Before the Civil War, Cincinnati got its moniker Queen City because it was the largest and fastest-growing metropolis in the Midwest. Shortly thereafter, when it outpaced Dublin as the world’s foremost pig processor, it earned the name Porkopolis. There now are bigger cities in the heartland, but there is no place where you can eat pork in so many ways. From goetta and liver pudding to ribs, ham, and bacon, restaurant menus and grocery store meat cases are packed. Sausage is a specialty.
Being from Chicago, I thought I knew something about sausage; but a browse through Avril-Bleh & Sons across from the Cincinnati courthouse opened my eyes. The family-run meat market has been in the pork packing business for well over a century (house motto: “A link with the past since 1894”). They make more sausages than I ever knew existed. These include bierwurst, bratwurst, knockwurst, bockwurst (spring only), yard sausage (with garlic), tiny links, oatmeal rings, liverwurst, kielbasa, wieners (natural casing or skinless), Cajun andouille, smoked Italian, chorizo, and the city’s beloved metts. Short for mettwurst, a mett is a cured, deeply smoked, rugged-grind sausage about twice as portly as a regular hot dog firmly packed inside natural casing.
I cannot imagine a better place to enjoy a mett than at an al fresco table on the sidewalk just outside Avril-Bleh, where the shop maintains a cart that sends the appetizing aroma of grilling pork through the neighborhood. Unlike the gigantic repertoire inside, the cart’s menu is minimal: kielbasa, Italian sausage, chorizo, brats, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and three kinds of metts (regular, hot and cheddar), all available bunned with peppers, onions, kraut and condiments. What a splendid taste of Cincinnati!