Although Werner’s is not a Chow Town barbecue joint, its barbecue pedigree is as old as commercial barbecue’s beginnings in this city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Werner’s is a favorite local source for hickory-smoked meats and fresh meats and sausages that you can cook indoors or out. Werner’s lineage goes back to 1898 on Westport Road in the building now occupied by Cupini’s.
Werner’s started out as Swanson’s, a Swedish deli and meat market. When Werner Wohlert bought Swanson’s in 1972 after working there for years as a butcher, he changed the name to Werner’s and a year later moved the business to Mission, closer to other German-owned businesses. David and Judy Miller kept the name when they bought the store from Werner in 1995.
Chow Towners know Werner’s has always been staffed by trained, skilled butchers. Werner was an apprenticed butcher in Germany when he moved to Kansas City. David Miller brought his butcher skills to the business.
Customers flock to Werner’s on weekdays and Saturdays for lunchtime sandwiches, either carryout or inside on stools at the streetside storefront counter. Saturdays are especially popular due to the outdoor grilled brats and other sausages.
Thousands have lined up over the years for Werner’s flame-grilled sausages on a bun, with beans, potato salad or potato chips and a soft drink.
The magic touch of former grillmaster Steve Brunner has been channeled to today’s expert grillmasters Tom Roth and Rachel Cochran. They are so good they can make a grilled brat or knockwurst rival the “wow” of a Kansas City strip.
Dave Miller has expanded the variety of handmade sausages in Werner’s repertoire over the years in response to customer demand.
“I wish you had bangers,” a customer who moved to Kansas City from London remarked one day. Dave replied, “Get me a recipe and I’ll make them.”
Soon he was on the phone with the lady’s former butcher in London, discussing ingredients and method. She loved the result as do others. Bangers have become a popular item at Werner’s.
Current selections besides traditional bratwurst and bangers include Norwegian potato sausage, Lithuanian desros sausage, Mexican chorizo, Cajun andouille, knockwurst, Cheddar bier brat, Polish, Italian (mild and firecracker), linguisa (andouille/chorizo mix) and breakfast sausage.
Werner’s has become a United Nations of sausage, but don’t pass up his full case of other meats and cheeses. Pork chops, ribs, bacon, steaks and other quality meats await you, as well as a full selection of imported foods and condiments.
Knowing the importance of passing recipes and know-how from one generation to the next, Dave has trained Bernie Gumpert to make the full menu of Werner’s sausages.
Street construction on Johnson Drive is finished. Give Werner’s and the other businesses along the Drive a “we’re back” visit.
Werner’s Fine Sausages is at 5736 Johnson Drive in Mission. For more information, call 913-362-5955 or go to http://wernerswurst.com/
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of books on barbecue. His most recent release is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”