Einstein's Cousins

Riki Sushi

3930 30th Street, North Park

Can’t believe it. Here I am in North Park, yapping away with Albert Einstein’s cousin! Evelyn, who runs this eatery with her husband Jeff, casually drops it that her grandpa and Albert were first cousins. Primos! That makes her Einstein’s…(uh, momentito, please): E (Evelyn) = M (the Maestro)’s C (Cousin) squared. So she’s Einstein’s first cousin twice removed, right? Wow. If that ain’t relativity, what is?

We’re here on 30th, just a space-time hop, skip, and jump from North Park’s hub at University. The Old World Restaurant. Hmm…there’s something vaguely familiar about that name and about the antique iron forge standing against the wall, and overhead, the heavy lamp chandeliers. (Ah…yes. Jeff says they were inherited from Lubach’s, the long-lamented German eatery that used to be on Harbor Drive.) Come to think of it, there’s something vaguely familiar about Evelyn and Jeff. Have we met? Or is it just that she looks like the Great Albert?

It was the sight of a guy in an orange shirt eating an orange-curry salad at one of the outside tables that drew me in. Plus, I noticed how folks at the tables inside seemed to be having a good time. So in I go. Knickknacks are everywhere along the bright walls. Dark wavy wood-slat-covered arches hold up the dining room, and the salmon-colored floor tiles make it kinda cheery, kinda old-school. It’s one of those places where all the tables have cream linen tablecloths under glass. And a flower in a vase set on top.

I go to the counter, pick up a menu, and plop down next to that forge. Lots of hot sandwiches, such as “home-made corned beef piled hot and high” on rye ($6.75) or, under “Sensory Distractions,” the “Slapshot” — pastrami, ham, cheese, and bacon on rye, with salad ($7.95). There are plenty more “sensory distractions,” including “North Park Theater,” stuffed with meatloaf ($6.75), or the “Lyric Opera,” seafood salad and smoked Gouda crammed into a croissant ($7.95). Half-pound hamburgers or turkey burgers go for $5.99. They have a page of salads, most around eight buckeroos, and some “very low fat creations.”

“House Specialties” include a $7.50 lasagna ($7.25 for the all-vegetable version), a $6.95 quiche, a $7.95 meatloaf platter, and, hey, a sausage platter: “an Old World favorite. Grilled bratwurst and kielbasa, our special sauerkraut, potato pancakes, spicy mustard, rye bread, $7.95.”

“I’ll have that,” I say to Evelyn. The phone rings. She picks it up. Her face goes serious. She nods at Jeff to take over serving me.

Ten minutes later, I’m plowing into this plateful of two split, grilled sausages sitting on a mound of sauerkraut, with two potato pancake patties, two slices of rye bread, and small tubs of mustard, applesauce, and sour cream. Truth to tell, I’m wondering what I should put all of that gunk on. Then I realize: the applesauce and sour cream’ll be for the potato pancakes. Jeff says the kielbasa is the more smoky-flavored red sausage, while the bratwurst is boiled and flavored with beer, red onions, and apple juice. “That was actually a Kansas City idea,” he says.

Have to say, these sausages do have great smoky, herby flavor. But the sexiest thing on the plate is the sauerkraut. It’s sweet, sour, soulful. “We buy, dress, marinate, and season it all ourselves,” Jeff says. “We do this with sweet-and-sour red cabbage, cook it down with wine, dried apricots, raisins, and apples. With sauerkraut, you have to decide your acidity. Ours is moderate. Then you have to decide, wet or dry?”

They must be getting something right. Two of their biggest sellers are the Reuben sandwich ($7.95) and this sausage platter.

Then Jeff gives me a funny look. “Haven’t you had the sausage platter before? Weren’t you a customer when we were down in East Village?”

Omygosh. That’s it. “Old World,” of course. Years back. These guys had the old brick coach-building factory near where the ballpark is now. That’s where they got the old forge from. “We were tossed out because of development plans around the ballpark. They flattened our building, the recession hit, and it’s still a vacant lot,” says Jeff. “That was 2005.”

And, yes, I remember now. I had exactly the same sausage platter down there.

We talk so much I order a $3.50 glass of chardonnay. Evelyn turns up, looking a little grave. “That was my family on the phone,” she says. “Uncle Henry Moos died yesterday. He was 90.”

Turns out Uncle Henry was the last in their family to know Albert Einstein. Wow. I get a little shiver as I leave. I came for a good meal, but how close is this to fame? Relatively speaking.

The Place: Old World Restaurant & Deli, 3930 30th Street (half block north of University), North Park 619-238-0568
Type of Food: American
Prices: hot corned-beef sandwich on rye, $6.75; “Slapshot” (pastrami, ham, cheese, bacon on rye, with salad), $7.95; “North Park Theater,” sandwich with meatloaf ($6.75); “Lyric Opera,” seafood salad, smoked Gouda in croissant, $7.95; half-pound hamburgers, turkey burgers, $5.99; lasagna, $7.50; all-vegetable lasagna, $7.25; quiche, $6.95; meatloaf platter, $7.95; sausage platter (with grilled bratwurst, kielbasa, sauerkraut, potato pancakes), $7.95; breakfasts also available till 11:00 a.m. (noon, Saturdays)
Hours: 7:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Monday–Friday; 9:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Saturday; Sunday, closed
Buses: 2, 7, 10
Nearest Bus Stop: 30th and University

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