At Mainzer's German Deli in Pinecrest, the regulars begin flooding in at noon for liverwurst and egg salad sandwiches on dense rye bread. No one leaves without a scoop of the pale-yellow potato salad, dressed in vinegar and flecked with bits of carrot and parsley.
Cheryl Mainzer and her gruff, mustached husband opened the sliver of a place in 1972 in a South Dade strip mall so Germans could find their native products and flavors. The shelves are lined with curry ketchup, cake mixes, and chocolates. Two cases offer a panoply of sausages and smoked or otherwise preserved salmon and herring.
"The holidays are when we get really busy. People love to come in for marzipan and gingerbread," Cheryl says.
The rest of the time, they're after the sandwiches. Bratwurst ($5.95) is grilled on a hot plate and then tucked into a fluffy hoagie roll, doused in yellow mustard, and buried under a mountain of pungent sauerkraut (all of these toppings, including a large array of mustards, are for sale on the opposite side of the store). There are also sandwiches topped with thick slices of garlicky German bologna ($5.25) or salami ($5.75), made with beef, pork, and garlic.
The key is to know your order and not ask questions. Cheryl's husband, who declines to give his name, demands identification for my credit card purchase. "We're concerned about identity theft," she says.
Still, the place is warmly welcoming, with little knickknacks scattered across the shelves and cartoon maps of Germany showing off each region's specialty.
"This is like my home, my living room," she says. "We even have the old, cranky German husband."
Mainzer's is located at 12113 S. Dixie Hwy. in Pinecrest; 305-251-2060. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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