Saugus is one of my favorite places in New England. Yep, I said it; Saugus MA. When I was a kid it was like driving through a zoo of tacky signs. I remember passing the cows at Hilltop Steak House, Kowloon’s, the orange dinosaur at the mini golf place, and the sausage on the sign of Karl’s Sausage Kitchen. The only place my family visited along the Saugus strip was Karl’s Sausage Kitchen. The counter in the small bustling store was always packed with customers buying housemade sausages and imported meats and cheeses. The deli servers were strict and demanded your order instantly, answering any questions bluntly in heavy German accents. We always left with a bounty of hastily chosen meats, always left wondering what some mystery meat was, and always left with a new mustard from the samples given out with homemade pretzel pieces.
Along with the disappearance of Hilltop Steak House, Karl’s too disappeared, but not for good! Karl’s returned in a new location in Peabody MA with new owners and the same sign and recipes that had been used since 1958. Flash forward 2 years and Nick and I finally had the opportunity to visit their cafe and larger improved deli and butcher counter. Karl’s is still making authentic german sausages and importing european cheeses, condiments, provisions, and salamis, but now they also are serving these treats in their cafe.
This past rainy and cold Saturday we headed down to Karl’s for Oktoberfest. The cafe at Karl’s is small with nine tables very close together in the back of their market. Surrounded by a large bar decorated with German beer steins are some of the most decadent and beautiful desserts I have ever seen. The small metal tables and chairs were half full at our noon arrival and their was a 30 minute wait by the time we finished lunch.
The menu is a massive showcase of the best German delicacies all made in house. The menu features innovative takes on dishes such as the Black Forest Bites featuring Black Forest Ham and Biercheese on German Pumpernickel toast ($6.29). Karl’s also offers daily changing soups and a charcuterie and cheese board.
To start, I had a flight of all four German beers on the Oktoberfest list. This included four Festbiers imported for the holiday. Nick and I chose to start with the Obatzda Spread with a homemade pretzel ($4.29), and the Charcuterie board. Obatzda is a spread made with butter, beer, and brie and was a little cold at first, but as it came to room temperature it offered a warm beer infused cheese taste reminding me of Pub Cheese. The pretzel was perfectly salty and soft with a harder exterior. We used the leftover Obatzda on our sandwich.
The Charcuterie plate was an unbelievable value at $11.99. On the board was thinly sliced Black Forest Ham, a piece of their own homemade Liverwurst covered in raw white onion, and housemade Smoked Bratwurst. The board came with a piece of warm bread, a curry mayonnaise sauce, and pickled vegetables. The Black Forest Ham is different from the one seen commonly at American grocery stores. This ham is a combination of Prosciutto, and Speck, essentially a smoked version of Prosciutto. The Liverwurst was mild and smooth, the onions brought out the subtle liver flavor. Nick and I agreed that the Smoked Bratwurst was one of the best things we have ever eaten, soft inside with mild smoke and the taste of freshly seasoned pork.
For our main courses we chose the Double Sausage Plate ($8.99) and a Black Forest Ham sandwich ($8.49), both came with one side. We chose Knockwurst and Blood Sausage and Sauerkraut for our Sausage Plate. Each sausage came on a roll, the sauerkraut was mild but perfect in texture, and added to the incredible sausages. The Blood Sausage was full of flavor, but also subtle with hints of cinnamon and a texture like pâté. I can’t wait to order it again. The Knockwurst had notes of garlic and a great course texture and juicy snap.
We chose to have French Fries with the Black Forest Ham sandwich, the fries were crucial to dip into the three different kinds of mustard on the table and the curry ketchup. We chose a German Roll for our sandwich with Emmentaler cheese. This sandwich was everything necessary to fill our cured meat void.
After we stuffed ourselves with German fare and German beer we shopped, taking home a different kind of smoked ham; Westphalian, Smoked Bratwurst, Liverwurst, and Landjäger. Landjäger is Karl’s version of a Slim Jim. Flavored heavily with Caraway seed, smoked and hung to dry, these are what the creator of the Slim Jims’ dreams about.
We left and went straight home for a nap. Karl’s Sausage Kitchen is a complete hidden gem right off of the highway on your way home from Boston. I recommend a field trip on an empty stomach, and a shopping trip to follow. They make over 16 homemade sausages including Chorizo, Knockwurst, and Bratwurst. Their expansion has increased their selections, their hospitality, and now we have the opportunity to dine in their cafe. Whatever love and spices they are spinning and casing into their meats will have you returning time and time again.
Karl’s is located at: 1 Bourbon Street, Peabody MA 01960.
For more information visit: http://www.karlssausage.com/