I truly believe that every culture's cuisine has its high points--even British (really). German cuisine, never sexy, quietly nourishes in a sensible-shoes kind of way; much like fresh air and brisk walks, it will probably never be appreciated for the good it does.

Perhaps you've suffered at the hands of bland meat-and-potatoes Midwestern gravy over everything. Perhaps you associate sauerkraut with that cold vinegar stench at the Costco hot-dog stand. Perhaps you haven't tasted true sausage that spreads a holy feeling through the veins and arouses emotions akin to love and ecstasy. Deciding it was time to leave the pain and rumors behind me, I went to European Kitchen and ordered the Zigeunerschnitzel, "Gypsy-style" ($8.95), with fiery pepper gravy over spaetzle and a side of sweet-and-sour red cabbage. A rosy-cheeked lady brought me a basket of still-warm crusty rye bread (baked daily) and a Greek-inspired salad dressed with tzatziki. Schnitzel is all about pounding veal or pork or chicken into tender submission, then lightly breading and frying it. European Kitchen's schnitzel wasn't the most tender pork, but it was delicious and not at all greasy, and how can one go wrong with spaetzle? In all, my lunch brought me such peace and happiness that I returned the next day.

I fully intended, since I had ordered so decidedly from the German section of the menu, to try some of the Italian dishes. But I fell prey to the spinach and bacon Pfannkuchen ($6.95), which are like French crepes, but more eggy,with plentiful thick-sliced smoked bacon. On a third visit, I tried to order Hungarian goulash ($3.50) but found the words, "Warm, fresh-made Apfelstrudel with homemade vanilla sauce [$3.95], please," tumbling from my mouth. Now, I'm sure the pizzas ($1.69/slice) and pastas ($4.25 lunch) are fresh and serviceable, but why would I order them when I can eat dumplings, or desserts such as kaiserschmarrn ($5.25--fluffy egg batter pan-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar and fruit)? German food lacks the flair of hipper fare, but has the basics of good, bready things down. And no one could be more exacting and attentive in the production of such goods as the European Kitchen's Ilse. So much so, that she wouldn't let me take her kaiserschmarrn to go. "You'll have to come back and try it, hot and fresh. You must eat it immediately."

European Kitchen
131 15th Ave E, 329-8118. Mon-Wed 11 am-4 pm; Thurs-Fri 11 am-10 pm; Sat 5-10 pm. Closed Sun.