Ohio’s Bratwurst-Kielbasa Line


In Cincinnati we have pride in our local sausages, some of which are an endangered species, as only a few German butchers still make them.   There are only a few like Avrils that still make our local Hamilton or Leonia sausages.   Only one – Stehlin’s Meats in Colerain Township – makes the Johnny-in-the-Bag sausage, a local variation of the German blood sausage, beutelwurst.   The Cincinnati brat is unique to our area, more similar to the Bavarian weisswurst than to what anyone else in America associates with a bratwurst.   And the Donauschwaben society makes their unique sausages only once a year for Schwabenfest.


But what about other Ohio native sausages? We certainly have a legacy of sausages in the Buckeye State.   English immigrant Harry Mozley Stevens, a native of Niles, Ohio, is said to have created the American hot dog in 1901 in New York City, with the ‘dachshund’ sausages’ he served at a New York Giants baseball game.  He couldn’t spell dachshund so he just started called them hot dogs.


There is a trail of several Ohio cities that have signature sausages known regionally or nationally.   They all happen to be cities that had large periods of Germanic or Eastern European immigration.   There is an Ohio Bratwurst-Kielbasa Line – the Mason-Dixon line for sausages – where sausages start to have a more Eastern European influence than in Southern Ohio.   It’s roughly a line that can be extended from Route 30 between Findlay and Mansfield across the state.   One step over the line means a difference in sausage spice – the German sausages are spiced with nutmeg, ginger, or mace, while the Eastern European sausages have more paprika or garlic.


The only exception to the Germanic-Eastern European sausages are the Sicilian sausages in Lima, Ohio.   In the 1920s a group of Sicilians from the town of Caccamo settled in Lima and founded restaurants. Lucky for the Lima natives, they brought with them their centuries old salsiccia or sausage arts.   The village of Caccamo to this day has an annual Sausage Festival in October.   Back in the day, you could get the all pork, anise and wild fennel sausage at several restaurants owned by the large Guagenti family – the Alpine House, the Milano Café, and the Milano Club. You can still get the traditional Sicilian Sausage from the fourth generation Guagenti owners at the Milano Cafe.   A branch of this family has migrated to Cincinnati, and one can only hope we see their homemade Sicilian salsiccia in a food truck, festival, or family gathering soon!


Columbus, Ohio, has the Bahama Mama sausage, made by Schmidt’s Meats in German Village.   They can be found at Oktoberfests spanning Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus.   The sausage is a chopped, never-ground pork and beef sausage with spices, smoked over hickory wood.   Celebrating their 100th year anniversary last year, Schmidt’s was founded by Frankfurt-German immigrant Johann Fred Schmidt.   The Bahama Mama name came from the current owner’s uncle, who was a wild guy that spent a lot of time womanizing in the hot Caribbean Islands.   Somehow the words “Hot Bahama” and “Bahama Mama” came up and soon they had a really good tasting sausage with a weird name.


The Waldorf Sausage, an all pork, smoked sausage is native to Dayton, Ohio.   William Fock and Son’s Meats, founded in 1875 by German immigrant Bernadina Fock, was the first to create the sausage, and several local meat markets still make the beloved local sausage to serve at the fish frys of several area Catholic Churches, even though Fock’s is no longer in business.


Moving northeast of Columbus, the town of Bucyrus, Ohio, has dubbed itself the “World Capital of Bratwurst,” with its Bucyrus-style pork sausage spiced with mace, nutmeg, ginger, and black pepper.     In 1967, the town started its Bucyrus Brattwurst Festival, at that time with eight local producers. Now, only Carle’s Meats, founded in 1929 by Harry and Alta Carle, makes the Bucyrus-style bratwurst.



Trail Bologna is an Ohio Amish creation from the town of Trail, Ohio, in Holmes County.   Michael Troyer invented the beef bologna sausage in 1912, and the fourth generation of his family continues to produce the bologna.   The Troyer Amish are known to be the most conservative sect of Amish in America.   Michael’s ancestor, an Amish bishop, broke from the sect over the lengths of hat brims.


Toledo, Ohio, in the northwest corner of the state has its famous Tony Packo Hungarian hot dog.   There’s no such thing as a Hungarian hot dog, but Tony Packo Sr. created the beef, pork, and garlic blended link in 1932, based on his Hungarian ancestry.   Their “hot dog” is really based on a Hungarian sausage called Kolbasz, similar to the Polish Kielbasa, about twice the diameter of a conventional hot dog. At Tony Packo’s Restaurant, it’s served on rye bread with chopped onions, mustard, and Tony’s meat sauce.     It was brought to national renown when it was referenced in an episode of M*A*S*H by the character Corporal Kiplinger, played by Toledo native, Jamie Farr.




Moving east along Lake Eire to the greater Cleveland area, Kielbasa and eastern European sausages are king.   There’s a local smoked Slovenian sausage, made by legacy butchers like Raddell’s or Azman and Sons.       The local kielbasa even spawned a local sandwich, called the Polish Boy, a bunned kielbasa sausage with cole slaw, French Fries, and BBQ sauce.


So this summer, forget about the Bourbon Trail – eat your way through the Ohio Sausage Trail and cross the Bratwurst-Kielbasa Line.




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