“May your friends be many and your troubles few and all your sausages long.” —Wall sign at the Wurst Kitchen in Aurora
Moonlight, still as paint, shined over Aurora that Spring in 1908. It was a time of crochet, capelets, chemise, and cash and carry. At the Grand Opera House of Aurora the comedy sensation “Girls” was playing to Fox Valley residents for 25¢ a ticket. Beacon newspaper want ads were 1¢ per word. Words in vogue included coterie, rueful, ebullition, and demurred.
At South Union Street and Second Avenue, in Aurora, Henry Hauser was learning about the operation of the Wurst Kitchen from his father, Ed. Henry had been born in the building March 3, 1901.
An old photograph shows a half carcass of a hog hanging alongside beef quarters behind Ed Hauser and two other butchers. Henry occupied and owned the meat market and grocery store until 1969. Joel Masur was the subsequent owner and he expanded the Kitchen to include sausage by using his own recipes. The third owners were Randy Carroll and John Bahl.
The current owner, since 1995, is Ed Schleining who grew up on Union Street and was graduated in 1979 from East Aurora High School. Under his leadership the Kitchen was just selected for a “Proud to be an Illinois Maker” from the Illinois Office of Tourism.
In my conversation with Ed Schleining, he noted that much has changed. “Immigrants would come in weekly to stock up on German food,” he began. “The recipes used came over on the boat 100 years ago. There were four or five sausages made fresh then. Now we offer 80 different varieties to our patrons,” he said.
When I interviewed Randy Carroll for an Aurora Life magazine article in 1990, he said that “Joel (Masur) taught me what he could in about a month’s time. The sausage recipes alone cost us $15,000. For the man’s years and knowledge you had to pay. There was sawdust on the floor to keep the beef blood or any meat drippings absorbed. About 1987 the State inspectors said the sawdust had to go because of health reasons,” Randy Carroll said.
Another interview was with octogenarian Henry Schoberlein who lived in “Aurora’s Dutch Town” his entire life. “As I recall,” he began, “Aurora 1910 was a time of 5¢ streetcar rides that I helped stove fire so as not to freeze on the ride downtown. There were horse watering troughs throughout the city that held 500 gallons of water, and a wagon seller who fixed umbrellas and sharpened knives and scissors. Another wagon-bound business was run by a short Englishman who sold cottage cheese, sweet milk, buttermilk and butter. Those times gave way to progress, I guess,” he said.
Henry Schoberlein continued telling me about Butch Hauser. “He was a great man and knew how to treat customers. He would phone them early in the day to ask what kinds of meat they wanted delivered that day. Then he would hitch up the horses and drive a wagon throughout the neighborhood. Butch or one of his butchers would chop off a block of meat right there and give it to the customer,” he said.
Walking into the shop today seems like a step back in time. And it actually is. The meat cases are from 1941. The wallpaper was put up in 1965. Original beams and shelving are from decades long past. “We have customers come from a radius of more than 100 miles,” Schleining said. “They bring us wild game and we make their sausages. We have had venison, goose, duck, buffalo, alligator, beef, and pork brought to us from customers.”
The website is WurstKitchen.com and the address is 638 Second Avenue in Aurora. Telephone is 630-898-9242.
The word “viederholden” in German means “to look back.” A visit to the Wurst Kitchen is just that. Delightful. Engaging. Delicious. Stop today and enjoy.