Cary, N.C. — With sleek signs and professional photos of their cuisine on the menu boards, it is common for people to think local restaurant Firewurst is part of a national chain. It feels like it is part of something bigger than itself.
If things go well, it will be a regional or national franchise one day. But for now, this fast-casual restaurant has only three locations (two in Cary, one in Brier Creek in Raleigh).
The Out and About team first met co-founders Bill and Chas Morgenstern at The Chef's Academy in Morrisville. They were holding a challenge for student chefs to create potential menu items. Student chefs came up with a variety of ways to top their gourmet hot dogs and sausages. A few of their ideas even made it onto the menu for a period of time.
With grilling season finally here, we decided it was time to check out Firewurst's latest location, next to the Bass Pro in Cary, and their menu.
First, we are completely obsessed with the Süße Soße - a sweet and tangy delight that is served on several of their signature hot dogs and sausages. We love it on the Firewurst Dog, which is also topped with Swiss cheese and applewood bacon. It's no surprise that the sauce is a family recipe that has been tweaked over the years. The Morgensterns have a rich family history in this industry.
Bill Morgenstern's grandfather, Charles Rotar, was a sausage-maker who learned the trade from his own Romanian immigrant father. Morgenstern learned about the importance of top quality product and homemade recipes.
When it was time to start a family business, Morgenstern decided to carry on his family's history by starting Firewurst. He and his son Chas started the business in 2012 with its first location off of Kildaire Farm Road in Cary. Chas' brother Dan Morgenstern, a UNC grad, joined the ranks recently as the vice president of marketing.
They started with just hot dogs and sausages, but offered up a variety of ways to top them on freshly baked in-house bread. To make sure they had the right sauces, they did some taste testing with executive chefs. In the end, professional prepared sauces were no match for the Süße Soße, Morgenstern's family sauce, which was entered into the testing anonymously.
As the name implies, they have Bratwurst and Cheddar Brats on the menu. While those were top-notch, we are also huge fans of the Spicy Chicken and Sweet Chicken sausages also on the menu. The Sweet Italian was another favorite
The idea of a hot dog might conjure up images of "mystery meat," but Morgenstern said not to fear. All of Firewurst's hot dogs are 100 percent beef and no fillers. They come from the Fontanini, a renowned manufacturing plant out of Illinois. The sauces also come from the plant.
Speaking of dogs, Firewurst features a variety of ways to enjoy your dog. Try the BBQ Dog, served with Swiss, house-made barbecue sauce, applewood bacon and topped with crispy onion tanglers. The Carolina Dog, a Carolina red dog, is topped with yellow mustard, house-made chili, diced onions and southern sweet slaw.
The dogs are spiral cut, so the sauces and toppings just melt into them. It really helps keep the dogs juicy and full of flavor.
We checked out the BBQ Dog and really loved that house-made barbecue sauce. It blended well with the dog's natural flavors.
After a customer survey, the restaurant decided to add burgers to the menu. In their tradition of quality, Firewurst is serving up high-grade Certified Angus Beef burgers. You can get those served Carolina-style, Texas Chili, Coney Island or (our favorite) Bacon BBQ-style. These burgers are huge!
After telling you all about the main entrees, you probably don't think we had time to try side items. We were determined to try as much as we could so we could give you accurate suggestions on what to order!
Hand-cut fries are served topped with sea salt, Parmesan or Cajun spices. I loved the light cheese flavor the Parmesan cheese added to them. You can also chili and cheese.
Our pick for the best side item here is the sweet potato fries. They served topped with brown sugar and with a barbecue ranch sauce. Another notable sauce there is their curry ketchup. It is served with hot dogs, sausages and regular fries. Curry ketchup is a staple in Germany! (Here's the recipe)
If you are looking for something lighter, they do have freshly prepared salads and slaw. All produce is locally sourced when available.
And if you get thirsty, there are local craft brews for sale, in addition to soft drinks.
If you are looking to save money, there are daily specials and children eat free every Wednesday night at all of their locations. The most expensive combo meal, the double stacked burger, comes in under $10 - so prices are fairly on point with the amount of food you are getting.
As Firewurst eyes its franchise future, we couldn't help but wonder what the menu's future might hold. Exotic meats could find a way on the menu, the Morgensterns said. And is anyone up for trying to eat a 7 pound hot dog? We are hoping that they will let the Out and About team get a few friends to help out if that challenge is unleashed to diners!