Smoke gets in your eye
Fans rejoice as Dittmer's Gourmet Meats and Wurst Haus reopens, bigger and better
Now we can relax: The new Dittmer's smells the same as the old Dittmer's — smoky. Over a year and a half since fire destroyed the original location, nearly 5,000 Facebook "likes" later, Dittmer's Gourmet Meats and Wurst-Haus reopened Aug. 8. The man who postponed his wedding in order to have fresh sausages can go ahead and reschedule.
In other good news, sandwiches and salads are back as of this week. The community's joy in Dittmer's resurrection has been wonderful, but also a bit overwhelming. It took a month to gear up the deli, and sometimes they run out of certain sausages.
The spacious new location, a former Wells Fargo Bank branch, greets the customer with gleaming hardwood floors and miles of meats that are dried, smoked, parboiled and fresh.
"People walk in and take a deep breath, inhaling the scent," said Petra Silva, general manager and daughter of founder Dittmer Bubert.
With 5,000 square feet on the ground floor and offices upstairs, Dittmer's has more than doubled in size. No more squeezing into tight spaces between crowded displays. The restroom and floor space are fully accessible.
Besides Silva and her brother, Mark Bubert, and of course Dittmer Bubert himself, customers will recognize ten of the staff members from the old store.
The family hasn't spent the year and a half on vacation. First, there was insurance and remaining inventory to deal with, then real estate, architecture, planning and the usual construction delays.
They scrubbed out everything from the bank except for two immovable objects: the vault and the fireplace. Why did a bank have a fireplace? Never mind, now it is Santa Claus red and has a candy display next to it. The vault has been insulated and reborn as a meat cooler.
Light green tiles with a horizontal interest stripe decorates the back of meat and deli/sandwich counter. Across the way, by the front door, is a stand-alone checkout counter. Eventually there will be seating outside.
After a hungry childhood in postwar Germany, Dittmer Bubert apprenticed himself to a sausage maker. Germany has over a thousand types of sausage. He immigrated to Canada, then came to the Bay Area and worked at Safeway markets in Redwood City and San Mateo. Meanwhile, he made sausages at home, often incorporating recipes from the non-Germans he'd met. Then, as now, the community wanted more sausages.
In 1978, Bubert opened his own shop in the back of a small center on San Antonio Road. He kept adding varieties, such as the Sheboygan brats so dear to customers from Wisconsin. With a minimum order of 25 pounds, Dittmer's will custom-make a sausage.
Perennial favorites range from one-note frankfurters to spicy paprika sausage.
While 40 types of sausages are the heart and soul of Dittmer's, there are other products. In the cheese case, find goose fat in a 14-ounce tub. Palo Alto Firefighters' Pepper Sauce sits next to Curry Gewurz (that is, spicy) Ketchup. Pickles and sauerkraut abound. Vacuum-packed meats and fish in the cool case include pickled pork hock, tri-tip, butter chicken and smoked salmon. And in the extensive freezer section, find ground lamb, beef bones, caul fat and veal loaf (with cooking directions on top).
As ever, Dittmer's does not ship or deliver. Dittmer's products are not available elsewhere, not even online. There is a knife-sharpening service one Saturday each month. The point is to come in and experience a real butcher shop.
The Village Court Shopping Center, on the Los Altos side of El Camino Real at San Antonio Avenue, has seen a lot of coming and going. With continuing construction in one area and desperate people sniffing out the scent of sausage, pay attention to your parking.
Dittmer's Gourmet Meats and Wurst-Haus
4540 El Camino Real,
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.