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How to enjoy the Wurst vegetarian experience ever, with fries

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It’s the vegetarian-option challenge: Pick a restaurant whose very soul is wrapped up in meat and place an order that studiously avoids any meat. How hard can that be?

This is not so hard to do at Healdsburg’s The Wurst, the Matheson Street brat-house that offers numerous sausage sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers and their traditional accompaniments (fries and a shake)—all coming in at under $10 per offering. The average price point at Wurst is rare enough indeed in this pricey-eats part of the North Bay, no offense to the haute cuisine destinations that define the town.

The falafel hamburger has several things going for it: One, the falafel is non-crumbly and reasonably tasty in its own right. It isn’t boring. Two, the “hamburger” is dressed Mediterranean-style, which means fat black olives and a zippy smear of cucumber yogurt sauce—aka, tzatziki—that counter balances any implication, fair or otherwise, of non-beef blandness in the faux burger. I rather liked it—reminded me of the Sunshine Burgers of my post-college youth, and to my ruggedly fickle palate, the Sunshine Burger is the greatest take on a fake burger ever.

Back at Wurst, a classic soft-seeded bun seals l’affaire of the veggie-mind.

From the grilled sausage menu—I admit it’s hard to blow past the Detroit Polish, the Harissa Hottie, the Tricky Chick—but that field-roasted eggplant sausage hits all the right hot-dog notes: it’s a texturally honest and flavorfully light link that provides the requisite ‘pop’ of a hot dog upon launching one’s maw into its seasoned glory. I called in and ordered one with the caramelized onions and sauerkraut—the first two toppings are gratis. Dude on the phone says, “Sir! I have to warn you—there is bacon in the sauerkraut, is that okay?”

Warning received. Warning ignored. Of course it’s okay, man! I’m here to enjoy a veggie lunch while not being a puritanical nightmare about it. Bring the sauerkraut, brother, bring it!

Bottom line: It’s a dang good faux dog, kraut or no kraut.

Which brings us to the garlic fries.

So, I put in a lunch order from Santa Rosa recently and then jumped in the car to pick up the food, a twenty-minute or so ride up Highway 101 to Healdsburg.

By the time I got back to the office, the fries were cold—it was all my fault for ordering them takeout. It was a heap of shoe-stringed potato-ness, a massively generous order topped with flecks of parsley and cheese. I ate a few and closed the container, with a vision. As soon as I get home, I thought-slobbered, those suckers are going onto a baking pan into the oven, for a re-crispification treatment. Wurst has all sorts of house-made condiments but my dipping sauce du jour is a dollop of mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha sauce.

I obsessed, perhaps unhealthily, over this culinary reheat scheme while slurping down the remains of the Wurst chocolate shake I’ve ever had—which is to say, that milkshake was spot-on: frosty and thick, but not so thick that it clogs the darn plastic straw.

Oh crud, I just admitted to using a politically incorrect plastic straw. But don’t I get some credit for hewing veg in this bustling house of hot dogs and hamburgers? Bacon bits notwithstanding?

The Wurst Restaurant, 22 Matheson St., Healdsburg. 707.395.0214

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