Wandering around downtown Cincinnati, trying to walk off the five or six Cheese Coneys I had eaten the previous day, I stumbled onto a hot dog cart. But there was no Greek chili and mounds of fluffy yellow cheese to find here—instead, the menu proudly offered hot or mild Metts right after hot dogs. What the hell is a Mett? I thought. Turns out that Cheese Coneys aren't the only tubular meats in Cincinnati.
Mett is short for Mettwurst, a German smoked pork sausage that, in its original form, is something you might spread on toast like liverwust. In Cincinnati it's closer to kielbasa, grilled and served on buns with mustard and grilled onions.
Coarse ground with a thick natural casing, mine was smeared with just mustard, blistered and charred in a way that can only happen from slowly cooking on a cart grill for an hour or so, absorbing the flavors of the onions and the city itself.
So technically the Mett is not a hot dog, but after several super bland Coneys (brought to life by insane amounts of Cincinnati Chili) the Mett was like a light at the end of the tunnel. Spicy and insanely smokey, it reminded me of Washington D.C.'s Half-Smoke and even brought me back to the Lebanon Bologna I grew up eating.
While Cincinnati Chili and "Coneys" game from the city's Greek population, Metts are part of the same German tradition that spawned Goetta—Cincinnati's delicious answer to Scrapple or North Carolina Liver Mush. Along with hot or sweet, there's also the more recent phenomenon of Metts studded with cheddar cheese.
My only regret? That I didn't do more Mett research before setting sail for Cincinnati. I had plenty of awesome hot dogs in many variations in under 24 hours, but I can't believe I missed out on Avril Bleh & Sons, a century-old sausage maker that grills their own homemade Metts on the sidewalk grill.
Or for the ultimate Cincinnati experience, head over to Putz's Creamy Whip in Cumminsville (right outside the city) for a Hot Mett Coney covered in Cincy chili and Cheese.
M.P.V. hot dog cart
E 5th Street, Cincinnati OH 45202 (across from Fountain Square; map)
Arvil-Bleh & Sons
33 East Court Street, Cincinnati OH 45202 (map)