People who know me well know I’m not keen on change. I have my routines, and I like structure in my life. Yes, I’ve been called anal. Maybe that’s due in part to my Austrian-German heritage.
So you can imagine my distress at learning that Siegfried’s Deli was moving from the 300 South spot it had occupied for nearly 35 years. One of my most embedded routines for the better part of this past decade has been to drop into Siegfried’s on a Saturday afternoon for a plate of wienerschnitzel with sauerkraut, a side of spaetzle and a pilsner. It’s a guilty pleasure I’ve stopped defending or apologizing for. So when I heard Siegfried’s was moving, naturally I anticipated the worst: I figured they’d fancy the place up, raise the prices and begin serving German fusion fare. I had visions of low-carb fat-free bratwurst sandwiches on nine-grain bean-curd bread garnished with arugula. Thankfully, I figured wrong.
The new Siegfried’s on 200 South, just across the street from the Monaco Hotel, is essentially a carbon copy of the old Siegfried’s. Although the new setup is sunnier, thanks to the large windows that span the length of Siegfried’s looking out onto 200 South. There are counter seats all along those windows, and I’m happy to report that you can sit at the counter or at any of the tables and chairs scattered throughout the delicatessen and munch on wienerschnitzel that is every bit as good as it ever was. And I don’t believe they’ve raised the prices either. You can still enjoy lunch or an early dinner at Siegfried’s for around $5. The Siegfried’s wienerschnitzel platter with two side dishes costs a mere $5.65. Maybe Siegfried’s owner, Siegfried Meyer, is a little like me—not really nuts about change. After all, he’s been at it now for nearly 35 years, and I’d be willing to bet his sausage recipes haven’t changed an iota in that span of time.
I don’t buy sausages anywhere else. (Well, actually that’s not quite true. The sausages at the Juhl Haus are darned good, too.) So when I had a craving for choucroute last week, I headed straight to Siegfried’s to do my shopping. It’s a once-a-year type of cooking project, and I wanted to get it right.
A few years ago, I spent some time in Strasbourg, in the Alsace region of France, which is where I discovered the wonders of choucroute. Choucroute garni is a traditional Alsatian dish, a hodgepodge of different types of sausages, pig’s feet, ham, bacon, and of course, sauerkraut. And once you taste authentic Alsatian choucroute garni, you’ll never again be able to eat sauerkraut from a can. Anyway, to assemble a decent version of choucroute you must plan, because it involves tracking down some hard-to-find ingredients. Luckily, Siegfried’s has most of what you’ll need to make respectable choucroute, including the kraut.
In fact, as anyone who cooks using German recipes already knows, Siegfried’s is the specialty shop for hard-to-find German foodstuffs. Siegfried’s carries a vast array of pastries, German-style breads, mustards, sauerkraut, seasonings, pickled fish and meat—lots of meat. There’s a great selection of Germany’s best liverwursts from Schaller and Weber. (Most Americans think that there’s only one kind of liverwurst, but in Germany, you’ll find a slew of liverwurst varieties: olive, onion, truffle, pistachio, and chive, to name just a few.) Then there’s the ’wurst you cook: bratwurst, weisswurst, blutwurst, knackwurst, not to mention great cold cuts and cheeses. All of this stuff and a lot more—including German flags, candies and magazines—can be found at Siegfried’s Deli.
Of course, you don’t have to embark on a choucroute project or even do any cooking at all to appreciate what Siegfried’s has to offer. All you need is to walk in hungry. Just line up with the lunchtime crowd at the cafeteria-style counter and choose from an array of authentic ready-to-eat dishes. I’ve already mentioned my favorite, the wienerschnitzel. But Siegfried’s also serves items like delicious bratwurst, weisswurst, roasted chicken and pork legs, with side dishes such as sauerkraut, potato salad, “rotkohl” (cooked red cabbage) and homemade spaetzle, which are small, thin dumpling-style noodles served with butter or a rich brown gravy. The gravy’s pretty strong, so I recommend just a splash. I also recommend the magnificent Reuben sandwich.
Although, in general, I think I like the new Siegfried’s a little better than the old one—it seems a bit more open and airy—there are one or two drawbacks. First, the line for hot food during the busy lunch hour tends to get merged and confused with the line of folks waiting to make purchases from the adjacent meat counter, with a mass of humanity all gathered in one corner of the store. Better traffic planning is warranted. I also usually found it easy to park at the original Siegfried’s, especially on weekends. That’s not the case on 200 South, where curbside parking is always at a premium. But hey, those are minor gripes from someone prone to accept change only with some whining.
SIEGFRIED’S DELI, 20 W. 200 South, 355-3891, Open Monday-Saturday