Who can argue with a plump, charcoal-grilled link that pops when you bite into it? The earliest sausages may have been made by the ancient Greeks. Blood sausages are specifically name-checked in The Odyssey (8th century b.c.): "As when a man beside a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted. . ." We also know that the Greek dramatist Epicharmus wrote a comedy called Orya ("Sausage"). Only fragments remain, but scholars believe it demonstrates that even during ancient Greek times, phallic jokes concerning sausages were common.
Romans continued the tradition. In fact, our English word "sausage" and the Spanish word "salchicha" both derive from the Latin "salsus," which means "salted" — a good clue as to how early sausages were preserved. But you may be saying, "Screw the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Chinese must also have invented something as simple as sausages." Alas, no, the earliest known Chinese sausage, called lap cheong, dates to the 1890s, and may have been inspired by European models (although a few sources claim there were similar dishes in China as early as 589 b.c.).
Anyway, New York City seems to have an infinite variety of "tube steaks" from dozens of different cultures. We have our venerable frankfurter, just as we have our gyuma, a sausage newly arrived from the Himalayas. Here is a very partial list of sausages available here, organized by country of origin. Please let us know the ones we’ve missed.
One of the most truly American sausages is the sage breakfast sausage, which probably originated in the South. It's available in small links, skinless patties, and in an outsize bulbous tubular version found at butcher shops around the city. Every deli and bodega that makes egg sandwiches has a version that deploys sage sausage, but look for a lusher rendition at High Street on Hudson (637 Hudson St, 917-388-3944) in the West Village, where it is served on a biscuit with a hot pepper on the side and known as The Bodega.
Though it may have originated in Germany, the quintessential American sausage is the frankfurter, also called a wiener, weenie, frank, floater, or hot dog. The links are thin and pink, and were originally made with an all-beef mixture in Coney Island — the first home of the hot dog — and distributed from carts by Charles Feltman beginning around 1869. And his natural-skin all-beef frank became the prototype, topped with mustard and the optional sauerkraut or Greek onion relish. The best are still found at the stand of Feltman’s protégé, Nathan Handwerker, who founded Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, 718-333-2202) in 1916.
Other classic dispensaries of the city’s iconic frankfurter include Gray’s Papaya (2090 Broadway, 212-799-0243), Papaya King (179 E 86th St, 212-369-0648), founded in 1932, and Fulton Hot Dog King (472 Fulton St, Brooklyn, 718-858-9799), as well as hundreds of street carts. New York also boasts several purveyors of newfangled frank varieties. Rather than being cooked on a flat-top griddle or poached in hot water, Crif Dogs (113 St Marks Pl, 212-614-2728; 555 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, 718-302-3200) deep fries its signature wiener, sometimes wrapped in bacon, in a method of cooking that originated in New Jersey at places like Rutt’s Hut (417 River Rd, Clifton, NJ, 973-779-8615), where a novel mustard/pickle relish is provided as a condiment. Speaking of Jersey franks, which often bear a close resemblance to New York’s, Boulevard Drinks (48 Journal Square Plaza, Jersey City, NJ, 201-656-1855) offers an oniony chili sauce (really, a Greek ground-meat condiment) that causes many Jersey franks to be described as Texas wieners.
Texas-style barbecue also pays close attention to sausages, sometimes made with beef in a natural casing mainly seasoned with smoke, such as those at Hill Country Barbecue Market (30 W 26th St, 212-255-4544; 345 Adams St, Brooklyn, 718-885-4608). In Texas, the traditional nickname is "hot guts." Other barbecue places in town, such as Mighty Quinn’s (103 2nd Ave, 212-677-3733; other locations), use a pork sausage remarkable in its plainness. Also in a Texas vein, smoked pork sausage appears in a pivotal role in one of the kolaches at Brooklyn Kolache Co. (520 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn, 718-398-1111). The pastry itself originated in the former Czechoslovakia before it was brought by immigrants to Texas.
