Because another restaurant was closed, we wound up at the Gambrinuskeller, in the heart of the old town. It was a stroke of luck.

While there is nothing fancy about this rustic grill house, it has that wonderful, friendly tavern atmosphere one finds in a good alt Austrian establishment. Dark, stained wood tables and paneled walls, green porcelain ovens, large mugs of beer, grilled meats, and friendly staff and clientèle are the hallmarks of this strangely above-ground Keller.

The menu ranges all over the former Empire with Cevapcici (minced sausage) from the Balkans, tripe soup from Hungary, and excellent Starobrno beer from Moravia.

We decided to go Slavic with a shot of plum brandy, or Slivowitz, to start the meal (my companion, who lives in Bratislava, assured me it is very good for the digestion). We passed on the tripe soup (which I actually like) and ordered a grilled Balkan platter for two that included cevapcici, raznici, pljeskavica and dzigerica (minced sausage, skewers of marinated pork, a spicy meat patty and chicken livers with bacon), all accompanied by another specialty of the house, a large plate of pickled items: mounds of navy beans, lentils, kidney beans, cabbage, beets, peppers, and cucumbers. It was all very good though the meat needed the mustard and spicy condiments served with it.

The atmosphere couldn't have been better. Our jovial waitress had a sense of humor and the eclectic crowd of old and young, from a range of social classes, thoroughly enjoyed itself.

Contact: Gambrinuskeller, Färbergasse 6-8, A-8010 Graz, tel +43/0316/81 01 81

Rating: Quality 13/20, Value 13/20