Best of the wurst
Swan Market German Deli and Catering offers authentic dishes from das mutterland
A drive down Parsells Avenue, between the Beechwood and Culver-Merchants neighborhoods, takes you past houses, a few corner markets, and a church. Unless you slow down, you might miss a German enclave that’s been on the avenue since the mid-20s.
Swan Market is a German delicatessen that also serves up lunch cuisine, but this isn’t your typical restaurant setup. There’s no traditional dining room. The delicatessen is the restaurant. Long, rectangular, family-style tables sit just beyond the deli’s entrance—a communal setup that encourages conversation with other patrons. (Seating is limited inside, though, so come early or be prepared for a wait.)
The staff is eager to explain menu items in detail, especially if you’re a first-time visitor like I was. At their suggestion, I chose the wurst platter with a choice of two sausages and two sides. It may not sound like a lot of food, but portions are hefty. I chose the Cajun and Brautwurst sausages. (There’s also Bratwurst, Bauenwurst, Weiswurst, Knockwurst, Bockwurst, or Weiner.) The Cajun sausage is nicely seasoned, slightly spicy but not overpowering and flavorful. The bratwurst is juicy and a nice complement to the Cajun sausage.
I chose two staples for the sides: German potato salad and red cabbage. German potato salad usually
has an oil and vinegar base with a strong vinegar flavor (this was confirmed by my dining partner, who has visited Germany numerous times), but Swan Market’s salad has a very subtle flavor, which allows the texture of the potatoes to shine. The red cabbage is a flavorful and perfectly balanced sweet-and-sour mix.
Owner Barry Fischer also recommends the sampler platter for first timers. You choose four smaller portions of their main dishes along with each of their sides. Surprisingly, sausage is not part of the sampler platter. Fischer says the most popular lunch item is the Schnitzel, a boneless meat (usually veal, chicken, turkey, beef, or pork) dipped in egg and coated in flour and breadcrumbs.
You can’t have a meal at Swan Market without a beer, and they have plenty of German beers on tap, along with other imported and domestic options. Again, the staff will gladly suggest which beer you should combine with your meal order.This kind of drink pairing advice is rare in casual dining, especially for lunch?
While the food is outstanding, the real winner is the ambience.With German décor, imported German products for sale, a sausage case that would make Bill Swerski’s Super- fans jealous, and German salutations from the staff, it’s an über authentic experience. Stop for lunch on the lastThursday or Friday of the month and you’ll even be treated to live German music as you dine. After visiting Swan Market once, it’ll be hard to drive by again without stopping.
Juan Vazquez is social media and audience engagement manager for WXXI Public Broadcasting and lives in the Cobbs Hill neighborhood.