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Lehrís German Specialties

The Vaterland in Noe Valley

A major plus of living in a large city is the accessibility to not only restaurants, but ethnic food shops of all kinds. Itís easy to find Italian, Mexican or Chinese here, but German is a little harder to come by. Thatís where Lehrís German Specialties on Church Street at 28th Street in Noe Valley comes in.

For those of you who might not know, like the Mission, Noe Valley was once home to a large population of German immigrants and this shop is one of the last holdouts.

Iíve walked past Lehrís many times, and always was intrigued. From the outside, it looks like it just sells German kitsch ó t-shirts, mugs, pins and other souvenirs ó but that doesnít even scratch the surface of what is available inside.

Before stepping in, I expected some sleepy little shop, but perhaps because itís the holiday season, it was buzzing with a mix of shoppers made up of locals from the neighborhood, Germans, and those who love all things German. The store, crammed full of candies, chocolates, books, magazines, breads, canned goods, and more, had a pleasant hum that was accompanied by the German music playing in the background.

This place is a time capsule in the best way possible. Things donít look like theyíve changed much in the last 30 years. High up on the paneled walls are old travel posters, including a few from Lufthansa Airlines advertising Deutschland destinations circa 1970. There are a few other items for sale that you can tell have been around for a while as they are covered in a thin layer of dust.

As Christmas is coming up, thereís all manner of items available to help you celebrate the season such as calendars ($3) and wooden candle holders for Advent ($36), holiday-themed cookie plates to festively display your baked goods ($2), bags of wooden yellow stars and red heart ornaments ($10), and of course, Christmas stollen ($9-$14), the traditional fruitcake loaf covered with icing sugar.

This store has enough chocolate to satisfy even Augustus Gloop. In one aisle, not only do they have everyoneís fun favorite, Kinder Surprise eggs ($3), but a vast selection of chocolate bars in all shapes and sizes from companies like Lindt ($4), Ritter Sport ($2) and Toblerone ($1), plus little milk chocolates shaped like frogs, elephants and crabs ($1).

Laid out in the next aisle are rows of candy, such as Panda licorice ($3), bulk sweets from Koppers, and bags of gummy starfish and huge coke bottles (both $4). Also, what sweet selection would be complete without marzipan in various shapes in sizes like a box of mini apples, oranges and lemons ($5) and viel glŁck (good luck) pigs ($4).

Thereís also a small selection of baked goods, including pretzels and Bavarian farm bread from a bakery in San Leandro ($3). A whole aisle is devoted to canned, boxed, and jarred foods like herring ($3), curry ketchup ($4), and spaetzle ($3), Rosti ($5), and knodel mixes ($2). In addition, thereís a decent selection of herbal teas.

Beyond food, the store carries a selection of personal care items, such as Gehwol skincare and glycerin soaps with yellow mimosa, red poppy and blue iris scents ($5). Thereís also a small selection of magazines, books of crossword puzzles in German ($4), and a hodgepodge of items like River City cuckoo clocks ($38), stacks of patterned napkins ($5) and greeting cards in German ($3).

With its varied and fun selection, itís no surprise that people come from all around the Bay Area to visit the store. If you are homesick for the Vaterland, want to get nostalgic about a trip to Bavaria, or just want check out a few German goods, this is the place.