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Guest Blogger

Liane Faulder, The Edmonton Journal

Liane Faulder is The Journal's food columnist and appears in the Food section of the print edition on Wednesdays. Online, she blogs and tweets (@eatmywords) throughout the day. In 2010, Liane’s blog, Eat My Words, was named Best Regional Blog in Canada by the Canadian Food Bloggers Association.

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Real Deal Deli: K & K Foodliner long a community hub on Whyte Avenue

Tuesday March 04 , 2014

EDMONTON - Hunched in a chair squeezed into a corner of his cramped office, deli owner Bernie Krause scans the room (actually a closet) and reflects on his father’s words.

“Dad always said you don’t make money on your office,” he notes with a chuckle.

That’s just one piece of business advice that the late Albert, the founder of K & K Foodliner, passed on to his son, who now runs the German deli with his brother, Rudy and other members of the Krause family. Another key legacy is the recipes for the more than 50 different kinds of sausage and other smoked meat products found in the shop, located at 9942 Whyte Ave. since 1962.

“We make everything the same way that dad did, back in the old days,” says Krause, 47, who began working in the business at the age of 10, packing buns and hauling sausage for $10 a day.

Certainly, the business, which began its life in Calder in 1956, has moved into the modern age. Albert’s grandson, Kevin, has brought in more foods with less fat, and created a digital presence for the business. (Products will soon be available to order online, with home delivery by courier.) But the sentiment that has always rooted the store remains fixed. K & K is a community hub, and customers feel at home here.

An elderly gentleman pops his head around the corner of the closet, which is open to the store, and asks Bernie a question in German. Some of the customers refuse to speak English in the store and on the phone, enjoying the opportunity to converse in their native tongue. Bernie is happy to comply.

“A lot of my customers, I’ve known 30 years. They are more than customers, they are friends. It’s a family-type relationship and that separates us from many places,” he says.

It’s not just older folk who appreciate the comforting touches — an old-fashioned single checkout at the front of the store, the rack of Burda fashion magazines, and herring, herring, herring. Bernie’s children, now 18 and 21, went to German bilingual school in Edmonton, and their friends and family come to the store, too.

Sentiment, however, doesn’t fill the cash register. After they have a nice chat, customers want what they want. There are 100 different varieties of meat products from European wieners to cold-smoked, salt-cured bacon to head cheese. Bernie says customers enjoy the personal service; they can get their chops cut to order, because everyone knows a thick chop is just plain juicier. K & K makes a classic meat salad (“fleischsalad”) that’s popular with clients, as is the potato salad.

“People drive from the north side to get our extra-lean ground beef,” boasts Kevin, who, impossibly, joins us in the office, though he can only stand in the doorway.

Rouladen, a flattened piece of inside round perfect for stuffing, is another popular choice, with 1,000 pieces a week (closer to 3,000 at Christmas) being wrapped in brown paper and tucked in shopping bags.

Indeed, the store’s meat counter is what makes my mouth water. Packages of Maui ribs, made on-site, are lined up next to whole smoked chickens. The smoked pork chops are perfect for barbecue season, as they need only be heated on the grill to round out a summer meal. Dozens of different brands and styles of mustard march along a shelf above the meat.

The shelves of the 3,800 square-foot store have many products from other European nations, such as Poland, Austria, Holland and Denmark. There are more than 50 kinds of imported cheeses in the deli case, including the stinky likes of Tilsit. Fresh bread (including a marbled rye) and buns come daily from Vienna Bakery and Artistic Bakery.

One of the most sought-after items is the bratwurst, which is all-natural with no binders, fillers, gluten, MSG, nitrites or nitrates. The store is also known for its wild game processing capabilities, yearly turning some 140,000 kilograms of wild game into sausage and jerky for hunting customers.

The shop has an unexpectedly large selection of tea, and halvah imported from Israel. Don’t get me started on the sizable selection of sauerkraut, the plethora of pickles.

And the coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

“Germans love their coffee and kuchen in the afternoon,” says Bernie.

Photography credit: John Lucas, Edmonton Journal