The lack of a side of nacho cheese would be a problem if it weren’t for the butter, kraut, and honey mustard Laugen stuffs its pretzels with. by Rich Smith
After Seattle Socialist Overlord Kshama Sawant won the class war in District 3 earlier last month, I decided it was safe to unplug from the election circuit and finally take some vacation. During my wanderings in the wilderness, I saw a fighter jet fly over a bald eagle at American Camp on San Juan Island, ate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, listened to newish podcast episodes from American Prestige and New Thinking, watched all the Sidetalk videos on YouTube, consumed Attack on Titan in two days (again), avoided contracting COVID-19 (for now), developed a mildly approving opinion of Don’t Look Up, read most of Misdemeanorland and How to Hide an Empire, got some non-blog writing done, and privately judged the art placement in the new mayor’s immaculate home.
But my greatest triumph during the break was finding this pop-up pretzel stand on 17th and Pike on a snowy afternoon last week. I mean, look at how cute and festive that thing is. How am I not going to stop for a little Bavarian snack???
The man pictured above in striped pants is Johann Brudi, and the woman reheating a pretzel in that pot is Yasmeine. They both live on Capitol Hill, and they both own and operate the stand, which they informally call Laugen. “Laugen” is the German word for “lye,” a metal hydroxide added to boiling water that gives pretzels their trademark brown and shiny crust.
In a casual interview, Brudi said he built the charming stand on a lark during quarantine, and now he and Yasmeine fire it up whenever time, circumstance, and opportunity allows. They sold pretzels in the snow last week basically because they thought it fit the cozy mood, but they’ve also sold them near buskers in the Pike/Pine corridor on occasion.
The partners have no current plans to expand or formalize the business, no website, and no real social presence. They’ll just keep popping up when they can. When they do, I recommend you shell out the $10 for this premium and supremely comforting snack.
Laugen’s pretzels feature a crispy-crackly crust with a warm and fluffy interior that’s soft as a cinnamon bun. On top of that, Brudi offers to stuff the fat bottom with kraut, honey mustard, and butter — and you should take him up on that offer. Though the American palate demands a little pot of nacho cheese for dipping, the Bavarian salty-sweet-and-sour experience did not make me miss the molten cheese buckets of my youth. And with all the fixins, the snack eats like a bagel sandwich, which ultimately justifies the $10 price tag in my view.
So the next time you’re on Capitol Hill, keep an eye out for the man in the striped pants. If you see him and his partner, then buy their pretzels.