Best of the Wurst

Appears in the September 2023 issue.

By Peter Gianopulos

The place to prep for Oktoberfest

Sausages from Wurst Kitchen Sausage Co.

Ed Schleining, owner of Wurst Kitchen Sausage Co. in Aurora, has developed more die-hard groupies than most local rock bands. Some afternoons, there are more cars with out-of-state plates outside his shop at 638 Second Avenue than you’d find in a Millennium Park garage over Labor Day weekend. They come in droves, like on a sacred sausage pilgrimage, because Schleining offers what might be the single most eclectic mix of brats, cased meats, and head-cheese classics in the entire Midwest.

Some of his brats are made from recipes originally written in 1895, when Wurst Kitchen opened. He sells blood sausages and head cheeses that went nearly extinct decades ago. His vast array of sausages—more than 80 varieties—was inspired by his love of diverse food cultures. Imagine a sausage link that tastes like an al pastor taco from Puebla, Mexico. Or a chocolate smoked bacon brat, pure South America in its flavor accents, that is so irresistibly rich that some of his customers have vowed to do him bodily harm if he ever stops making them.

“The inspiration for my sausages can come from anywhere,” says Schleining, who is the kind of old-school sausage meister who enjoys translating obscure old German sausage manuals into English.

Truth is, he’s running out of room at his storied old shop. His craft sausages have become so popular that he’s considering opening an additional location and launching a Schleining sausage shipping service this fall to satiate demand during football season and the holidays. The lesson of the story? You’re wasting precious time. Better drive down to Aurora ASAP before all those hungry out-of-towners get what us loyal locals so richly deserve.


Photo: Wurst Kitchen Sausage Co.