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Checkpoint Charlie
50 Rachel E. Saint-Laurent métro. Bus 55

Mon - Sun 5:30 AM to 11:00 PM. Credit cards: All major. Tel. 842-0191.
Shhh, Horst! The searchlights . . .

Step into the bathroom at Checkpoint Charlie and you feel like immediately making sure the door is secure while you fumble sweatily (despite the cold) for the canister of microfilm.

You needn’t worry, because it’s only Guillaume waiting for you at the top of the stairs, and he swears he’s not German, or even Russian. But he’ll shoot you just as dead if you don’t try the Assiette de Grillades Variées (mixed sampling of Heidleberg brochette, Kreuzberg filet, Schnitzel and house sausage served with Checkpoint Charlie’s potatoes and sauerkraut - $17.95) which is not a bad thing, as the alternative is going over to the Russians.

This place is pretty cool. Just off St. Laurent in a very non-descript storefront, its interior immediately makes you feel at home; funky tables and a weird mishmash of furnishings such as gilt Buddhas and peace signs give a vaguely European Sixties impression, as if Astrid Kirchner and Stu Sutcliffe might bound in at any time and order a pint of Rostocker (while avoiding the immigration authorities, of course.) Jazz pipes happily throughout.

Apparently one of the three owners is into antique woodworking, which explains the extremely ornate fireplace that dominates the room, but it’s difficult to tell what muses inspired the rest: an intriguing curtain (iron?) at the top of the stairs, vaguely WWII-looking black-and-white framed photos and lounge-lizard halogen lamp-ramps.

Guillaume is extremely helpful, dismissing the contention that “we can’t possibly eat more than this ‘Assiette de Grillades!’” with a “Pah!” and suggesting that one of us go for the Wienerschnitzel (well, we did ask for the whole deal) and furthermore recommending a House Meatball as an appetizer.

Friends (and fellow calorie refugees,) I suppose it’s fair to warn you that vegetarians will not have a great time here, unless they’re heavily into sauerkraut. Still, I must say that, expecting extremely heavy fare, we were delightfully relieved that it was both palatable and amazingly light-tasting. This may have been an illusion; however, you’ll have to get the Minox photos from Guillaume for the unvarnished truth of the matter.

The meatballs were savory and peppily spiced, with a very good homemade sweethot mustard and a homemade dijon. These guys may not be Stasi, but they sure can wring a confession out of you—this is good mustard. And the potatoes are to die for—crispily fried in duck fat and tossed with herbs and spices. These alone are worth a trip across the wire.

It seems that CPC (as they call themselves) have had a change of heart in recent times, and have adopted some French dishes to go along with the German. Understandable: no man can live on Bratkartoffeln alone. Thus, we have collaborations such as Escargots, Magret de Canard and Veal Cordon Bleu. While this may or may not be a wise move, consideration should perhaps be made to adopting a new monicker to suit. Maginot Line, perhaps?

Dessert was an extremely sinful crepe-ice cream-blueberry-whipped cream medley, the punishment for the eating of which should at least be 10 cold showers and 500 jumping jacks. Complimentary tumblers of apple schnapps wound down a great evening, and Guillaume wrung our hands lustily at the end of it. Maybe I’ll report him to the proper authorities.
Reviewed by Nicholas Robinson

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