With the word ‘curry’ in the name of this German restaurant, I feel it’s necessary to say, right off the top, to forget any preconceived notion of the flavors of Indian curries, and that all-American staple, ketchup. Trust us . . . even though both of us have been to Berlin, until we had lunch at Curry Up King, we’ve never tasted the flavor profile of German street food before.
Owner Jurgen Wochnik opened Curry Up King to replicate the authentic flavors of the street food he grew up with in his native city of Berlin. Just like citizens of any metropolitan area, Berliners often have to grab a quick bite now and then. The difference between Berlin street food and proverbial American hotdog cart is Berlin’s street food restaurants aren’t in carts, or food trucks, and instead tend to be located in small restaurants that rarely provide seating. German street food is basically grab and go, only a fair bit tastier.
Tucked in the corner of the Sarasota Commons Shopping Plaza, I didn’t know what to expect when we made our way to Curry Up King for a quick lunch. Just like most authentic German street food restaurants, Curry Up King offers no interior seating, but . . . being Florida, there are four café tables outside overlooking the parking lot, which gives the German street food experience even more street cred.
Wanting to present the food from his heritage as authentically as possible, Jurgen kept the menu to a manageable 11 items plus a dessert. This allows him to make everything, except the sausage, from scratch, resisting the need to use even one American flavored product.
Naturally, being a newbie, I chose the Berliner Currywurst, the history of which dates back to its humble beginnings in 1949. One bite and the unique flavors left little wonder why currywurst has stood the test of time and has sold in the millions over the years.
The grilled sausage (sourced locally from Geier’s Sausage Kitchen) is sliced and sauced with a beguiling house-made curry ketchup. This is where you need to sit back, forget the words “curry” and “ketchup.” Composed of tomato sauce, curry, and applesauce, plus some other spices, Jurgen can dial up the heat with from mild, medium and hot. I chose medium. Perfect.
I also chose the “shcrippe” bread roll instead of the available French fries or German Potato salad. Good call. I could have sliced the bread in half and piled the currywurst onto it, sandwich style, but instead, I had happily munched down my savory currywurst and used the roll to mop up every last bit of the delicious curry ketchup. (Jurgen informed us that in Berlin, people sometimes order extra bread and ketchup just to do just that and go the extra flavor mile. I totally get it!) In fact, guests who have enjoyed the rolls at Curry Up King have been known to wait for a new batch to come out of the oven, even if the wait is ten minutes or more. Kinda takes the grab and go out of the picture, don’t you think?
Jill ordered the Fleischspiss, which is a skewer of tender pork loin, onions, bacon and green peppers that are grilled, and conveniently de-skewered, then slathered in that magnificent curry ketchup. The pork was tender and sliced into bite-sized portions that would be ultra important if you were eating on the run. For her side dish, Jill had the German Potato Salad, which was also a different take on what we’d commonly expect from American/German potato salad, which surprised us. It didn’t contain the celery seeds and vinegar found in a typical American version. Then again, who are we to tell a German how German potato salad is supposed to taste? Suffice it to say, it was yummy and perfect when used as a vehicle to sop up that curry ketchup. This was a suitably filling combo, with the generous amount of potato salad, which Jill was kind enough to share with me.
As we spoke with Jurgen, he insisted we try the one dessert available (and truly, there’s no reason to have more choices than this one,) the house-made Apple Strudel. Fresh large chunks of tender warm apples and raisins are tossed with cinnamon and sugar, packed inside a flaky phyllo dough, and baked before being topped with a gorgeous vanilla sauce. Need I even say it? Of course, it was delicious and we were especially pleased that it was served warm.
Even though we (almost) always share everything, as we did here, I found myself almost subconsciously, (ok, I admit, it was consciously) racing to get more than Jill, even after she’d shared her potato salad. My lunch was such a perfect treat. Being that is made in-house, it’s no wonder I was enamored with Curry Up King. I’m looking forward to trying everything on the menu . . . at least once! (You know I’m coming back for more currywurst!)
So I’m left to wonder . . . Is it just possible that JFK spoke those immortal words “Ich bin ein Berliner” after eating German street food? If he HAD it could have been an appreciation for Currywurst! Short of refreshing your passport and heading off to Berlin to try German street food, head over to Curry Up King and try their authentic flavors yourself. Beer and wine are available as are bratwurst, veggie currywurst, weisswurst, schnitzel sandwiches and . . . stop me, I’m making myself hungry!