ARGENTINE AND URUGUAYAN
Argentina and neighboring Uruguay are two of South America’s greatest sausage-loving republics, focusing on chorizo and morcilla, two recipes inherited from Spain, though the former also shows some Italian influence in its South American incarnation. The parrillada ("barbecue") tradition of both countries invariably includes chorizo and morcilla grilled over charcoal or at least a gas flame, found in Elmhurst at La Esquina Criolla (9467 Corona Ave, Queens, 718-699-5579), in Williamsburg at El Almacen (557 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, 718-218-7284), and in the East Village at Buenos Aires (513 E 6th St, 212-228-2775). At El Almacen’s weekend brunch, one may additionally enjoy choripan, the celebrated chorizo sandwich sold from carts and windows in Argentina’s capital.
In countries that comprise the former Yugoslavia and in surrounding areas, the cevapi is queen, often referred to by its diminutive name, cevapcici. This skinless sausage is about the size and shape of a shotgun shell, and usually made from combinations of lamb, pork, and beef, depending on the religion and nationality of its makers. It’s available on a round sandwich with kajmak (clabbered cream) and ajvar (a red-pepper relish), or by itself on a platter at everybody’s favorite Balkan hamburger stand, Bosna Express (791 Fairview Ave, Queens, 718-497-7577), right under the M tracks in Ridgewood — or at Gurra Café (2325 Arthur Ave, Bronx, 718-220-4254) in the Belmont neighborhood. For the same sausage in a bistro setting, check out the East Village’s Kafana (116 Avenue C, 212-353-8000), where sausages with skins called kobasice are also available.
The archetypical sausage from the United Kingdom is the banger, a skin-on pork (or sometimes beef) sausage that is usually served with a mountain of mashed potatoes, onion gravy, and fried onions in a dish called bangers and mash — a cornerstone of pub grub and a quintessential working-class English tuck-in. The word "banger," which comes from the sound of sausages cooking, is thought to have originated in Australia nearly a century ago. You can get bangers and mash at several gastropubs in town, including delightful renditions at the Financial District’s Ulysses’ (95 Pearl St, 212-482-0400) and the Upper East Side’s Jones Wood Foundry (401 E 76th St, 212-249-2700). In the West Village, Tea & Sympathy (108 Greenwich Ave, 212-989-9735) offers perhaps the most authentic version of the dish. (By that we mean not gussied up or bistro-ized.) Sausage also plays an important role in the Scotch egg, a fist-sized snack that coats a boiled egg in sausage and crumbs, readily available at Myers of Keswick (634 Hudson St, 212-691-4194).
Lap cheong (or lap chong) is the Cantonese name for China’s most famous sausage, a bright red and dried affair that's slightly sweet on the tongue. See it in Chinese charcuterie shops in several variations hanging over a rod in strings of two, some of which are edible as a hand sausage in the manner of a Slim Jim, though its most common usage is incorporated into fried rice or stir-fries. At Zing’s Awesome Rice (122 Ludlow St, 212-253-5808) on the Lower East Side find lap cheong in the signature "sausage seared rice," while Hong Kong-style establishments in Chinatown frequently feature it in clay pot rice, as they do at King’s Kitchen (92 E Broadway, 212-966-7288; 5223 8th Ave, Brooklyn, 718-853-1288).
In Taiwan, two additional kinds of sausage are popular: one filled with sticky rice about the length of a hot dog, the other, short like a Vienna sausage — pink, damp, filled with pork, and flaunting a flavoring similar to lap cheong. In a famous street snack, the rice sausage is split and the pork sausage put inside it. The entire assemblage is known as da chang bao xiao chang, and you can get it at Flushing’s Red Bowl Noodle Shop (40-52 Main St, Queens, 718-353-7683) at the street food window on the Main Street side of the building. Another Taiwanese sausage called xiang chang ("fragrant sausage") is much like lap cheong, but sweeter and more intensely spiced. It can be found at Elmhurst’s Taiwanese Gourmet (84-02 Broadway, Queens, 718-429-4818), where it is served sliced with shards of raw garlic.
