Marlene Dietrich walked into Cafe Linz wearing a silver fox stole and a wide-brimmed hat drawn over one eye. She slipped into a banquette against the wall facing the cuckoo clock. A puff of smoke oozed from red lips.
Humphrey Bogart, with sad eyes and an enigmatic grin on his face, tipped his hat at Dietrich as if to give her a sign and sat near the carved table, his face partially hidden by the vase filled with paper flowers. He snapped open a newspaper and ordered schnapps.
"We dzon'ts haf ze liquor license yet, tzir," said the waitress.
Bogart sighed. "All right, then. Make it apple cider."
Peter Lorre, sitting at the next table, froze. Apple cider? That was the code. He ground out his cigarette, rose and rushed past the bakery counter toward the door. Suddenly, Sidney Greenstreet appeared. He stood there, a voluminous bulk illuminated against the darkened doorway. Peter Lorre cowered. Dietrich's eyes widened into saucers. Bogart's hand reached into his inside pocket. Then the cuckoo clock cuckooed. The zither music began.
Well, none of this really happened, but Cafe Linz, between Fairfax and La Brea avenues on Sunset Boulevard, lends itself to such fantasy. In fact, Hollywood could not have created a better set for an old Viennese cafe of the '40s. Cuckoo clocks that cuckoo at the half hour, crystal chandeliers, faded Art Deco, stuffed birds, paper flowers, mounted antlers and deer heads, floral wallpaper, zither music on the sound track, draped fabric everywhere, a bakery out front, and a waitress who speaks German. And, we think, a chef who cooks German, too.
Homey and Hearty
The cooking is, in my jaded opinion, not especially superb, but it seems to be the kind of cooking you would expect to find at a place like Cafe Linz. Homey and hearty in a compulsive sort of way. It's without pretentions, yet with flourishes (onion flowers and grape blossoms) that are as overly done as the decor and the cooking.
I liked Cafe Linz, and if schnapps, beer and wine were available I would like it even better. Who ever heard of apple cider as a code word?
Back to the food.
The menu contains a modest repertory of German dishes, including Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets), sauerbraten, smoked pork cutlets, beef roll and several wursts, all of which are served with soup or cucumber-sour cream salad, hot German potato salad, sauerkraut or red cabbage.
I tried the Hungarian goulash (a slight cultural deviation) served with spaetzle (tiny dumplings) . It was a rich, rib-sticking, dark and saucy Hungarian goulash. I am not a spaetzle expert, but I would think that some butter would make it better. The cucumber salad was fresh and nicely presented. My feeling about the lentil and green pea soups offered was that the stock base needs strengthening. We tried a vegetable strudel encrusted with toasted sesame seeds filled with spinach, cheeses and vegetables and served with a mushroom duxelles sauce. A good, robust, "here-I-am" vegetarian dish.
The lunch menu is far more simple--things like sandwiches and salads, which lack the charm of the dinner menu. But one can order things from the dinner menu, as well. I ordered frikadeller (beef patties) . And a soup with a long, curved veal frankfurter on top, was especially appealing. So was the price tag. The baking for the bakery is done by owners Wolfgang Goeppert and Douglas Dye, and it's fair. Good German rye, nice tortes. A sugarless strudel is a specialty. Did I tell you that Dietrich was digging her fork into the raspberry torte when I left?
Cafe Linz, 7518 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 876-3703. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, until 11 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Diner's Club and American Express cards accepted. Reservations for five persons or more accepted. Average lunch $5; dinner $11.