George’s Sausage & Delicatessen on First Hill is a magical little spot with an Eastern European feel. The 35-year-old deli serves an assortment of goodies, from Polish sausages made in-house to Armenian wine.
THE TINY SEATTLE treasure known as George’s Sausage & Delicatessen has been in the same spot on First Hill for 35 years, just up Madison from Vito’s, just down from the Sorrento.
Owner Janet Lidzbarski is there every day but Sunday — George’s is closed on Sundays — taking orders, making sandwiches, wrapping up sausages. She wears a lab-like coat; her businesslike demeanor melts instantly if you happen to have the kind of shopping bag that people used to carry back home, in Poland. To talk to her about her work is to be enveloped in the kind of warmth that isn’t turned off and on, but rather is always waiting.
George’s is stuffed full of Polish and other Eastern European groceries, a riotous assortment of jars and packages that goes floor to ceiling: pickles, pickled peppers, a dozen kinds of horseradish, nine kinds of mustard, tinned fish galore, cans of beef goulash with a solemn-looking cow on the label, jams, jellies, cookies, candies, Armenian wine, Polish beer. Lidzbarski’s favorite thing from that side of the counter might be the Jedyna dark chocolate. “It’s so good,” she says. “The wrapping is so classy — it’s red and white only.” It’s from Wedel, a candy company founded in Warsaw in 1851.
George’s Sausage & Delicatessen
907 Madison St., Seattle, 206-622-1491
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
The meat case is usually stuffed full, too: platters of alarmingly large sausages made in-house every day, meats smoked over alder chips in the kitchen. “The smoking,” Lidzbarski says, “that’s the difference.” Also: no nitrites or MSG, “Only spices.” The sausages, both fresh and smoked, are especially popular at the holidays. “We trim all the fat out,” she notes, “so they’re very nice and lean.”
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The English on the chalkboard menu and a little “I’M IN!” Seahawks flag are the only giveaways that you’ll step back out into Seattle.
At lunchtime, the line fills the place — hospital workers in their scrubs, a guy leaning on the counter speaking Polish. Sandwiches here cost $5.45 (you read that right), and they’re not small; “everything” includes roasted red peppers, horseradish, cucumbers and pickles, and more. The smoked pork loin is rich but not too salty or smoky — what every ham always wanted to be. People also love the Reuben, the hot pastrami, the sausage with sauerkraut, the Canadian bacon and the liverwurst, Lidzbarski says. (That pretty much leaves turkey and tuna as non-favorites, and why would you order those at George’s?)
Lidzbarski’s soups are much-loved, but people might be even more enamored of her potato salad. To hear her tell it, there’s nothing to it: potatoes, eggs, “celeries,” green onion, a little dill and mayo. No salt or pepper? “Salt, I put when I boil potatoes; pepper a little bit. There’s no other secret spices in it.” It’s super-creamy without any gloppiness; the celery’s crunchy, the green onion adds spark. “I could order potato salad in lunch buckets,” Lidzbarski says. But: “The expiration date is 60 days.” What?! “Yes, sixty. Six-zero!”
She tried it, she says: “My mouth got numb.”
Lidzbarski is from Sopot, in the north of Poland near Gdańsk, on the Baltic Sea. She immigrated 50 years ago, when she was 17, with her family; they lived in Brooklyn. She moved here with her husband when he got a job as a machinist at Boeing — the George of George’s, he passed away five years ago. Lidzbarski intends to keep George’s going, at least, she says, “another 10 years. And then I have to give up.”
Meanwhile, we’re lucky.