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Located about midway on Heidelberg's Hauptstrasse, Cafe Extrablatt is always busy but you can always get a table.

Located about midway on Heidelberg's Hauptstrasse, Cafe Extrablatt is always busy but you can always get a table. (Nancy Montgomery / S&S)

Located about midway on Heidelberg's Hauptstrasse, Cafe Extrablatt is always busy but you can always get a table.

Located about midway on Heidelberg's Hauptstrasse, Cafe Extrablatt is always busy but you can always get a table. (Nancy Montgomery / S&S)

The "extrablatt" in Cafe Extrablatt translates to "special sheet" -- sheet as in newspaper page. The chain, with restaurants throughout Germany, was started by a Munich newspaper magnate, and Heidelberg's does have a variety of newspapers available, including the International Herald Tribune, for the solitary diner.

The "extrablatt" in Cafe Extrablatt translates to "special sheet" -- sheet as in newspaper page. The chain, with restaurants throughout Germany, was started by a Munich newspaper magnate, and Heidelberg's does have a variety of newspapers available, including the International Herald Tribune, for the solitary diner. (Nancy Montgomery / S&S)

Cafe Extrablatt is sleek and modern yet warm. It's also usually busy, hububby and loud.

Cafe Extrablatt is sleek and modern yet warm. It's also usually busy, hububby and loud. (Nancy Montgomery / S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Europe isn’t known for its chain restaurants. One of the nice things about Europe, in fact, is there are no Denny’s, no TGI Friday’s, no Applebee’s, no Cracker Barrel … I could go on. But the quality of food is often quite finite.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that my favorite place for Sunday brunch — so good, so relatively cheap — is one of many Café Extrablatts.

Apparently started by prominent Munich newspaper columnist Michael Grater — and with a name that is translated to mean something like “Café special (newspaper) sheet” — the restaurants are located throughout Germany. “This cafe epitomizes the nocturnal essence of Schwabing,” said a Web site about the Café Extrablatt in Munich.

I’ve been only to the one in Heidelberg, many times. I never order off the menu, because I always go on Sunday, for the brunch, which offers smoked salmon, croissants, brochen, smoked meats, cheeses, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, antipasto, salad capresa, chocolate pudding, chocolate candies and more — and costs 7.95 euro!

Or as a different Web site said, “This is one of the most popular cafes in Heidelberg. It serves delicious croissants and amazing cocktails. Locals and tourists throng to the place for breakfast and a drink.”

Anyway, I went on a Saturday morning recently, and was disappointed. The breakfast buffet, although only 6.45 euro, or about $9.50, was comparatively Spartan, without the salmon and antipasto. And although there had been fresh pineapple, it was long gone. I could have ordered all sorts of reasonably priced items off the menu — pasta, soup, sandwiches, wraps, pitas, salads or a hamburger — but I’d already said I was going to have the buffet before I found out it wasn’t as good as the Sunday version.

I did have two coffees. Café Extrablatt has the best regular coffee in Germany, without the usual bitterness that demands a creamer or three. Sadly, it cost 2.15 euro.

Although everyone knows Americans love a buffet, there is one perhaps very European feature to the one at Café Extrablatt. That is, when things run out, it may take quite a while for a replacement platter to show up.

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to: legacy.stripes.com/afterhours

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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