It isn’t just the Irish who drink and wear green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so what is a Chicagoan to do when they can’t lift up their Lederhosen and make it to Munich, Germany for a bratwurst during Oktoberfest?
The answer is simple. Step one: Hunt down the Haute Sausage food truck.
Step two: Be sure you’re pronouncing the name like a true Chicagoan by replacing the letter “U” with a “W.”
It’s a blustery Friday, and the Windy City is living up to its name. Meanwhile, the clock just struck noon at NBC Tower and it’s lunchtime in the Loop. Haute Sausage has only been open for one hour and this rust-colored truck has already run out of one of the four items being served. Haute Sausage has a brick and mortar storefront located at 335 S. Franklin, but today the customers are crowding around the truck. According to Rich Jones, the man running the show for the day, the number of customers can range anywhere from 130-150 in a matter of four hours.
Keeping it traditional, the Sheboygan brat stands out the most. For $9, this juicy hand-made Wisconsin pork brat melts the Merkts cheddar underneath it as it rests on top of buttered, crisp, English brioche bread. The second after taking that first bite and hearing the snap of the sausage, beer butter-simmered cabbage and brown whole grain mustard dance in your mouth. The craving to take another bite almost overshadows the hand-cut potato chips that accompany the meal. Those who don’t like sausage might’ve come to the wrong place, but Levy does serve up other street foods on the menu, such as Chicken and Biscuits, Chicago Red Hots, and Poutine.
In 2011 Richard Levy, the owner, joined his friend Phillip Foss, founder of the Meaty Balls food truck and El Ideas restaurant after being in the catering business for over 10 years. You’ll notice that the theme between the two contains the raunchy idea of “balls” and “sausage”–according to Levy; it was a running joke that turned into a manifestation.
“I was watching what he was doing and decided to either partner with him or start my own. I started my own,” said Levy.
Levy was born in South Africa and lived there until he was 13. During those years, he feasted on a type of meat called Boerewors, and it’s because of his love of grilled meats that Haute Sausage was born. “I built the truck around the idea of Boerewors,” said Levy. Boerewors is a type of sausage that must contain at least 90 percent meat, and must always contain beef, as well as lamb or pork or a mixture of lamb and pork. After combining Boerewors with different flavors like the Sheboygan brat and a Bacon Guacamole sausage, he came up with what he calls Afro-Midwestern Cuisine.
Levy needs to patent his.
“A batch of 100lbs of sausage takes us about an hour to grind, spice and link,” Levy confided. Grinding pork shoulder with a mixture of roasted poblanos, Chihuahua cheese, cilantro, cumin, and coriander is what makes up his specialty sausage blend. This fusion is then pushed into a meat grinder and sealed inside a pork casing. Once they are tied tight, they sizzle on a griddle either inside the storefront, or on the truck.
Levy’s sausage-making process is just as unique as his employees. When asked what the key to the perfect customer service experience is to him, Levy replied, “Empowering staff to make guests happy.” Happy is what they are, as Rich Jones on the truck tells one customer that he appreciates his adventurous spirit, when he wants to try some alligator sausage.
Levy is a wildlife enthusiast, so when he’s not running his own business, he likes to travel to Africa whenever possible. If traveling to the other side of the world isn’t adventurous enough, Levy has big plans for his business. When asked where he thinks Haute Sausage will be in five years, Levy replied, “Multiple locations and more trucks in more cities. We are also looking into a ready-to-grill raw sausage concept for supermarkets.”
Everyone should learn a lesson from Levy’s daredevil attitude, especially if they want to open up their own food truck business some day.
“Stop talking and do it. Test the concept. Try to sell 5 things to 5 people who are not friends and family. If you can do that, improve, innovate and repeat exponentially.”
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-Chicago Area Guest Contributor, Dana Lee