Before fast casual dining options popped up on every block, the original Over-the-Rhine crowd craved comfort food, prepared in a hurry, that reminded them of life back home. “Sausage was the original fast food,” says Len Bleh, owner of Avril-Bleh & Sons Meat Market on Court Street. As immigrants poured into Cincinnati from Bavaria, Hanover, and other German states, the butchers who served them developed a sausage that would appeal to the diverse regional preferences, claims local food etymologist Dann Woellert.
No one can agree exactly on the first recipe, but a smoked pork sausage seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and mustard seed came to eventually be known as the Cincinnati mettwurst. Eckerlin Meats, operating out of Findlay Market since 1855, adds ground mace; Avril-Bleh & Sons keeps the mustard seed whole, giving each snappy skinned bite a nice pop of spice; and Queen City Sausage uses a blend of beef and pork. Plenty of old-timers around town take it one step further, arguing the history and makeup of the Hamilton versus Leona mett, but I digress.
Regardless, the Cincinnati mettwurst—like our city itself—is the sum of many parts. Just as any good sausage should be.