You can take a trip around the world at the store at Morse’s Sauerkraut and Euro Deli in Waldoboro, but the real culinary tour is found in their small restaurant.

George
Stepping in front of Morse’s deli case, I was transported to Italy, where just a month ago I stood before many similar deli cases in that country, drooling over the amazing meat and cheese.

You have, of course, heard of Morse’s sauerkraut. Their first kraut was produced in this old barn in 1918, and it’s always been a very popular product. The store draws people from a wide area, offering an astonishing array of products.

I was especially taken by their offerings of samples throughout the store. You can taste test many of their products and I jumped at the chance, particularly enamored by the smoked whitefish salad (spread on crackers) and the cheese torta.  Just to be sure, I sampled each a number of times.

But we were here to eat lunch at the Kraut Haus, opened in 2002 by Jacque Sawyer and David Swetman, two years after they purchased Morse’s. The restaurant is tiny and there’s often a waiting line, especially in summer, but we lucked into a table just 10 minutes after arriving at 1:15 p.m.
My sampling continued when I noticed several kinds of pickles on our table. I liked the sour pickles the best. Very crispy. Puckeringly sour. Alas, Lin ignored my pucker.

Our server, Jen, was very helpful in explaining the menu and quick to ask the chef to put together a sampling of appetizers for us. It was quite a plateful of delightful items. As if the German food wasn’t enough to take me back, above our table was a painting of King Ludwig’s Castle in Bavaria — a place we enjoyed visiting during our honeymoon in Germany and Switzerland 34 years ago.

I was time traveling for much of the meal, thanks to those German flavors and products that enthralled me in 1978, and have been favorites ever since. Lin claims we ate sausage every day we were in Germany, and she could be right!

But I digress from the appetizers. I especially liked the Rotekraut, a classic German kraut of sweet and sour braised red cabbage with bacon, apples and red currant jelly. It is served warm. But it was the Kraut Ball that stole my heart. Boy, I could eat a lot of these.

Kraut Balls consist of Morse’s sauerkraut, minced meats, cream cheese, onions, spices and seasonings, breaded and deep fried, and covered with a really delicious onion blossom horseradish dip.

You will love the opportunity to mix and match things here. Choose your sausages. Choose your mustards. Choose your sauerkrauts. Choose your sides. Fun!

And speaking of sides, Aunt Lydia’s Beet Relish with Horseradish is awesome — but have a cold drink handy. Linda asked how it was that I claimed to love this relish, when my eyes squinted closed with every bite.

Linda

I had heard of Morse’s sauerkraut, but had no idea it was steeped in tradition and had been in business since 1918. Once you enter the restaurant, housed in the original barn where all the sauerkraut used to be made, the old photos on the walls will help you understand the history behind this interesting company.

The store’s two rooms are stuffed full of products. You will find sauces, dips, mustards, a refrigerated section (with containers of their delicious sauerkraut) and an amazing deli featuring cheese from all over the world. I had not heard of most of the kinds actually, but was pretty pleased to find queso fresco, after searching for it for two years.

There is a huge variety of Schaller & Weber top-of-the-line meat. I have never eaten such high quality corned beef as that which was in my Reuben, and ended up ordering a pound to take home with my sauerkraut. The samples of many of the products will tempt you into trying something new.

You’ll find a vast array of European specialty foods here. If you fell in love with a particular type of candy while visiting in Europe, it’s probably here. If the restaurant is busy and you are waiting for a booth, this is a great place to spend time browsing. If you are in a hurry, you can order your meal while you wait for a table.

The restaurant has only five booths inside and two tables outside. The staff is efficient and organized and they often serve more than 100 customers for lunch. That’s a lot of turnover of tables.

On the large lunch menu you will find everything from appetizers to sandwiches to entrees and desserts, all at very reasonable prices. All of the sandwiches, including the huge Reuben, are only $8. Our sausage sampler was $12.  We enjoyed refillable ice tea for $1.50. Amazing desserts can be enjoyed for $5. Generously portioned sides are $3.50.

What’s all that stuff on the table? While you wait for your lunch, dig in to crocks of sour or half sour pickles. Study up on the three mustards — whole-grain Dijon, sweet Bavarian or hot German — so you can experiment by dipping pretzels or sausages into them.

When I think of sauerkraut I think of two dishes: a Reuben and a sausage and sauerkraut plate. Well, that’s exactly what we went with. It needs to be said here that they offer three kinds of sauerkraut. Who knew kraut could have so many variations?

Morse’s fresh kraut, served cold, is unbelievably good. Their “Haus Kraut” is braised with onions, bacon, apples and seasonings and is served warm. We had this one on our Reuben. Mmmmm. Classic German Rotekraut is a sweet and sour braised red cabbage kraut. It too was outstanding. These sauerkrauts are the polar opposite of anything you’d find in a can in the grocery store. Morse’s doesn’t have the harsh sour taste of the canned type.

I knew I wanted a Reuben and was I ever glad we went with this remarkable sandwich. Marbled rye bread held a layer of tender corned beef, Morse’s “haus kraut” and onion blossom horseradish sauce.

This is a special Reuben indeed and, for me, rates as the best traditional type Reuben I’ve eaten. You can choose from turkey breast, pastrami or even tempeh instead of the corned beef. The very large sandwich comes with perfectly crunchy coleslaw (they dress it lightly just before serving so it is perfect), a pretzel and a Morse’s pickle. What a bargain. One sandwich could feed two people.

I had forgotten that I love sausage and sauerkraut until I tasted Morse’s version of this dish. Choose three for your plate from six types of sausage — a hard decision. We went with an Irish banger, a keilbasa and a new one for us — bauernwurst (this turned out to be my favorite and another item that found its way into my shopping cart).

All three come served on a large mound of fresh kraut. What a meal. We dove into it so fast that we forgot to take photographs for this column! It far surpassed my memories of the sausage dishes we had when we visited Germany many years ago. We did not need dinner that evening. But I made those Reubens the next day for lunch!

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmith
maine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.

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