Need something to do this weekend? Here are five places around the city to find drool-worthy sausages for your backyard or balcony barbecue.
Oyama Sausage Co. at Granville Island Market, 1689 Johnston Street, Granville Island
Fifth-generation European sausage maker John van der Lieck and his wife, Christine, have raised the lowly sausage to high art—as almost any Vancouver chef who comes to their busy counter will tell you.
The couple has spent the last 16 years honing their craft at the bustling Granville Island stall, adventurously taking the German staple into Asian, African, and other exciting culinary territories. The results, on any given day, might mean butter chicken, miso pork, lamb merguez, Marsala pork, tequila lime chicken, or juniper wild elk, all displayed in an eye-popping array stuck with tilty, hand-written signs.
For traditional standards, we're prepared to anoint their Weisswurst and Andouille the best in town, and where else are you going to find boudin noir and morcilla blood sausages when they're in season? The meat is all free-range, organic, or from family farms, the herbs all fresh and carefully sourced.
Then again, none of this artisanal quality may matter when you're bleary-eyed after a day of work and need something quick, delicious, and simple to cook, or if you're looking to wow your guests at a weekend barbecue. "Venison and blueberry sausages anyone?" Don't forget to grab a container of the company's housemade sauerkraut on the side.
Save On Meats, 43 West Hastings Street
The average passerby may not think this little diner is the most glamorous place to grab a bite, seeing as how it’s situated on the border between Gastown and the Downtown Eastside. But as every Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives fans knows, good eats can be found inside locations that are less than Michelin three-star .
Nestled between other well-loved neighbourhood spots (Acme Café, Lost & Found Café), Save On Meats is known for its greasy but hearty grub—think brunch, burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
The retro diner is only half of the business; a gourmet butcher shop occupies the other half of the space. In addition to ham, steak, burger patties, and lamb chops, its sausage selection is one that you’ll keep coming back for. Chorizo and regular hot dogs are on the menu, as well as its Bavarian smokies. However, Save On Meat’s most popular barbecue item may be its variety of pork sausages: breakfast, authentic Irish, apple-and-sage, and cranberry-and-thyme.
The next time you get invited to a summer backyard BBQ, you’ll know which sausage shop to hit up. The only problem you’ll have is guesstimating how many to get, because they will disappear as soon as you take them off the grill.
Polonia Sausage House, 2434 East Hastings Street
Despite what the name might lead one to believe, there's more on offer at Polonia Sausage House than ground meat stuffed into an edible casing. The East Village store is Polish-family-owned, which means that if you're missing the Old Country—specifically Warsaw, Bydgoszcz, or the teeming metropolis of Wodzisław Śląski—you'll feel at home the second you walk in the door.
The shelves are packed with Polish jams and mustards, with frozen perogies located in the back, and a bakery serving fresh pączkis (that's jelly doughnuts on these shores). But you're here for the sausage—kielbasa, bratwurst, mini-smokies, torunska, garlic coil, and much, much more—which are not only made with natural ingredients and smoked in-house, but also cheap like borscht.
That latter fact is worth noting, with an added bonus being that the all-female staff at Polonia have been known to slip an extra couple of wieners into orders of $20 or more. (If you've got kids and there's a lineup at the counter, candies are also sometimes dished out on the house.)
Pro tip: the next time you're making paella, the chorizo sausages are amazing—not to mention authentic—enough that you'll be left wondering if Polonia's sausage makers are actually from Polanco in Spain.
Bestie, 105 East Pender Street
It’s been four years since this quaint little sausage spot opened its doors in Chinatown, and we’re still not over it. Bestie’s tasty offerings, like currywurst—a signature dish that pairs a sliced sausage of your choice with French fries and curried ketchup—and other German-inspired goodies like pretzels, sauerkraut, and potato salad, make it a stand-out snack stop on the city’s East Side.
Sausage varieties don’t stop at the classic pork house bratwurst, which can be switched up for a free-range bird banger, an all-natural game sausage, or a vegan-friendly veggie wurst made with smoked apple and sage.
Few things make a finer pairing than sausage and beer, and Bestie’s got the craft scene covered with four taps of local beer and cider, plus a range of hard-to-pronounce German imports that are sure to transport you to the streets of Munich. Did we mention Bestie’s rockin’ happy hour? There are few places in the city where one can still snag a beer and a snack (a freshly baked pretzel, to be exact) for five bucks.
Top it all off with a fun atmosphere and quick, diner-esque service, and you might understand why four years later, we still can’t get enough.
J, N & Z Deli, 1729 Commercial Drive
Those of the opinion that the best Old World sausage stores look straight from, well, the Old World have mixed feelings about J,N, & Z, which has been a Commercial Drive institution since 1987.
For the first quarter-century of its existence, entering the shop was like stepping into someplace parachuted out of Eastern Europe, the lighting kind of dingy, the shop smelling redolently of a deep-woods smokehouse in Serbia. (Or at least how we imagine a deep-woods smokehouse in Serbia might smell.)
An extensive renovation a couple of years back has given J, N & Z a more modern feel, but not to the point where the charm of the original spot has been totally lost. As long-timers were probably happy to see when the place reopened, three of the four walls were still covered in meat, namely hanging sausages. Billing itself as having "the best selection of Eastern European style meats this side of Belgrade", J, N & Z is family-owned and run by Serbian ex-pats Savo and Ivanka Jeremic.
Their Serbian garlic and Hungarian farmer sausages are stupidly delicious, but what really explains the return customers are the sinfully smoked Kranski, Cabanossi, and Polish sausages. The place may have changed, but the taste—not to mention that deep-woods Serbian smokehouse smell—remains the same.