The year was 1980. Ronald Reagan took office as president. The Rubik’s Cube made its debut. And a quirky, German deli and restaurant called Mr. Dunderbak’s opened in the Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville, Fla.
Franchise owners Mary and Lew Zarka, along with their kinder (Andy, Margaret, Tony and Carrie), created a little slice of Deutschland—just outside the JCPenney—with German newspapers and magazines, a barrel of pick-your-own dill pickles, giant Bavarian pretzels, imported beers and German wines. The menu was German-inspired with sausages, sauerkraut and German potato salad but also included Reubens, chicken salad, apple strudel and their World Famous Beer Cheese Soup.
Mary and Lew, both former high school teachers, worked tirelessly to make Mr. Dunderbak’s a one-of-a-kind restaurant, for their guests, as well as their staff. With no prior experience in the business, they traveled to food shows and became students themselves learning about restaurant management, marketing, human resources, food handling and customer service.
In the 1990s, the Zarkas ended their Mr. Dunderbak’s franchise and re-opened the restaurant as European Street Restaurant and Gourmet. Since then, European Street Cafe, as it is now known, encompasses four restaurants throughout Jacksonville: Riverside opened in August 1992, San Marco in August 1996, Beach Blvd. near University in March 1999 and Jacksonville Beach in 2005. The restaurant in the mall closed in March 1999.
Today, European Street Cafe (or “E. Street,” as it's known by the the locals) remains one of the most popular and beloved restaurants in Northeast Florida.
Many things have changed at European Street Cafe over the decades. The menu has expanded to include more than 100+ items—sandwiches, soup, salads and appetizers—with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Mr. Dunderbak’s favorites like the Blue Max, Red Baron and Classic Reuben remain, but sandwich offerings have gone international with the Turkey Parisian, White Russian, Italian Turkey Hero, Middle Eastern Wrap and others. Click here to view our menu.
Other upgrades include the addition of a Brewmeister Club where guests earn one beer every day for a year by “drinking around the world”; one of the most extensive beer selections in Jacksonville with 20 rotating beer taps 200+ bottled beers (selection varies by location); to-die-for desserts; online ordering; and special events like Derby Day, Oktoberfest and weekly trivia.
The most important thing that remains is E. Street’s commitment to providing the best service to its guests. Not only is it a place where everybody knows your name, but it's one where they know your drink (and your sandwich, if you’re a regular).
But you don’t have to take the owners' word for it. