It wasn’t until I was violently drunk, screaming for help in a pitch-black Belgian bathroom that I finally realized, “Damn, I should’ve paid more attention in French class.”
I was midway through my first and only trip to Europe, and I had just polished off two liters of Grottenbier at the Delirium Café in Brussels. At the request of my older brother—the financier of this alcohol-fueled odyssey—I left my post at the bar for the fritkot across the street to snag some desperately needed drunk munchies.
I exchanged French pleasantries with the shopkeep–because pleasantries are all I learned in five years of studying the language–while surveying the increasingly blurry menu. One item on the menu stood out: La Mitraillette. Literally translated to “submachine gun,” this crown prince of Belgian drunk food has sausage, fries, cornichons, and sauce Andalouse—a mayonnaise spiked with red bell pepper and tomato paste—gloriously, if not improbably, mashed into a toasty baguette.
For obvious reasons, the French refer to the sandwich as “L’Americain.”
After I placed my order, deux mitraillettes et un Coca-Cola Light s’il vous plait, I went to the bathroom, because—well—I’d been drinking. The lights didn’t turn on, but I wasn’t too worried–I was comfortable firing line-of-sight. What I was concerned about, however, was the doorknob that had splintered off the only exit, and was now lying defunct on the slippery bathroom floor.
So there I was, waiting for my dope-ass sandwich, locked in a dark bathroom, desperately trying to recall how to properly say in French, “Hello sir, I am in need of help, can you please let me out of your piss-smelling death trap?” I settled on “Excuse moi, monsieur, j’ai besoin de l’aide,” and when politely repeating that for 10 minutes didn’t work, I started screaming and slamming my fist against the door. Turns out, that’s pretty universally understood.
Not only did the owner let me out, but he also greeted me with my mitraillette at the bathroom door. You don’t know how good something tastes until it’s juxtaposed against the smell of foreign pee and sheer hopelessness.
So, I was thinking, why isn’t anyone making this in L.A.? I mean, Fat Sal’s—which drunk me adores, and sober me consistently regrets—has their french fry and mozzarella stick-stuffed sandwiches, but no one is doing that all-inclusive drunk-food sandwich with high-quality (dare I say “artisanal”?) ingredients.
But there’s one place that could, without any shred of a doubt, knock it out of the park: Wurstküche. They have the premium sausages, the buns, those gnarly duck-fat fries—if they ever want to truly, truly corner that elevated drunk-food market, they’ll throw down a mitraillette one of these days. But until that happens, I’m going to keep making my own.
I went down to A Cut Above–the best damn butcher shop on the Westside–to snag a few bratwursts and a little bit of skirt steak for snacking later. But anyone with a functional kitchen and a pocketful of dreams can shove sausage and fries into a baguette—the real kicker here is the sauce Andalouse.
Start with a cup of prepared mayo (no shame in that), then throw in two tablespoons of tomato paste, some lemon juice, some salt, some pepper, then equal parts minced onion and minced red bell pepper to give it that vegetal quality that makes you believe you’re doing something healthy for your body instead of slamming 1,500 calories of pure carbs and saturated fat.
Then I threw some fennel that I pickled in beet juice on top of that sausage/fries/mayo amalgam and called it a day. When in doubt, throw some pickled fennel on it—that works in most aspects of life.