DOMINICAN AND PUERTO RICAN
Morcilla is a key feature of the cuisine of both islands, and an invariable part of the pork-based menu known as cuchifritos. The loamy blood sausage originated in Spain, and La Isla Cuchifritos (1439 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, 718-417-0668; 276 E 149th St, Bronx, 718-665-3600) has a particularly good rendition at a bargain price, served in a pork au jus (try it paired with pig tongue). The morcilla at the East Harlem lunch counter Cuchifritos (168 E 116th St, 212-876-4846) is also recommended. The long and thick sausage longaniza is available in rice casseroles, sandwiches, and grilled combinations at classic Washington Heights restaurant Malecon (4141 Broadway, 212-927-3812).
The French are famous for a thick garlic sausage called saucisson à l’ail, which often functions as an app, a main course, or just as bar food, usually boiled but sometimes baked or fried. One way to enjoy it is en croute, in a flaky pastry, or en brioche, wrapped in brioche dough. Find it at some of the city’s older bistros, including the Theater District’s Tout Va Bien (311 W 51st St, 212-265-0190). Of course blood sausage is also dear to the French; ferret it out at Mimi (185 Sullivan St, 212-418-1260) in Greenwich Village. Meanwhile, DBGB Kitchen and Bar (299 Bowery, 212-933-5300) specializes in a wide variety of French sausages, some traditional, some invented in a Gallic vein. And most French restaurants and wine bars feature a charcuterie plate that includes at least one type of salami-type French dried sausage, known as saucisson sec.
Germans are some of the world’s biggest sausage lovers. And the range of wursts available in area Bavarian restaurants is indeed impressive, their forcemeats mainly including combinations of veal and pork. Mother of all sausage slingers is Staten Island’s mid-1800s Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn (4254 Arthur Kill Rd, Staten Island, 718-984-1202), where the three-sausage platter is legendary, and the selection runs to bratwurst, smoked bratwurst, weisswurst, knackwurst, blutwurst, and kielbasy. A similar selection, plus the less common krainerwurst, can be found at Glendale’s Zum Stammtisch (69-46 Myrtle Ave, Queens, 718-386-3014).
On the Upper East Side in what is left of the German Yorkville neighborhood, Heidelberg (1648 2nd Ave, 212-628-2332) is your place. Comically named after German cars, the sausage roster at Hallo Berlin (626 10th Ave, 212-977-1944) offers a more modern selection and one less Bavarian-inspired, including currywurst. Even newer is the approach to wursts taken by Berlin Currywurst (75 9th Ave, 646-827-3689) in Chelsea Market, where you can get a breakfast sandwich topped with a sausage of your choice, including a brat. The city of Nuremberg is home to an uncharacteristically small-bore German sausage with an herby flavor called the schweinswurstl, which can be found only at Zum Schneider (107 Avenue C, 212-598-1098) in the East Village.
As the possible inventors of sausages, the Greeks retain a close relationship, and nearly every Greek menu has at least one or two regional varieties, many skinless. Sheftalia are Cypriot pork sausages with no casing (sometime they’re wrapped in caul fat instead) that resemble oval-shaped meatballs, while the equally stubby loukaniko are also made with pork or lamb (or both) marinated in red wine and flavored with fennel and orange peel, then wrapped in a skin of sheep or pig intestine. Both are available at Zenon Taverna (34-10 31st Ave, Queens, 718-956-0133) in Astoria. Loukaniko can also be found at Taverna Kyclades (228 1st Ave, 212-432-0011; 33-07 Ditmars Blvd, Queens, 718-545-8666) in the East Village and Astoria. Crave lamb sausages? The Upper West Side’s Kefi (505 Columbus Ave, 212-873-0200) offers a version of sheftalia made with lamb.
In countries that impinge on and occupy the world’s highest mountains, rich blood sausage, tasting mainly of hemoglobin and served very simply, is a key element of the cuisine. Find gyuma sliced and strewn with fresh cilantro at Bhutanese Ema Datsi (67-21 Woodside Ave, Queens, 718-458-8588) in Woodside, or at the city’s foremost Tibetan restaurant, Phayul (37-65 74th St, Queens, 718-424-1869), in Jackson Heights.
