Ask Kat Bierbach to tell you about Kat-n-Around, the food truck she started two years ago, and it’s a good bet she’ll say at some point, “I’m living my dream.”
The seeds of that dream were planted long ago, when Bierbach left her hometown of Dresden in 1994 to spend her junior year as an exchange student at Fuquay-Varina High School. When she got back to Germany, she attended college, working side jobs as a bartender and later starting her own cocktail wagon/catering business – all the while continuing to nurture a plan to return to the States and open a German restaurant.
She returned to the Triangle four years ago with the aim of finally transforming her dream into reality. Her initial efforts must have seemed more like a nightmare, though, as she searched in vain for two years for a suitable location. She decided to open a food truck instead – and lost another six months when her initial commissary kitchen fell through. Bierbach set up her own Health Department-approved kitchen and finally hit the road in March of last year.
That kind of resourcefulness came in handy in developing a food truck-friendly menu. Bratwurst was an obvious choice, and the excellent authentically fine-textured sausages made by Weeping Radish Butchery were a no-brainer. But it was only after a lengthy search that Bierbach found the right bread – soft on the inside, and crusty but not too crusty – to approximate the traditional brötchen that brats are served on by street vendors in Germany.
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Brown mustard and sauerkraut are justifiably popular toppings, but having consumed my weight in curry wursts during my own year as a student in Germany, I’m partial to that particular variation. I can further attest that Bierbach’s homemade curry sauce – a piquant and slightly sweet blend of tomato, applesauce, balsamic vinegar, honey, onion and curry powder – is on the money.
Schnitzel bites are another winning option: pork cutlet pounded thin, lightly breaded and fried a deep golden brown, then transformed into plastic-utensil-friendly street vendor fare by cutting the schnitzel into bite-size pieces. Three variations are offered: Jägerschnitzel (topped with a creamy mushroom sauce), Zigeunerschnitzel (tomato and bell pepper sauce with a little spice kick) and – my favorite – the Kat-n-Around take on a Wienerschnitzel, garnished simply with a lemon wedge.
If Bierbach’s homemade spaetzle are on the menu (they aren’t very often), by all means, jump at the chance. Otherwise, an order of Kartoffelpuffer (German potato pancakes) is in order. Molded into cylinders before frying (another adaptation for the food truck ensuring uniform portions), these are thicker than the traditional hand-formed potato cakes, but the surface of crusty-crunchy potato shreds still does the trick. Skip the applesauce version (which, surprisingly, turns out to be a small plastic tub of Mott’s) and opt instead for salmon and horseradish sauce.
Still, if the truck isn’t busy, it couldn’t hurt to ask Kat Bierbach when the spaetzle might next be on the menu. You might even detect a trace of a German accent in her answer – just a trace, though. She has clearly adapted well to her adopted home.
Prices: curry wurst $8.50, pork schnitzel $7