Just One Dish: Poppe’s Sandwich at Heavy Metal Sausage Co.

The story behind Heavy Metal Sausage's zungenblutwurst sandwich, how it’s made, and why you should be going out of your way to eat it.

Heavy Metal stacks slices of their own zungenblutwurst on housemade rye, along with local cheddar, greens, garlic mayo, and pepper relish. / Photography courtesy of Heavy Metal Sausage Co.

Welcome to Just One Dish, the Foobooz series chronicling an outstanding menu item at a Philly restaurant — the story behind the dish, how it’s made, and why you should be going out of your way to eat it.

Got a dish you think deserves its own spotlight? Send a tip to

One wonderful thing about Philadelphia is the length at which people like to discuss sandwiches. The longest conversation about a sandwich I’ve had in recent memory was with Patrick Alfiero and Melissa Pellegrino, the duo behind the new specialty sausage shop and deli making some of the most surprising and delicious sandwiches in the city right now, Heavy Metal Sausage Co.

Alfiero and Pellegrino are veterans of Philly’s restaurant scene. Before opening Heavy Metal, Alfiero was the chef de cuisine at ITV, while Pellegrino worked as the beverage manager at Messina Social Club. In addition to running daytime shop operations, Heavy Metal hosts four-course trattoria dinners on Thursday and Friday nights that cost $65 per person. These sell out consistently, especially following Heavy Metal’s recent nod as a James Beard semifinalist.

You could have a two-hour conversation about any number of the sandwiches on the menu here. Of course, Alfiero and Pellegrino won’t make you — you can just as happily wander into the shop from its quiet corner exterior on West Porter Street, snarf down “Poppe’s Sandwich” and go on your merry way. And you’d be pleased. End of story.

But if you get to know the sandwich — a stack of sausage, cheddar, and pepper relish on rye — a little better, you’ll be all the more satisfied. That sandwich took at least three days to make.

The Poppe is based on the sandwich that Alfiero’s grandfather, Poppe, ate most days. The original Poppe’s version was the snack of a Polish immigrant: a simple pile of soft white bread, sweet bologna, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes, sometimes a slice or two of cheese, and a slather of pepper relish made by Alfiero’s grandmother.

At Heavy Metal Sausage Co., Alfiero and Pelligrino bake their own rye bread for the sandwich instead of using white bread. The team does their absolute best to make all of their food with locally sourced ingredients, though they regrettably admit that three of the five spices in the rye bread – caraway, coriander and mustard seeds – are not local. These three ingredients are the only items in the entire sandwich that are not sourced from nearby farmers.

After the bread is baked, the team paints one slice with garlic mayonnaise and the other with pepper jelly. Then the whole thing is loaded with local greens, Birchrun cheddar, and a few slices of zungenblutwurst.

For those of us who are rusty with German, zungenblutwurst translates to tongue (zungen) blood (blut) sausage (wurst). In order to produce this sausage, Alfiero must source both the tongue and the blood separately, since neither parts are typically included when you buy a whole hog.

“The Poppe is a six-ingredient sandwich,” Pellegrino explains. “But two of those ingredients are like a two-day process.” To make the meat, Alfiero brines, steams, and cuts the tongues, then combines them with an emulsified mixture of cured and cooked pork, plus blood and what Alfiero calls classic German spices (coriander berries, caraway, garlic, marjoram, ginger). Once the sausage comes together, it’s cooked to an internal temperature of 155 degrees, then sliced to order and placed in the sandwich, which is served with whatever seasonal house-made pickles they’ve got going at the moment.

As far as the taste of the meat, it’s not immediately obvious that the zungenblutwurst is a blood sausage. It’s rich and semi-emulsified, more like a bologna or salami cotto than other kinds of blood sausage. I hesitate to even identify it, lest it put people off. But both Alfiero and Pellegrino say that even when customers seem skeptical of eating blood, tongue, or both, they’ll offer a taste and usually win people over.

Approachability seems to be Alfiero and Pellegrino’s overall mode at Heavy Metal: If, on first pass, people aren’t quite sure, chat with them and let them sample until they’re convinced, which they almost certainly will be.

In Philadelphia, we pride ourselves on knowing sandwiches. We might even think we know everything there is to know about them. But Heavy Metal certainly seems to have a trick or two up its sleeve, including the Poppe sandwich. And that’s part of the fun of coming back again and again.


What: The Poppe

Where: Heavy Metal Sausage Co., 1527 W Porter Street

Cost: $15

Share It With: Your workday lunch, a weekend lunch date, or absolutely no one.