The boot-shaped country produces a plethora of sausages, falling into two distinct categories: fresh and dried. Both kinds are readily available here, either domestic or imported. Invariably made with pork, the fresh kind come in a narrow range of flavors, usually plain or fennel, and either sweet or hot. "Sweet" here is something of a misnomer; it really means not spicy. Pizza parlors go to town with fresh Italian sausages. At Sal’s Pizza (119 Wyckoff Ave, Brooklyn, 718-386-5299) in Bushwick, there’s a sausage roll that places an entire fennel-flavored link inside a flaky pastry. The best Italian sausage slice we’ve found, lush and cheesy, is at the Upper West Side’s T & R Pizza (411 Amsterdam Ave, 212-787-4093).
An excellent Italian sausage is served with white beans at Café Altro Paradiso (234 Spring St, 646-952-0828) on the fringes of Soho; and find the sausage sautéed with onions and peppers in a classic street food preparation at Leo’s Casa Calamari (8602 3rd Ave, 718-921-1900) in Bay Ridge. Other restaurants that serve Italian sausages as an appetizer or main course include Hamilton Heights’ Bono Trattoria (3658 Broadway, 646-682-9249), and way-downtown’s The Grotto (69 New St, 212-809-6990), where it is served with broccoli rabe in an Italian hero.
Pepperoni is another sausage commonly associated with pizzerias. Nevertheless, it is virtually unknown back in Italy, and it may be that Italian-Americans here were inspired by the chorizo of their Spanish and Portuguese neighbors when they started making it. Two of our favorite pepperoni slices are found at Astoria’s Salerno Pizzeria (29-24 30th Ave, Queens, 718-777-1500), and at Joe & Pat’s (1758 Victory Blvd, Staten Island, 718-981-0887) in Castleton Corners. Dried salamis like soppressata and cacciatorini are found on nearly every Italian restaurant salumi platter.
In traditional Japanese cuisine, sausages are virtually unknown. However, they’ve entered the canon by two vectors. The first is via izakayas (gastropubs) and sake bars, which import many foreign influences onto their menus, rendering them distinctively Japanese. Thus are plainly flavored Berkshire pork links (made from an heirloom English breed favored by the Japanese) incorporated onto the menu at the East Village’s classic Sake Bar Decibel (240 E 9th St, 212-979-2733). In the second instance, a stubby smoked sausage something like an American "smokie link" is immersed in curry sauce. Witness this at baseball-themed Go! Go! Curry (273 W 38th St, 212-730-5555; other locations), served with shredded cabbage and a giant heap of white rice to soak up the thick brown gravy.
The favorite Korean sausage is soondae (sometimes spelled sundae), originating from the northern part of the country. It is filled with blood and rice or barley, though in some versions sweet potato starch vermicelli substitutes for grain. The skin can be a cow’s or pig’s intestine, and the sausage is usually prepared by steaming or gently boiling. An excellent version is available at Gowanus Korean barbecue-cum-karaoke parlor Insa (328 Douglass St, Brooklyn, 718- 855-2620), strewn with scallions and perilla (shiso) salt. Soondae is also available in two platter sizes at long-running Koreatown stalwart Gammeeok (9 W 32nd St, 212-868-1180). But why not visit Murray Hill (the one in Queens) for a real blood sausage specialist like Byungchun Soondae (15603 Northern Blvd, Queens, 718-460-1044)?
Budae jjigae, or "army stew," is a rich concoction that owes much to the American G.I. presence in Korea in the 1940s and 1950s. In addition to packaged ramen, mushrooms, tofu, and kimchee, it also includes hot dogs or similar European-style sausages. In Manhattan’s Koreatown, New Wonjo (23 W 32nd St, 212-695-5815) is a great place to get it, along with some solid, charcoal-fired barbecue. In Chelsea Market, Mokbar (75 9th Ave, 646-964-5963) offers a ramen-centric version of army stew.
