Say so long to summer. Bid the daily salad adieu. It's time to put something a bit more substantial on your plate. If meat and potatoes seem appealing, why not try a traditional middle-European meal? Each of these recently reviewed restaurants offers Old Country food, decor or spirit. All prices exclude drinks.
GORKY'S (536 East 8th St., Los Angeles, (213) 627-4060). This Russian avant-garde working people's cafe would be right at home on Melrose Avenue with its make-believe submarine yellow air vents, high-tech artist's stools, '40s mottled linoleum table tops, graphics and neon strips, Baroque music and, of course, the "home-cooked" food, which ranges from borscht to blintzes and from sour cream and caviar omelets to piroshki . Frequented by theatergoers, gallery hoppers, and shoppers as well as locals, Gorky's has made this industrial section of downtown a little more accessible. Open daily 24 hours. Street parking, no credit cards. Dinner for two, $12-$15.
LITTLE PRAGUE (5626 Hollywood Blvd., (213) 462-4466). A modest, dark little place located at the nether end of Hollywood Boulevard houses eight tables surrounded by rec room walls crammed with prints, maps and anti-Communist posters. Oom-pah-pah music blares on the sound system. The clientele is varied, including both Czech regulars and yuppies. Culinarily, the place is a Czech version of the Pantry--plain, honest, down-to-earth. Its proprietress, Majka Drvota, is also the cook and spends her days preparing soup, stew, dumplings, bread, schnitzel, roast pork and her specialty, Szehedin gulash (seasoned pork cubes stewed with paprika and sauerkraut in sour cream). Cash only. Wine and beer. Dinner, Thur.-Mon. Dinner for two, $20-$30.
MOSEL CELLAR (1510 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 452-3967). Mosel Cellar (pronounced keller ) has Alpine charm: window boxes are filled with colorful flowers, wine bottles line the wall moldings, and crisp, pulled-back curtains play with light entering the window. It is neat, clean and extremely orderly, and the food is good too--especially the duck and potato pancakes, which have to be ordered separately. Dinners come with soup, a vinegary lettuce-tomato salad, hot rolls and butter. There are several German specialties, including badischer sauerbraten , rind rollade (beef roll), Wiener schnitzel and Kassler rippchen (smoked pork loin) and a bevy of desserts. Dinner, Tue.-Sun. Reservations suggested on weekends. MC, V accepted. Parking on premises. Beer and wine. Dinner for two, $20.
RITZA RESTAURANT (5468 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 934-2215). If you come here on a weekday, you may be the only diners sitting in a large blue room with silver streamers hanging from the chandeliers. But on the weekend it's a different story in this Georgian-Russian restaurant, due in part to a Russian band that entertains. On any day, there's appetizers such as olivier (a Russian chicken salad) and hummus (sesame paste dip). Typical (and superb) Russian dishes include borscht (a hot beet and cabbage soup dolloped with sour cream), which is served with every dinner as is a salad, and rice or fried potatoes. Among the Georgian specialties there is solianka (flank steak) and chanahi , a lamb and vegetable stew. Lunch and dinner daily. All major credit cards. Reservations necessary on weekends. Parking in rear. Dinner for two, $10.50-$20.
TEA ROOM ST. PETERSBURG (Beverly Center, Beverly and La Cienega boulevards, Los Angeles, (213) 657-8830). An ersatz, kitsch version of Czarist Russian splendor, this restaurant has a giant hall festooned with "crystal" chandeliers, walls of deep crimson and a bank of windows offering a sparkling view of the Hollywood Hills. This is a place of celebration for the city's Russian and Persian immigrant Jewish population. Here large parties gorge on largely forgettable banquet food--boiled potatoes, herring and pirogi, and bowls of steaming borscht. On the weekends there's a floor show so energetic you forget all about the food. Lunch and dinner daily; shows, Thur.-Sun. All major credit cards. Full bar. Garage parking. Cover charge for shows: $6. Dinner for two: $50-$70.
OLD WORLD GERMAN RESTAURANT (7561 Center Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 895-8020). Smack in the middle of a small, scrubbed German village (complete with church, Rathau s and gift shops) is this capacious place, its five dining rooms filled with suits of armor and other colorful gear. No surprises here: the menu offers up all the usual weighty dishes. Sauerbraten, Kassler rippchen, bratwurst, Wiener schnitzel and so forth are all served with little squiggles of spaetzle . The goulash is particularly good, as are the thin, light and perfectly browned potato pancakes. Want something sweet? Have the blueberry crepe or the apple strudel for dessert. Lunch and dinner daily. Beer and wine. MC and Visa. Dinner for two, $10-$30