Liberty Links Lets Meat Freedom Ring
Hamburger joints have taken over the food scene across the gastro-landscape. Everywhere you look, a new burger place is parking its buns in storefronts and promising a new spin on that chop meat concoction that is most definitely not a sandwich.
As monumentally mouthwatering as burgers once were, now, tragically, they are overplayed, overhyped and overserved. As a society, it is time we moved on from the burger. It is time we, instead, gave the mighty sausage another look.
Opened by chef and owner Brian Von Der Linn about a year-and-a-half ago, Liberty Links offers a fast food approach with freshly made ingredients—all built on a solid foundation of tradition, freedom and sausage. Von Der Linn, a butcher by trade, processes most of his tubular meats from scratch.
“I am so tired of hamburgers,” said Von Der Linn. “This is different. It’s creative and it’s delicious.”
The links created by Von Der Linn through his grinder run the gamut of sausages from around the world, including bratwurst with pork and veal, knockwurst with smoked German beef, cheese and parsley chicken with aged provolone, chorizo with smoked pork, hot and sweet Italian and lamb merguez with red wine, rosemary and cumin. And while the sausages alone would probably be enough, it’s the preparation that sets Liberty Links apart.
Each sausage is split down the middle and griddle-cooked to produce a browned crust that seals in the juice and skyrockets the flavor quotient. From there, customers are given their choice of both cold and hot toppings, including pickled onions, cheddar, cherry peppers, beer cheese, roasted garlic kraut and sautéed onions that Von Der Linn cooks for hours on end—creating an onion flavor so deep it will leave you shook. It’s all packed on a firm, yet soft roll, and finally, the extensive sauce bar allows customers to hit their sausage sandwich with streaks of barbecue, tzatziki, spicy mustard and more.
Aside from the everyday sausage sandwich menu, Von Der Linn also relishes the opportunity to exercise his creative freedom with Liberty Links’ Sausage of the Month. These hot takes include such succulent offerings as The Gallucci, an Italian seasoned pork sausage with capocollo and smoked pancetta ground into the mix and layered with a topping of garlic ricotta, along with fresh mozzarella and basil pesto and topped with shaved pepperoni. For July, Von Der Linn created the Southern Belle, with smoked pork butt blended with collard greens and a homemade cornbread stuffed inside a pork sausage, topped with southern barbecue slaw.
This spin on traditional butcher creations grants visitors with tastes of the past, present and future all in one bite.
“I was trained by old-school butchers with tons of knowledge about meats and the different cuts and what flavors work with those cuts,” said Von Der Linn, who cut his teeth around the corner from Liberty Links at Steve’s Meats in Freeport and whose shop has methodically expanded recently to include delivery and off-site catering complete with a whole hog roast for his more fantastically gluttonous customers. “This is stuff that’s been passed down from generations of butchers from the old world. I’m talking the first of the Italian and Polish immigrants from neighborhood butcher shops. They built the foundation—and that’s the foundation I work from.”
Von Der Linn further experiments with his craft on his Guilty Pleasures menu and side dishes, which include thick-slab bacon rolled in brown sugar, fried ravioli, crispy and creamy potato knishes, a monstrous grilled cheese double-stacked with cheesy goodness between three slices of Texas toast, farmer cheese pierogi, a tater tot dish swimming in beer cheese and topped with caramelized onions and bacon that the chef appropriately dubbed Drunk Tots, and so much more, including one of the eatery’s most popular items, pastrami dumplings—New York pastrami squeezed into fried dumplings with a house sauce.
It’s the pastrami dumplings that perhaps best illustrate the positive impact that a good butcher can have on the culinary world. Von Der Linn uses the leftover pastrami ends for his dumplings—a waste-not, want-not homage to similarly minded butcher masters.
“You step into the back of a butcher shop and these are the types of things those guys are eating,” said Von Der Linn. “It’s blue collar food. It’s comfort food.”
And most importantly, it’s not another damn burger.