The foremost Mexican sausage is chorizo, originating long ago in Spain and brought there by colonialists. In modern times, the sausage adopts two guises: one in the form of a wonderfully rubbery, skin-on link, the other, which often comes in a plastic casing that is discarded before cooking, is a skinless heap of ground meat that’s incorporated into sandwiches and antojitos. Find that second version crumbled atop a Oaxacan tlayuda — something like a masa-crust pizza — at La Loba Cantina (709 Church Ave, Brooklyn, 347-295-1141) on the edge of Flatbush; or incorporated into the deep-fried tacos called molotes at Xochimilco Family Restaurant (653 Melrose Ave, Bronx, 718-402-5400) in Melrose.
"The classic chorizo taco often contains potatoes as well, as they do it at the East Village's Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery (215 Avenue A, 212-780-9204). Skinless chorizo is also a popular sandwich filling, available in any torta, cemita, or pambazo. At the magnificent carryout window in Corona, Tortas Neza (96-15 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, no phone), you can double up your sausages by ordering the Toluqueña, which sports both chorizo and hot dogs (known in Mexico as salchichas). You are welcome to eat this massive sandwich at Bar Juan next door, as long as you wash it down with a beer. A deluxe version of skin-on chorizo is found at ABC Cocina (38 E 19th St, 212-677-2233) in the Flatiron.
Sausages are popular in Middle Eastern countries, both skin-on and skinless, made with lamb or beef but never pork. At the venerable Palestinian restaurant Tanoreen (7523 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, 718-748-5600) in Bay Ridge, which started out decades ago as a deli and morphed into an elegant restaurant, sujuk — a thick garlic-laced lamb sausage brought to the Middle East by Armenians — is served hot, sliced, and strewn with pine nuts. At the Hell’s Kitchen Druse restaurant Gazala’s Place (709 9th Ave, 212-245-0709), short ground-beef kafta swim in a light tomato sauce. The Upper West Side’s kosher Israeli Grill 212 (212 W 80th St, 212-724-7455) offers a much larger version, impaled on a skewer and charred over flame.
Paterson, New Jersey, turns out to be a hotbed of Middle Eastern and Turkish sausages. At Nouri’s Family Restaurant (1003 Main St, Paterson, NJ, 973-881-8819), the Lebanese lamb or beef sausage called makanek is served in delicious abundance with parsley and lemon. Just down the block at Syrian restaurant Aleppo (939 Main St, Paterson, NJ, 973-977-2244), the famous pepper-laced Aleppo kebabs are served, a close cousin of kafta.
The favorite North African sausage is merguez, ubiquitous in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Usually, it’s skinny, elongated, and made from lamb or mutton, though sometimes thicker and bulging with beef instead. It is nothing if not versatile, and can figure in a "royal" couscous, flatbread sandwich, pastry filling, or simple grill-up served with rice. Tiny Moroccan Pause Café (3 Clinton St, 212-677-5415) on the Lower East Side incorporates merguez into a splendid egg sandwich on a baguette. The sausage is homemade and deeply flavored at Williamsburg’s Bar Omar (188 Grand St, Brooklyn, 718-388-0411), probably the city’s only Algerian restaurant, and offspring of a long-running Paris establishment. Indeed, French bistros serve as a second home for merguez, which has become a key part of bistro bills of fare here and in France. Bar Six (502 6th Ave, 212-691-1363) in Greenwich Village, a bistro with a Moroccan bent, assembles a fine merguez sandwich in a pita at lunch or dinner. At lunch, Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud (20 E 76th St, 212-772-2600) on the Upper East Side often serves an astonishingly good version made in-house.
Kielbasa is the generic name for several types of sausage in Poland, the most common being a large-circumference pork sausage that’s been smoked and sometimes double-smoked. Go straight to Greenpoint for some of the best examples, including Christina’s (853 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, 718-383-4382), where the sausage is a key element of an egg breakfast, but also does service as an entrée served with cole slaw, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut. At Little Poland (200 2nd Ave, 212-777-9728) in the East Village, the kielbasa entrée comes wrapped in bacon, for extra smokiness. You can get kielbasa plain as an app or entrée, or stuffed with cheese at Bay Ridge’s Polonica (7214 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, 718-630-5805).
