Updated: September 2018
1487 Hertel Ave / Hertel / North Buffalo
Cuisine: Gastropub, Sausages; Craft Beers
Hours: Monday-Sunday 3:30pm-2am
Saturday and Sunday lunch starting at 12pm
“When the Sterling Tavern closed its doors last fall, many people mourned the loss of an iconic neighborhood pub. If you never had the pleasure of walking through its doors, the Sterling was a place you could feel comfortable bringing anyone to, a place whose tradition, simplicity, and character made you feel at home,” wrote SOB contributor Brett Smith when Wurst first opened in July 2015.
Now, Sterling Tap & Wurst is the product of Blue Monk part-owner Kevin Brinkworth and has a lot of the same elements of its sister establishment’s fine-tuned gastropub style-eats plus a decent selection of craft beers in a slightly more casual atmosphere. Sterling Tap & Wurst brings to Hertel what’s been missing, including an international beer list and brats made from wild boar and smoked duck. But for those of you who knew the old Sterling Tavern fear not, as a lot of its “charm” still remains- it’s still a blue collar bar for people with taste.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we love Gastropubs. They let restaurants hone in on a few particular items and do them well, and Sterling Tap & Wurst has their sausage and beer game on lock. The menu consists of familiar words like “burgers” and “sausage” but then throws you a curveball by prefacing them with “elk” and “duck”. As one of the only gastropubs in the area, Sterling Tap & Wurst satiates the people’s need for authentic, tasty brats and a wide variety of beers (and hard ciders <3). The laidback atmosphere is refreshing, but expect that to be reflected in all aspects of your experience including the service. The whole space feels large and airy, and the newly remodeled patio, indoor tables, and bar all provide a great seating whether you’re looking to grab a drink or a whole meal.
The most important part (IMO) of any restaurant is the menu, and at Sterling Tap & Wurst the beer menu is significantly longer than the food menu. The brews they offer here change weekly so don’t hate us if your favorite one isn’t there when you go. As of late September their draughts included the likes of locally beloved Big Ditch Excavator Brown Ale, EBC Blueberry, Flying Bison 716 Kolsch, and Hamburg Small Town Saison. When we went I was surprised they had one of my all-time favorite hard ciders –Downeast, which is impossible to find anywhere outside of New England let alone WNY- and after making some sort of embarrassing shrieking noise I proceeded to make our whole table order one.
On the food side of things Sterling Tap & Wurst offers a small menu that’s been carefully selected for your eating pleasure. They offer items like The Wurst Sandwich ($10) and the ½ Pound Classic Pub Burger ($13) which is a throwback to the Old Sterling Classic on a pretzel bun with a choice of cheese and a side. In addition to other menu items like soups and salads they also feature some pretty great German-esque appetizers including Kase Gebraten, hand cut provolone, breaded and fried with house marinara ($8), Munich Flatbread with your choice of Wurst and pickled red onion, smoked gouda and arugula salad ($9), and Spaten Battered Asparagus, beer battered and grilled with Montreal aioli ($9). Of course it wouldn’t be Blue Monk’s sister if there weren’t any Duck Frites, hand cut with truffle oil, arugula and parmesan cheese ($8).
Now let’s talk about the real reason you’re here: the sausages. At first glance it seems like your options here are pretty limited, with the menu only offering a Sausage & 1 Side ($11) and a Sausage & 2 sides ($13). But then you keep reading. Your options for sausages are as follows: Wild Boar with Roasted Garlic & Marsala Sauce, Venison with Merlot Wine and Blueberries, Smoked Duck with Apple Brandy, Rabbit with White Wine & Herbs, Elk with Apples, Pears and Port Wine, Wild Boar with Cranberries and Red Wine, Duck with Foie Gras & Sauterne Wine, Smoked Buffalo with Burgundy Wine, Chicken with Apples and Cranberries, Venison with Red Wine & Demi Glaze, Duck with Orange Liquor, Pheasant with Cognac, Buffalo with Chipotle Chiles, and Chicken with basil and Sun Dried Tomato. You read all of that correctly. Then your options for sauces read something like this: Curry Mayo, Bourbon BBQ, Cilantro Aioli, Ghost Pepper Sauce, Horseradish Mustard, Spicy Mustard, Ranch, Bleu Cheese, Siracha Mayo, and Marinara. Topping options for your sausage are Cole Slaw, Caramelized Apples, Caraway Sauerkraut, Pickled Red Cabbage, Pickled Red Onion, and Apple Wood Bacon with side options being Fries, House Salad, Mashed Potato, Tater Tots, and Seasonal Vegetables. Woof. It should be noted that every sausage isn’t available every night, they’re made fresh and you can find around 4 available on a daily basis…providing none have sold out. It should also be noted that the “toppings” actually come on the side, since the sausages are served without buns (yes we know it’s devastating, stop crying). If you want a sandwich, get the Sausage sandwich ($11).
We came into Sterling Tap & Wurst before a Makers Buffalo class looking to try some artisanal sausages and see what the new place was like. There were quite a few open seats so we decided to sit near the open garage doors to get both the perks on indoor seating while still taking full advantage of the nice weather #knockonwood. We sat for a while before anyone came to take our order (remember that relaxed atmosphere we mentioned earlier?) and took in the scenery around us: renovated floors and furnishings, a brand new bar, the patio with all the garage doors. There were still some familiar Sterling Tavern relics hanging around which was a nice homage to the olden days. It was during this downtime that I noticed my deeply cherished Downeast cider advertised on the draught board, and when our waiter came over to take our order I was a teensy bit overly excited as far as drinks were concerned.
When it came time to order food we were pretty overwhelmed by our options so we asked our waiter what he recommended. We ended up ordering the Venison with Merlot Wine and Blueberries with Maple Curry sauce (unfortunately it seems this option is no longer on the menu), Braised Onion (which seems to have been upgraded to Pickled Red Onion now), and 2 sides consisting of Frites and Coleslaw ($13), and we also ordered Venison with Red Wine and Demi Glaze with Bleu Cheese sauce, Apple Wood Bacon, and 2 sides of Frites and Seasonal Vegetables ($13). The presentation of the food once it arrived was pretty Instagram-worthy, although we were very surprised/sad that our sausages didn’t come with buns. The fries were great and the sauces we dipped (read: drenched) them in were quite enjoyable. If you eat one thing here, make it the frites. The sausages themselves were pretty good, and all of the flavors complimented each other in a way that made my taste buds dance. We still wish we had gotten buns (we’re really not over this…we like big buns and we cannot lie) and that the portions were bigger because we also like having lots of food and are not apologizing for it.
If you’re in the area, looking for a sausage that’s delicious and out of the ordinary, or have a hankering for some good ol’ local beer Sterling Tap & Wurst will satisfy your cravings and then some. Just don’t drink all the Downeast cider on me, thanks.