Sometimes, you really do want to know how the sausage is made.
Especially when it’s made at the Red Hot, a Tacoma craft beer tavern known for deluxe dogs and sausages, many of which are manufactured in Tacoma and Seattle.
Co-owner Stu Miller, who runs the taproom with brother Chris Miller, has turned the Red Hot’s sausage selection even more micro local — to the Red Hot kitchen.
Miller teamed up with Red Hot cook Aristotelis “Telly” Christanis to turn a bunch of wild ideas into house-made sausages, something chefs around the Sixth Avenue neighborhood have been experimenting with. The Table, Marrow and Primo Grill all offer chef-made sausage and bratwurst.
Miller bought a cheap grinder — which they’ve since upgraded to something more professional — and started grinding last month. A fresh pork sausage became the base of their breakfast sandwich and a house sausage burger. They also made maple-cheddar sausage links for their weekend breakfasts.
In October, encased sausages began cycling through the tavern’s “Test Kitchen Thursday” menu.
Three found a home on the permanent menu.
An early experiment was a nod to a favorite food neighborhood in Tacoma — the Lincoln neighborhood, home to a collection of Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores. It’s where Miller satisfies his craving for banh mi, the French-Vietnamese sandwiches built on crusty French rolls and stuffed with grilled meats, pickled veggies, cilantro and jalapeños.
“The banh mi to me is the official sandwich of Washington. It’s woven into the landscape of Tacoma and Washington state, really. So we thought we’d infuse the flavors of banh mi into a sausage. We put fish sauce into the sausage, and Thai basil and jalapeño.”
The base of the sausage link is pork shoulder mixed with a bit of pork belly.
To convert the true flavor of a banh mi sandwich into hot dog form, Miller needed pickled veggies and he wanted to make them himself.
“We house pickle the carrots. That was one of the hardest things,” Miller said. “I forgot how many versions of pickled carrots I made until I got it right.”
The TRH Banh Mi ($6.25) packaged the flavor elements of a Vietnamese sandwich. The chunky-ground sausage popped with porky juice at first bite, the flavor of nuoc mam the first taste, followed by herbally basil and sharp jalapeño. A few sprigs of cilantro continued the theme. Sliced fresh jalapeños offered a base heat against a swipe of sriracha-tweaked mayo.
The Cowboy ($6.25) was another successful experiment now on the permanent menu. Think of it as the meaty offspring of a burger and a hot dog. The thick grind on the all-beef sausage yielded a hamburger-like bite. I hit pockets of cheese — cubes of cheddar are incorporated into the sausage — before a mouthful of spicy, tangy barbecue sauce; thick, smoky bacon; a couple plops of nacho cheese and a surprise finish of baked beans (yeah, it works).
A Hawaiian-style ($6.25) sausage also is on the menu (the dog is topped with grilled pineapple), and the kitchen is experimenting with several others, including a Greek sausage.
The Red Hot
Where: 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma.
Information: 253-779-0229; redhottacoma.com.
Hours: Open at 11 a.m. Mondays-Fridays; open at 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Note: Diners must be 21 and older.