Ever since the 1930s, the Russians have made a wide variety of European-style sausages, including one called the "doctor’s sausage" that is like a frankfurter, only more heavily smoked, considered a boon to those with stomach problems. At imported fast-food chain Teremok (358 7th Ave, 917-472-7322) you can get these luscious wieners cut up and mixed with kasha or incorporated whole by the pair in a breakfast crepe (called a "blin," plural "blini") that also contains scrambled eggs and rivers of cheese. Hot dogs for breakfast? Why not?
The Boers who once dominated South Africa introduced several jerkies and dried sausages that are still prized, including droewors, something like a Slim Jim flavored with coriander seed. In Johannesburg, a pale gray weenie on a bun known as a Boerewors roll is popular (the name betrays the cultural origin), usually topped with a tomato relish that boasts the rhythmic, African-derived name of chakalaka. Find both at Upper East Side South African wine bar Kaia (1614 3rd Ave, 212-722-0490). Along with droewors, too.
The key sausage of Spain, the chorizo, has gone around the world and been reinterpreted by the many food cultures that have been influenced by its colonial empire. On home turf the sausage is chunky, fatty, wine cured, paprika-laced, and dryish in texture. It is often served by itself as a tapa (sometimes aflame), but is also incorporated into paella and various other rice-based dishes. Served in all its splendor as an app, the chorizo at El Quijote (226 W 23rd St, 212-929-1855) in the Chelsea Hotel arrives at the table shaped like a flower, and the sausage is served more conventionally at Spain Restaurant (113 W 13th St, 212-203-5719) in Greenwich Village, often as a free tapa in the front barroom. Both places use it is a component of paella Valenciana. At Boqueria (53 W 19th St, 212-255-4160) chorizo is served deliciously with fried quail eggs on toast.
The blood sausage morcilla was also invented in Spain, and is available at Toro (85 10th Ave, 212-691-2360) garnished with apple butter. Chelsea’s Basque restaurant Txikito (240 9th Ave, 212-242-4730) also serves a very nice, crisply fried version.
In Siam’s northern reaches especially, sausages are a thing. They’re often provided as a drinking snack with toasted peanuts, shards of raw ginger, and the pinkie-sized peppers known as bird (or bird’s eye) chiles. Most distinctive is the Isan region’s famous sour sausage, made from grainy pork and rice, fermented, and then partly dried. Stubby in shape, the flavor is nearly unique among the world’s links. Prospect Heights’ Look By Plant Love House (622 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, 718-622-0026) tenders a particularly piquant version of larger circumference than most; somewhat drier and a little less sour, but also excellent, is the Larb Ubol (480 9th Ave, 212-564-1822) version.
Served with much the same accompaniments as Isan sour sausage, the Chiang Mai sausage called sai ua or sai oua is generally grainier, more garlicky, sweeter, and always grilled. Find a cilantro-draped version with thick slices of ginger at Kiin Thai (36 E 8th St, 212-529-2363), just north of the NYU campus. The same sausage finds its way into a salad and into fried rice at Elmhurst’s exceptional Chao Thai (85-03 Whitney Ave, Queens, 718-424-4999).
Venezuelan street food makes much of firm, Spanish-style chorizos. Get them in multiple guises at the Lower East Side’s Patacon Pisao (139 Essex St, 646-678-5913): in arepas, in the burrito-like tachucho with scrambled eggs and black beans, and in patacones — sandwiches substituting pounded and fried green plantain slices for bread. Up in Inwood, Cachapas y Mas (107 Dyckman St, 212-304-2224) does Patacon Pisao one better by also offering yo-yos, in which spongy sweet plantains act as the sandwich bread for a filling of chorizo, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, slathered with a mayo-based dressing.
In some parts of Vietnam — the Mekong River Delta southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, for example — Chinese style lap cheong is incorporated into the over-broken-rice dish called com tam. Find the sausages sharing a plate with pork chops and a fried egg at Pho Rainbow (42 New Dorp Plaza S, Staten Island, 718-987-1084), in the New Dorp neighborhood just above the railway station. In Chinatown, long-running Pasteur Grill and Noodles (85 Baxter St, 212-608-3656) offers a deluxe fried rice that contains the same sausage, here called "Vietnamese sausage."