One of my favorite food places resides in the middle of downtown L.A.’s Arts District. I always seem to end up going late at night, making its surroundings seems extra forlorn and warehousey. Which got me wondering just what exactly was the story of this so-called Arts District, and how on Earth did a beer hall specializing in rattlesnake and rabbit sausage wind up in it.
Once upon a time in the 19th century the Arts District was home to the Vignes vineyard—the largest producer of wine in California. The reign of grapes was soon surpassed by orange and grapefruit production. With this, the railroad and manufacturing industries emerged to support the shipping needs of all this fruit, giving the area its still-present industrial look. These warehouses evolved to fit the needs of a booming L.A. population, moving from fruit to baked goods to furniture to printing materials to rubber. L.A. zoning codes in the 1920s eliminated residential housing plans in the downtown area, solidifying the Arts District’s industrial nature. Post WWII, new industry moved away from the L.A. city where property was cheaper and easier to acquire, leaving the Arts District vacant and decaying. The 70s saw this as the perfect destination for artists quietly looking for some cheap, spacious, illegal, and dangerous housing. After years of fighting this migration, the city legalized this practice by creating the Artists-in-Residency Program. The latest wave of development has sought to turn this area into an urban oasis, with residential and commercial development, while holding onto its industrial character. This is where Wurstküche starts to come into the picture.
Wurstküche (pronounced vurst kook ah) opened in 2008, on the cusp of a new shot of life into the Arts District through the creation of edgy restaurants, street art, and galleries. It features gourmet sausage, craft German beer (or there’s also quirky bottled soda flavors), and Belgian-style fries in a high-ceilinged beer hall. I love it for its seemingly random juxtapositioning (and delicious food). L.A.’s very nature is so fluid and changing, that sundried tomato mayo fits right in. Nothing is constant and sacred in this urban wilderness. People and industry are constantly moving and adapting to the changing environment. L.A. is like no other city in that it shuns its roots in favor of chasing after its next big break. I wonder what the Arts District will turn into next.