When stepping foot inside Wunderbar, the new German-themed Covington restaurant and watering hole, be prepared for the Wurst. Their German sausages are the cornerstone for the four-month-old eatery: wholesome, authentic and in most cases house-made, freshly ground from locally sourced meats and free of fillers.
Inspired by teachers at Fairview-Clifton German Language School and several of his German neighbors, owner Marshall Mann launched the restaurant with the hopes of setting an authentic tone for the revitalization happening in Covington’s Westside. Wunderbar sits on the corner of Lee and Twelfth streets, offering a ringside view of a neighborhood electrified by its burgeoning rebirth.
Mann and business partner Joe Calhoun are looking to “set the palate for the area,” hoping other entrepreneurs will be inspired to open similar internationally themed restaurants and businesses.
Authenticity is key for Mann. “People have asked me about (serving) sauerkraut balls and things like that ... you can get those anywhere and that’s not where I’m going. I’m not doing deep fried bar food,” Mann says.
Instead, Wunderbar’s lunch and dinner menu are riddled with fresh, true takes on German classics. Sauerbraten, a tender German pot roast, is one of Mann’s most popular dinner items, slowly marinating for at least three days. His “Riesen Brezel,” a gigantic, plate-sized pretzel, easily complements any of Wunderbar’s more than 35 bottled and draft beers. The pretzel comes served with a choice of five different, nose-tickling house mustards, including the Riesling, the sweet honey, the black pepper and the “horsey” mustard.
Several notable scratch-made sausages include the spicy Feuerwurst, the Terragon Wurst and the slightly sweet Apple-Honey Wurst.
But it’s Wunderbar’s version of the Currywurst, Germany’s curious post-World War II invention, that’s become particularly popular.
“A friend of mine, who’s from Germany, said, ‘You have to have currywursts,’ ” Mann says, chuckling. “Traditionally, it was a spicy sausage with a curry sauce which was basically ketchup, curry and Worcestershire sauce — which is how we make ours — but then for the wurst itself we add a little bit of curry and cumin just to give it more of a spice.”
Mann maintains close ties with several Findlay Market vendors, from whom many of Wunderbar’s ingredients are sourced. The pork and beef for their homemade sausages are purchased from Mackie Quality Meats, while Eckerlin supplies Wunderbar its line of Metts and Bratwursts. Authentic frankfurters are imported directly from Germany. On Saturdays, Wunderbar sells its pretzels out of Madison’s at Findlay Market and from a booth at the Covington Farmer’s Market.
Though German food typically evokes images of heavy, meat-infused items, Mann was quick to point out Wunderbar’s variety of vegetarian fare, including a vegetarian wurst (soon to be made in-house), potato salad, pan roasted Brussels sprouts, braised cabbage, potato pancakes and, of course, the sauerkraut.
“Most of our sides are vegetarian,” he said, “But, when you think of German food, you don’t think of a vegetarian meal. So, if the potato salad (recipe) calls for beef stock, we just make our own vegetable stock and use that instead, or leave out the bacon.”
Mann and his sous chef, Nathan Chambers, are frequently introducing new recipes. Lunches are $8 and less, with regularly updated and increasingly expanding menus featuring items like the Schweinefleisch-Sandwich, a mustard-encrusted pork loin piled high with caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese on homemade rye bread.
Wunderbar’s very name is a playful nod toward its focus on a variety of domestic and German craft beers. Six drafts will be available once the bar’s final tap is in place, including Christian Moerlein OTR, Warsteiner and Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse, an organic German wheat beer. Patrons can try a 12-ounce “Girly Mug,” ranging from $2.50-$6, or bartender Tomm Gabbard will happily pour the much more alluring, 25-ounce “Manly Mug” ($5-$10). Popular bottled options include Weihenstephan and Einbecker Dunkel.
From its timber-framed, tudor-inspired walls to its tri-colored, German flag curtains and vintage, 1973 VW Bus front end photo-op, Wunderbar’s ambiance sets a compelling stage for enjoying fresh, genuine German cuisine, leading the charge to a brighter future in Covington’s Westside neighborhood.
GO: 1132 Lee St., Covington
HOURS: 11:30-1 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday