Folks who have never had somebody's grandma's homemade sauerkraut will not understand the urge to get in the car and drive--drive quickly--to where that slightly tangy cabbage simmers, sweetened from slow cooking and deckled with caraway seeds.

Marie Makovicka's friends and family understand this urge, and now we all can too. For those who are homesick for Czech food, Makovicka opened the Little Prague European Bakery & Deli one year ago, in West Seattle. Tucked under an awning that reads "Stuffed Shirt Catering Co." illustrated by a headless tuxedo, Little Prague shares a storefront with a Hawaiian takeout counter.

A few strudels and other pastries are displayed on pretty china under glass, accented with carefully arranged embroidered napkins. This worried me initially, since I was not only hungry, but feeling an urgent nostalgia brought on by the scent of Czech things cooking behind a set of swinging saloon doors. Now, there is nothing like poppyseed strudel ($2)--a refreshingly not-overly-sweet flaky crust filled with dense poppyseed paste, flecked with raisins and a hint of cinnamon and sometimes cardamom. Makovicka's baked goods are a far cry from the maudlin Danishes sweating under plastic wrap at QFC. But I needed something involving pork and, of course, sauerkraut. Never one to dilly-dally about lunch, I boldly asked what was cooking. "Well, I have chicken soup," Makovicka responded, and, noticing my visible hunger, added, "Oh, and roast pork." I smiled. "And dumplings." I nodded affirmatively. "And sauerkraut." I gasped.

She ducked back into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a large, steaming plate of succulent Moravian roast pork, rich chunks served over dreamy, light, moist wheat-flour dumplings, and the aforementioned sauerkraut ($7.75). Within the first few bites, I was back in my childhood friend's Czech grandma's tiny, hot kitchen, suffering encouraging pinches on the bottom as I steadily consumed plum dumplings.

I left with a hefty takeout container of dinner: tender chicken schnitzel and approximately two pounds of Czech-style potato salad, nice and eggy with a touch of smokiness from little slivers of smoked pork, and heaps of homemade pickles ($7.75)--a dish that Makovicka had either just prepared or just remembered she had. With advance notice, one can special-order Czech favorites like svickova (pronounced "sweechkova"--slow-cooked beef, served with a sour cream gravy) and potato dumplings ($8.50), not to mention plum dumplings (made with cream-cheese dough), available seasonally.

Little Prague European Bakery & Deli

6045 California Ave SW (West Seattle), 935-7237. Mon-Fri 8 am-6 pm; Sat 9 am-5 pm; Sun 10 am-3 pm.

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