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Yummy German Food in La Mesa -- who'd have guessed?

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I must confess that, if asked to name my favorite cuisines, German would not make the top five. My grandmother was German, and she was a terrific cook, but I never had anything in a German restaurant that I thought was better than okay -- until recently.

Chef Axel has occupied the space at 7097 University Ave, just east of 70th, that used to house a German grocery and cafe. You can still buy bread, sausages and some other deli items there, but most of the space has been filled with tables. A good thing, too, because this guy can cook!

At a recent dinner, we started with pan-fried sauerkraut cakes (Diana's idea; didn't sound good to me), and they turned out to be delicious, served with sliced smoked sausage that had been grilled and little pieces of cooked pickles. It was a generous appetizer that, if ordered for one, would have been filling in itself.

For dinner I had the "hunter style" schnitzel that was served with a creamy mushroom sauce. You can choose two sides to accompany your entree, so I chose the homemade spaetzle and red cabbage. The schntizel was tender and delicious, and the sauce ratcheted up the flavor quotient. The spaetzle was the best I've ever eaten, and the red cabbage took me back to childhood Sunday dinners at Nana's house. Can red cabbage be spectacular? Maybe not, but this version was orders of magnitude better than the stuff that comes in a jar.

They have a respectable selection of German wines and a small list of California selections, too. All are low-priced. They have beer (natch!) but I haven't tried any yet. Other diners seemed to be enjoying it, though.

Although the place is Deutsche uber alles, the menu isn't exclusively Teutonic. Several entrees are contemporary California style (no halibut on the Rhine).

We returned for lunch on a recent hot afternoon. I started with the creamy cucumber dill salad which was served ice cold and was very refreshing. For lunch I ordered a smoked bratwurst with pan-fried potatoes and red cabbage (again). The brat was excellent (sorry, I didn't ask their source), but the star of the show was the fried potatoes -- simply the best I'd had since I was a teen-ager.

Chef Axel himself is a young guy with a genial personality. He bills his place as a "bistro," so don't expect any chandeliers or carpeting, but the food is excellent. They also do catering, and as I mentioned above, they sell sausage and other deli items from a cold case.

Here' a link to their website: http://www.chefaxel.com/bistro.htm

. . . jim strain in san diego (la mesa, actually)

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  1. Thanks for the tip - sounds awesome.

    1. Jim, thanks for the tip. You're not the only of German extraction. My mother's maiden name was Schlotter, can't get much more German that that ;-). This is less than 5 miles down Lake Murray Blvd. from me, I can hardly wait.

      1. Thanks Jim. My mother's family had names like Schemmp and Pfeiffer. So I grew up eating spaetzle (with lentils and sausage) and red cabbage (oddly called blue cabbage in German) and sauerbraten and rye breads and . . .

        ed

        6 Replies
        1. re: Phoo D

          Blue cabbage or "Blaukraut" it is only called in the southern part of Germany (which isn't really Germany anyway :)). In the rest of Germany red cabbage is directly translated to Rotkohl.

          BTW, is this the place which had the name "Old Country Cafe" before ?

          1. re: honkman

            Yes Honkman, it was the Old Country Cafe. Axel gutted the place and remodelled...does not look the same at all.

            1. re: pbhomey

              It looks pretty good and I will definitely try it. The only problem is that it closes already at 8pm which makes only lunch on weekends possible.

            2. re: honkman

              OK red cabbage is Prussian. Blaukraut echtdeutsch. Thanks for the info :-D

              ed

              1. re: Phoo D

                Rotkohl is real German. Blaukraut is bavarian which I don't consider German. And never call a German from the northern part prussian, you might get in trouble.

                1. re: honkman

                  My Swabian relatives called all north Germans Prussians or "kartoffelfressers" - all in good humor, of course.

          2. Jim, Try the Sunday buffet champagne brunch. It's 15.95, great selection, and a German sparkling wine to boot!

            1. Went for the sunday brunch yesterday and it was excellent! We made a reservation, and definitely needed it as all the tables had reserved signs when we got there at 10:40.
              Went straight for the wursts and schnitzel with some homefries and spaetzel.
              The wursts were amazing, 3 different kinds, a smoked, a veal and a knockworst. All great flavors, with the veal having a nice herby flavor. They were somewhat greasy from sitting in the steam tray, however.
              The schnitzel also suffered a little from being in the tray as it was kind of greasy, but still was very crisp, and the meat was not at all dry. I would think that it would have been incredible if freshly cooked and not sitting around. The spaezel was the best I have ever tried, and the homefries, with just some onions in them , were very good.
              Also out was a platter of cold cuts, some cream of potato soup that was somewhat thin, but with great bacon flavor, and some excellent goulash. The goulash was very tender and had a really nice paprika flavor.
              3 different desserts, a strudel, a chocolate cake and some cheesecake, none of which were cloyingly sweet, and all very good. There were also stewed cherries to go with.
              All in all, an excellent brunch, great value, very nice service, and something different than the usual bacon, eggs, waffles, shrimp brunch that you get at a lot of buffets.
              Great recommendation from the brunchmaster. Thanks Jim!

              1 Reply
              1. re: JRSD

                There is also a nice review from Naomi Wise:

                http://www.sdreader.com/published/200...