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European edition, Thursday, May 10, 2007

SEEHEIM-JUGENHEIM, Germany — Remember when Coke cost a nickel, baseball stars raked in extra cash shilling for cigarette companies?

I don’t.

So I learned a lot at Villa Journal, a restaurant whose surfaces are mostly plastered in newspaper and magazine clippings and ads from the early half of last century.

The Journal’s decor has the relaxed vibe of a neighborhood pub mixed with a more refined T.G.I. Friday’s aesthetic. Thankfully, though, the wait staff has refrained from running around singing knock-off versions of the happy birthday song or acting overly cheerful.

Its lengthy menu includes pizza, pasta, soups and salads, as well as a number of German specialties, but I couldn’t find anything with the name schnitzel. My pork medallions, while smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce, were missing the bread-crumb jacket I’ve come to associate with the pork-mushroom duo, and for this I was grateful.

With hunger off my mind I was free to further scrutinize the interior decorations. The ceiling fan hanging over my head, I realized, wasn’t so much fan as it was ceiling-mounted atmosphere displacing apparatus. With at least a half-dozen individual fans interconnected by a chain of leather belts, it looks like something from “Back to the Future” — not the one where Michael J. Fox almost kisses his mom, the one where he ends up in the Wild West.

If it works, the Journal’s wind-generation device could singlehandedly solve global warming. My waitress, Woula, says it doesn’t. The cook says it does. I abstain from asking for a demo out of fear.

Instead I turn my attention to the wraparound bar, pictures, articles, ads and assorted stuff that gives the place its style. I’m pretty sure most of it isn’t just knock-off junk fabricated in China. Not to say the stuff at Friday’s is, but I’m not going to say it isn’t (because it is).

I was so mesmerized by the wacky advertisements that the moments between when I ordered another drink and when I got it passed in a jiffy. I don’t normally say things like “jiffy,” but the perplexing 1948 cigarette ad featuring actor William Bendix smoking a Chesterfield while dressed as Babe Ruth in a Yankee uniform got me to wondering why I don’t.

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

Villa Journal, Seeheim-Jugenheim, Germany

Prices: Pastas average around 8 euros, pizzas a little less than that. The Journal has a lot of alcohol for a place that’s mostly restaurant. Beer from 2.20 euros, wine from 3.30 euros, liquor from 3.30 euros to 6.80 euro.Specialties: German food around 13 euros.English menu: noneClientele: Mostly Germans, but it has an English-speaking wait staff and an ambience similar to casual American joints.Dress: Anything from T-shirts to suitsLocation: Sandmühlstraße 15, Seeheim-Jugenheim. From the A5, take the Seeheim-Jugenheim exit (south of Darmstadt). After exiting, head toward Seeheim-Jugenheim. From there it’s a straight shot through three traffic lights for about two miles. After passing over the streetcar tracks, the restaurant will be about 100 yards on your right.Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Sunday; 2:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; Closed MondayPhone: 06257-4443

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