If it wasn't for the oppression of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Salt Lake City probably wouldn't be home to Siegfried's Deli. When Siegfried Meier fled East Germany, he brought to Salt Lake City a love for his homeland's specialty - sausage.

Despite his new-found freedom, Meier soon realized that his new country had some culinary shortfalls. After leaving the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant where he worked when he first came to Utah, he grabbed a hamburger. After taking one bite, he threw it in the air and never went back.Shortly after, Siegfried's Deli opened. For almost 21 years, it has been offering the local German community and devotees of sausages and other German specialty foods a bounty of delights.

During a recent lunch visit we had a chance to sample some of Siegfried's sausages - bratwurst, weisswurst and wieners. Served as hot entrees, they cost a reasonable $3.50 and come with two choices of either hot or cold salads. We also enjoyed the special dinner ($4.75), which includes a grilled bratwurst, a tender pork cutlet seasoned with an herb marinade, hot potato salad and hard roll.

Each of the sausages was delicious. The weisswurst, a smoothly textured veal sausage seasoned with parsley, was especially good. Except for the wieners, which are steamed, the other sausages and meats are grilled and served piping hot.

We were a bit frustrated by the cafeteria-style lunch counter. While it gives patrons a chance to see the different choices, our hot salads, such as the sauerkraut, red cabbage and hot potato salad, lost some of their desired heat as they cooled off on the plate while the sausages were being heated.

Nonetheless, the food is fresh and flavorful. The creamy potato salad is accented with bits of ham and tender slices of onions. Spaetzles with gravy are also served, as are cole slaw, macaroni, mixed greens, cucumber and tomato and a cold potato salad.

Other dinner entrees include knackwurst, porksteak, leberkaese (German-style pork meatloaf), wienerschnitzel and gulash, priced between $3.75 and $4.50. A Reuben sandwich, grilled layers of pastrami, melted cheese and saurkraut, is a reasonable $2.95.

Ham, pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, turkey, salami, jagdwurst, liverwurst and bologna sandwiches are also served for around $2.75 each.

In addition to a bountiful selection of homemade smoked meats and sausages for takeout, Siegfried's fulfills another need in the Salt Lake area. With the retirement of Fritz the Rye King last year, Salt Lakers have had to look just a bit harder for German rye bread. During the past few years, Meier has opened his own bakery, producing large loaves of wonderful German rye bread.

Siegfried's Deli also treats the sweet tooth with a wide variety of pastries - just about everything from marzipan cakes to apple and cherry streusel as well as Napoleans, Vienna slices and German chocolate cakes.

There is great cause to celebrate the reunification of Germany, but I still have to pause to think about how other countries' troubles have added to our rich culinary traditions.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Siegfried's Deli, 69 W. 300 South, 355-3891. Open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.; until 5 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday. No credit cards; check accepted with guarantee card. Catering available.