Grill, Baby, Grill

BEST OF THE WURST: Customers trot in sausage ideas from travels and if they’re willing to buy 20 pounds of custom-made links, Miller obliges by whipping up 25 pounds. The extra five? Miller and his sausage crew, including manager Rachael Cochran, sample to Werner’s considerable foot traffic. If Miller deems the sausage a bestseller, it’s added to the menu. After all, Werner’s is about sausage-ocracy.

SAUSAGE HEAVEN: Miller and his wife, Judy, inherited a tasty chunk of history when they purchased Werner’s, including four centuries-old sausage recipes. Today Miller and his enthusiastic employees handcraft 600 – 800 sausages weekly, which are sold in the store’s cases or used for catering functions. Twenty varieties are represented, including two types of potato sausages, Italian, kielbasa, Polish, knockwurst, Sheboygan bier brats, Andouille, chorizo, British bangers, Portuguese linguica and Lithuanian desros. Werner’s is a veritable United Nations of sausage, and Miller’s never met one he doesn’t like.

STAND UP: The Grill on Saturday, a beloved Werner’s tradition since 1974, is as dependable as the sun rising and setting. Every Saturday, regardless of precipitation or frigid (or sweltering) temps, Team Werner sets up shop on the pavement and permeates the neighborhood with a splendid blanket of aromatic smoke. Miller staffs the grill-fest with three runners, veteran grillmeister Tom Roth, and 83-year-old Hans Ziller as the affable PR guy (he was part of the deal when Miller bought Werner’s) who schmoozes the sausage line snaking around Werner’s al fresco stand on Johnson Drive.

SAUSAGE KING: Dave Miller just might be the Abe Froman of Kansas City. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio’s historic German Village, Miller learned the art of butchery during the 1960s working in authentic meat shops and at grocery store meat counters. After traveling the country selling parts for a large German company, Miller ended up in KC where he revived his meat-cutting talents. One day, as president of the local German Club, Miller met Werner Wohlert, iconic owner of the small but mighty Werner’s Fine Sausages tucked in the heart of Mission. Miller bought the shop in 1995, the third caretaker of an Old World legacy that started as Swanson’s in 1898 Westport.

COMMUNITY CENTER: Generations gather at Werner’s on Saturdays to enjoy grilled sausages piled high with kraut and condiments. Miller recognizes groupies who’ve indulged in sausage communion for decades, now with grandkids and even great-grandkids in tow. Patrons lounge at picnic tables, shoot the breeze and munch on artisan-grilled sausages packed with flavor and generously sprinkled with history, courtesy of the Sausage Whisperer himself. 

Dave Miller with the belle of The Grill on Saturday
at Werner's in Mission.
Werner's employee of 20 years, Hanz.