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Clark: Bratwurst worth trip through torn-up Third Avenue

Werner Gaubinger, the owner of Alpine Deli, is surrounded by the roadwork outside his Third Avenue business. (Doug Clark)
Werner Gaubinger, the owner of Alpine Deli, is surrounded by the roadwork outside his Third Avenue business. (Doug Clark)

Scores of businesses are being affected by all the digging and scooping that has turned much of Third Avenue into a street maintenance war zone.

Today, however, we will focus on the Alpine Delicatessen, 417 E. Third Ave., for the following reasons …

1. Werner Gaubinger, who owns the Alpine Deli, was the only Third Avenue business proprietor who called me about this asphalt upheaval.

2. Gaubinger added that he owns an ’87 Jaguar like mine.

3. The 74-year-old Spokane restaurateur said he was making a new batch of his homemade bratwurst and I could order some of it when I dropped in to see him on Wednesday.

OK. Scratch 1 & 2.

To misquote Renee Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” Werner “had me at bratwurst.”

It’s no secret. I have a thing for sausage, especially those that come with a Teutonic pedigree.

One of my fondest culinary experiences took place a few years back in a tavern in Cologne, Germany.

To my joy, the waitress told me that the house bratwurst could be ordered “by the meter.”

“Here you have to order it by the foot,” quipped Gaubinger.

No problem. The Alpine’s bratwurst is a mild, lean and amazingly tasty sausage.

My gastronomic travels throughout this city have been extensive. Yet somehow I have missed the Alpine’s delicious fare.

Which is the point, really.

Businesses have a tough-enough time drawing customers during normal operating conditions, let alone when the streets are all chewed up.

At one point during the street construction, Gaubinger said, the rock pile outside his green and yellow deli grew so high that it reminded him of the Alps back home in Austria.

Minus the lederhosen, of course.

But I’m not here to kick about the roadwork.

Heavens, no. Spokane streets are so wretched that any improvement at all must be celebrated like Catholics welcoming a new pope.

My mission is to remind consumers to patronize those businesses that are stuck having to endure these marathon makeovers.

Driving through a construction project is daunting enough. Shopping is often the last thing on a motorist’s mind.

“You have to play along,” offered Gaubinger. “At times I’ve lost it a little bit. But then I laugh that I lost it.”

For the record, this work on Third Avenue (from Division to Arthur streets) began in April and will continue into August, which, not always, but sometimes is construction code for December two years hence.

The budget is about $2 million, not counting the usual graft, bribes and skimming.

Much like with Lindsay Lohan, rehabilitation is the goal for Third Avenue.

Although with a much higher likelihood of success.

During our conversation, Gaubinger told me that it was love that brought him to America.

He was running a bed and breakfast in Salzburg, Austria. That’s where he met his wife-to-be, Carole, a college music student from Ohio.

The Gaubingers have called Spokane home for 37 years and the Alpine has been at this Third Avenue location for 25 of those years.

I tried a brat on a bun that was slathered with Gaubinger’s homemade mustard. The requisite sauerkraut was on the plate along with sizable scoop of his fine German potato salad.

The breakfast of champions.

Or lunch. Or …

Gaubinger is an amiable man, slim and fit. He has the wonderful, soothing accent that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a kazillion bucks.

The Alpine Deli is as much a store, selling a wide variety of imported cheeses, beers, candies, cookies and gifts.

“The food is good, but what’s even better is the people,” said Ron Smith, who with his wife, Helma, have been Gaubinger fans for more than 30 years.

“We feel like family.”

I felt pretty good, too. After cleaning my platter, I bought six bratwurst, a sack of buns and a couple dark German beers to go.

Never too early to start planning for dinner, that’s my motto.

Ever the good host, Gaubinger followed me outside. He cautioned me to be extra careful as I made my way through the Third Avenue Alps.

That was nice. But I don’t know if Gaubinger was as much worried about my health as he was about losing a customer with such epic bratwurst love.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or

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