Did you make a list of everything you want to cram in to this summer? Is repeated backyard grilling atop it? Then we are like-minded, and you might just want to print this list and keep it in your glovebox. Because, gloriously, there are a lot of great Minnesota brats out there but, tragically, only one summer of 2014 in which to devour them.
[Private aside to my friend Andy: Yes, yes, I know, it’s not a "true bratwurst" unless it’s consumed in Sheboygan on a Johnston Bakery hard roll. Call them, they will send you some! Or go bother the good people at Aki’s, when they open, they will help you.]
The best garlicky Polish, the snappiest wieners, the most subtle and delicate Bockwurst. And, yes, I know telling people to go to Kramarczuk's in Minneapolis is like telling people to visit the Empire State Building in New York City, but, hey, that's because we should never forget the excellence of Kramarzuk's! If you routinely do Kramarczuk's and are looking for something new in Northeast, try the Polish specialty spot Sikora’s, or Ready Meats up on Johnson Street, where the cheese bratwurst is fantastic. Kramarczuk's, 215 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-379-3018, kramarczuk.com; Ready Meats Inc., 3550 NE Johnson St., Mpls., 612-789-2484, readymeats.com; Sikora's, 1625 NE Washington St., Mpls., 612-789-0907
How I love Clancey’s, the tiny all-local-meat butcher shop in Linden Hills. Fancy sausages, such as fennel pollen pork, lamb blueberry, breakfast sausage with wild ramps. I’ve never had a bad brat there, and I’ve never been not surprised. On the east side of town, the farm-to-table cheffy excellence of the market at Heartland can’t be oversold. 4307 Upton Ave. S., Mpls., 612-926-0222, clanceysmeats.com; Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market, 289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536, heartlandrestaurant.com
You’ve heard people talk about the gummi bear brat? Well, now get to Grundhofer’s to try one for yourself! Or just bring a couple pounds to a party and make your friends try them. In any event Grundhofer’s in Hugo has a whopping menu of 40 different kinds of brats—it’s worth a road trip. Another great north-country option: Anoka Meats in Anoka. I never counted their brat varieties but I bet it gets upwards of 40. They have chicken blue cheese apple, raspberry chipotle, cheddar wild rice, and a ton more. Best beef sticks in the metro too, if you care about beef sticks, which I do. Grundhofer’s, 15449 Forest Blvd. N., Hugo, 651-426-2800, grundhofers.com; Anoka Meats, 478 W. Main St., Anoka, 763-421-5580, anokameats.com
The Southeast Asian Brats: 88 Oriental Foods or Golden Harvest
In addition to its many other fine attributes, I’d bet that St. Paul is one of the world’s great Asian sausage centers. Try 88 Oriental Foods or Golden Harvest for proof as both sell those zingy sweet and spicy lemongrass sausages that Hmong food stalls serve to rave reviews. They are so good. 88 Oriental Foods, 291 University Ave. W., St. Paul; Golden Harvest Foods, 900 Maryland Ave. E., St. Paul, 651-772-3200
When downtown Minneapolis meatery Butcher and the Boar announced last year that they’d be selling packaged sausages at Lund’s and Byerly’s, that was a good thing . . . and it’s still a good thing! The smoked cheddarwurst is my favorite, it’s perky and rich, but the smoked hot links are awfully good with a fancy beer. And I love that you can throw them in the cooler and take them up to the cabin for some fancy eating in the woods. Convenient. Several metro locations, lundsandbyerlys.com