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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY : Roast Beef on Rye Isn't Wurst Choice at German Deli

February 25, 1993|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN

Anyone for a blood tongue sandwich? Are you sure?

OK, then, how about a roast beef sandwich--a quarter-foot high on German light rye bread, with mustard and mayo, and onions on request? For $2.75?

If you're a Globe Delicatessen customer of non-German descent, you probably chose the latter. In fact, your customer profile probably goes something like this:

You've been coming to the Globe for nearly a dozen years now, which isn't that long, considering that many customers have been coming since it first opened in Costa Mesa about 25 years ago. Expanding on your regular repertoire of roast beef and roast beef, the last few years you've also managed to work in turkey sandwiches, and occasionally even the delicate, very flavorful Black Forest ham--the most expensive sandwich on the menu at a whopping $2.95.

Meanwhile, you've continued to suspiciously eye all those strange items behind the glass counter: calf tongue, blood sausage, head cheese, hams with peculiar names like Lachs or Westphalian, cylindrical concoctions probably called "wurst" for a reason . . .

The German customers, meanwhile, come in looking not only for ethnic foods, but also for German newspapers, magazines, and a touch of home. They find all that and more.

One aisle offers a dozen mustards of strengths from sweet to "extra forte"; fruit syrups, and fruits in syrup such as gooseberry and mirabelle (yellow plum); preserves including quince, lingonberry and Swiss fruit of the rose; Bavarian potato dumpling mixes and mixes for the home-style egg noodle known as spaetzle. Opposite marzipan and hazelnut confections are shelves devoted to pastry mixes and chocolates.

In the refrigerated section are two-dozen German beers far removed from the mainstream of the American beer-drinking experience: Taenzelfest, a "deluxe Fest beer" that presumably out-fests Oktoberfest; Dunkler Doppelbock, said to be made from ancient recipes; dark beers made from wheat. Herring filets are packed in a variety of sauces.

Along the back wall are old world cures including several types of bitters to aid digestion; along the front wall are two small tables readily shared by strangers. Landjaeger, the smoked beef sausage that is the German equivalent of beef jerky--"for the knapsack," Rosy King explained--hangs behind the counter; King is co-owner of the small storefront operation with Friedel Adams.

Despite all the fascinating foods, you can't blame the non-German Americans for not being able to resist the roast beef any more than they can Adams' beaming smile.

"We make our own roast beef, we roast it ourselves," King said. "It has a distinctly different flavor from what you find in your common deli where they buy in huge bulk and prepackaged."

What meats they don't prepare themselves are supplied by local German butchers who have immigrated to the United States. Six full ounces of whatever meat you choose goes on every sandwich.

King and Adams are the third set of owners--Adams worked at the delicatessen five years before becoming a partner--yet it's astonishing how little the store has changed over the years. As one 17-year customer recently quipped: "You close your eyes, you take a bite of a sandwich--three kids and two wives later, it still tastes like May of 1976."

Globe Delicatessen, 1928 N. Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa. (714) 642-3784. Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday till 5 p.m. Closed Sunday.

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