Bean Restaurant Group has transformed the former McLadden’s space 37 LaSalle Rd. into Wurst Haus, a concept that is already very popular in Massachusetts.
By Ronni Newton
Nearly any cuisine you can imagine is part of the West Hartford dining scene – and with the opening of Wurst Haus on March 31, the German food niche has now been filled.
“Prost” was the word of the day as Mayor Shari Cantor, joined by representatives from Bean Restaurant Group and the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, cut a string of sausages in lieu of a ribbon at the grand opening.
The German-themed restaurant is sure to become even more of a fixture as the pandemic wanes, providing an ideal space for soccer-watching accompanied by a boot of German brew and a larger-than-life Bavarian pretzel, as well as for enjoying a vast selection of Schnitzel, bratwurst, knockwurst, and other German favorites.
At the helm is Chef/Partner Zachary Shuman, a West Hartford native who had already been running Bean Restaurant Group’s other West Hartford restaurant, Union Kitchen, which is located right next door. He has been overseeing the transformation of the former McLadden’s space since last fall.
The Yee family’s Massachusetts-based Bean Restaurant Group, in partnership with Peter Picknelly, CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines, made its first foray into Connecticut when it purchased the former Noble & Co. at 43 Lasalle Rd. – now Union Kitchen – and the McLadden’s locations from Mike Ladden in 2018.
Shuman, who was already with Bean Restaurant Group at their flagship Springfield, MA, German restaurant – Student Prince (aka “The Fort”) – returned to his hometown as executive chef and partner at Union Kitchen. Taking on the challenge of opening the new German restaurant is right up his alley.
Bean Restaurant Group had already converted the Northampton, MA, McLadden’s into a Wurst Haus pre-COVID – with great success – and was looking to bring the brand to West Hartford. When McLadden’s closed in West Hartford last March amid the pandemic, and would have been difficult to reopen since it had such a bar vibe – the decision was made to move forward with the transformation.
In addition to the Wurst Haus in Northampton and Student Price, in most years a Wurst Haus operates a food hall and adjacent beer garden at the Big E.
“We loved the concept. It worked great for us in other communities across the Northeast,” Picknelly said at the Wurst Haus grand opening Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a little piece of Germany right here in downtown West Hartford.”
“We’re really excited to welcome the Wurst Haus,” Cantor said at the grand opening. “This is not a new business owner for us. We’re so thrilled that they decided to expand.”
West Hartford has not had a German restaurant since Edelweiss, which was located on Farmington Avenue, closed several decades ago, Cantor said. “It’s food that appeals to everybody. Warm, fun, and a little different from the other restaurants that we have in the Center.”
The menu at the Wurst Haus in West Hartford – where there is a full kitchen – is more extensive than its Northampton sibling, and includes multiple favorites from The Fort.
Appetizers include Bavarian pretzels served with beer cheese and honey mustard, fried camembert cheese, and the Wurst Haus sampler – a pretzel with each corner stuffed with fried Brussels sprouts, potato pancakes, and fried camembert cheese.
There are three different kinds of Schnitzel (Jäger, Kaiser, and classic, $20-$24), with a choice of chicken, veal, or pork, accompanied by other German favorites like buttered noodles and mashed potatoes, and red cabbage.
An extensive selection of wurst ($9-$14) includes Bratwurst and duck wurst, jalapeño wurst, and a vegan friendly “beyond sausage” wurst. Other sandwich type fare includes frankfurters, fish sandwiches, and burgers.
“I want everybody to have something to eat [at Wurst Haus],” Shuman said, so there are salads, mustard-glazed salmon entree, and vegetarian mac and cheese.
The Chauvinette, a favorite dessert cocktail at Student Prince – which involves ice cream, Galliano, Grand Marnier, and Crème de Cocoa – is also on the menu.
Desserts ($8-$9) include apple strudel, milk chocolate bread pudding, and Black Forest cake.
“Wurst Haus, you’ve got to think beer, and pretzels, beer cheese,” said Picknelly. “German fare that we’ve been famous for in Western Mass at the Student Prince for almost 90 years. … It’s like a little bit of Munich right here.” He said he thinks there is a lot of pent up demand for going out to enjoy this type of food and fun.
Andy Yee, co-owner of Been Restaurant Group with his brother, Edison, said he is excited to be able to offer award-winning German cuisine paired with a wide selection of European beers. Twelve of the 16 beers on tap at Wurst Haus are German beers, with several local brews and PBR currently among the draft selections.
“The pandemic gave us the opportunity to rebrand this restaurant,” Yee said Wednesday.
“We want to build community and know the restaurant will offer a fun, relaxed atmosphere where people can come together to dine and raise a boot of beer,” Yee said.
The space has been lightened and brightened since it was McLaddens, with large windows open to the street. Elk antler chandeliers hang from the pressed tin ceiling.
TVs are tuned to sports, and Shuman hopes the Wurst Haus will become a denizen for watching soccer as well as other games.
In addition to the seats indoors there are tables on the sidewalk patio, and once West Hartford’s expanded outdoor dining returns there will be many more.
Cantor said she is looking forward to the return of outdoor dining, and the restaurants once again creating their own “gardens of eating” which add so much to the streetscape.
Wurst Haus is open seven days a week. Current hours are Sunday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday 3-9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
More information is also available on the Wurst Haus website.
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