The Carnegie Community Arts Center is ready to give you the best of their 'wurst.
Bratwurst, the popular German variety of large sausage, will be a regular featured item at The Cellar, the Carnegie's revived effort to delve into the world not just of the visual and performing arts, but of the culinary arts as well.
"You can't really go to one particular place and get brats that I know of," said Diane Giddens, director of the Carnegie Center. "You can go get hot dogs and some Italian sausages, but there's not a real place where you can go and get brats with different toppings."
Those include tasty options like caramelized onions, jalapenos and nacho cheese, and lettuce, tomato and sour cream.
That isn't all The Cellar will offer under new resident chef Darlene Newell, known for her work with her catering company, Diamondz and Divaz. But it will be available daily, even with a little variety.
"The standard brats are with sauerkraut and mustard, but we'll have different toppings every day and different specials," said Giddens.
The downstairs area of the Carnegie has been one of the unfulfilled hidden dining gems in the area for years. A gorgeous space set up to look like a rustic European villa, it has hosted numerous special dinners and events over the years, but has never really been utilized on a regular basis, as is Giddens' goal.
"We wanted (this type of daily food service) to be a thing ever since (the space) was decorated," said Giddens, who recently returned to the Carnegie after an absence of several years due to health concerns. "I said, 'Now's the time to do it.'
"Years ago, the health department said we could do it. .... When we decorated it years ago, that's what we wanted. We just didn't have the right people to put all that together," she added. "Now we have Darlene to do it."
Newell was employed by Walgreens for years before deciding she wanted the freedom of working for herself. So she enrolled in Somerset Community College's culinary arts program about seven years ago -- because food has a special place in her heart.
"I've always had a passion for food," she said. "I grew up with my mother and grandmother cooking. I always loved that kind of food. It's always tasteful, and tastes the same. You go to restaurants now and if there's a different person cooking, the food doesn't taste the same as it did before."
Newell said that she and Giddens had known each other for "quite a while," and that Giddens asked her to come in and consider working together, she said, "Sure, that sounds interesting."
While Newell still has other professional interests, The Cellar's service will be during lunch hours, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, so it "worked out" with her schedule.
In addition to the brats, The Cellar will offer daily special prepared by Newell, offering her a chance to flex her culinary muscles and show some variety and creativity. The Cellar started service on Wednesday of this week, but already Newell has made lunch specials like chicken enchiladas and pulled pork, with favorite sides to go with them.
The Carnegie's central location on North Main Street makes it one more option for residents and workers in a growing downtown Somerset. At one time, lunch spots were sparse in the downtown area, but that's changing and the Carnegie is a part of it. While there is no table service, you can stick around and eat in the lovely Cellar dining space, or grab your food to go and take it with you.
Newell said she's been trying to reach out this week and take some samples around downtown to show people what The Cellar is offering and get them used to the idea of coming by The Carnegie for lunch.
"If you do anything downtown, then you have to come in and try something at least one time," said Newell.
Even though it's new, there were still around a dozen or so customers that first Wednesday, and The Cellar has gained even more attention throughout the week.
Newell said she brings to the table "innovative ideas, things that you can't get all the time, things that people can't buy every day. That's what we're trying to do."
Giddens said Newell will also handle Tunes at Noon meals and all the catering at the Carnegie, as well as the upcoming Carnegie Cuisine Club for private membership as the in-house resident chef.
"She's a wonderful cook," said Giddens of Newell. "... She's just fabulous. She's a businesswoman and knows how to handle things."