Classic German meets Silicon Valley contemporary at the new Peninsula eatery
For evidence of the kind of bierhaus Wursthall is, look no further than the menu: next to bratwurst, chicken schnitzel, pretzels and beer is a vegan döner kebap made from Impossible Foods’ plant-based meat.
The menu at Wursthall, which officially opens next week in downtown San Mateo, reflects its ownership. J. Kenji López-Alt, a food science guru, partnered with Adam Simpson and Tyson Mao, owners of nearby craft beer and wine bar Grape & Grain, to open the beer hall and restaurant.
While López-Alt’s national reputation is bringing plenty of hype to the restaurant’s opening — he’s a James Beard Award winner and his 2015 cookbook “The Food Lab” was named Cookbook of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals — it was his partners who came up with the idea for Wursthall, López-Alt said.
“We had mutual friends who knew that they were looking for a chef partner, and I was looking for a restaurant project. I loved the concept and location as soon as I heard about it,” said López-Alt, who lives in San Mateo with his wife and daughter.
He described Wursthall, located at 310 Baldwin Ave., as “a family-friendly, casual restaurant that serves great food and beer at a reasonable price and is open through the day and into late night.”
At a media preview Wednesday night, the kitchen was serving up dishes such as currywurst, the vegan döner kebap, bone marrow, sausages and crispy potatoes (there’s an entire section on the menu dedicated to bratkartoffeln, or German fried potatoes). The sausage buns come from Backhaus, a San Mateo bakery started by a German transplant.
Wursthall also serves lighter, California-style fare such as a roasted brussels sprouts salad, caramelized pumpkin soup and herb and lentil salad. Check out the full menu (including a late-night edition, complete with a $50 “sausage party” option) at wursthall.com.
The extensive beer menu is split into local and European sections. Wursthall also serves several California wines.
Long communal tables line the restaurant’s main dining area, with string lights, high ceilings and windows that mimic the feel of an outdoor beer garden. Above beer taps on the chic blue bar are rows of hanging beer steins.
López-Alt said his favorite menu item is the plant-based döner kebap, a Turkish sandwich typically made with meat — often lamb, beef or chicken — shaved off a vertical rotisserie, a carnivore’s delight. But Wursthall uses the Impossible Foods’ meat, which is made with ingredients like wheat, coconut oil, potato protein, heme protein and Japanese yam. (The scientifically engineered meat has mostly been used to date as burgers in restaurants across the Bay Area and country.)
Wursthall pairs the plant-based meat, which is still cooked on a vertical rotisserie, with a vegan garlic sauce, sumac, Urfa biber (a dried Turkish chili pepper) and house pickles on Turkish bread.
“I have great respect for vegans and for anyone who is trying to reduce their meat consumption either for the sake of animal rights or for environmental reasons,” López-Alt said. “I wanted to make sure that vegans know that we have vegan offerings that aren’t merely an afterthought to the meat.”
Wursthall is also making vegan sausages and New York-style hot dogs with Impossible Foods’ meat.
Wursthall will hold a grand opening on Monday, March 12. The restaurant will initially open daily for limited hours, from 5 p.m. to midnight, then expand to 11 a.m. to midnight with a full lunch menu.
Wursthall: 310 Baldwin Ave., San Mateo; www.WurstHall.com