest when players wear the infamous checkered lederhosen green jerseys that debuted in 2018 and the Jerry Schneider polka band performs outside the front gates.
Lunch Break Brat Fry
Upgrade your work day lunch break with a brat fry, held weekly through August at Cedar Creek Marketplaces’s two Appleton locations. “To say our brat frys are popular is an understatement,” says owner Peter Ellenz. “When the weather warms, it’s hard to find a parking spot.” Brat frys are held every Wednesday at the west location and every Friday at the east location from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Along with Cedar Creek’s famous house-made bratwursts, the menu features hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken and ribeye, cheese curds and side items. Regular and Italian bratwursts are on the weekly menu in addition to a speciality brat of the week in flavors like smoked cheddar, dill and chicken fajita. Stop in the store afterward to select from about a dozen speciality brat flavors to take home.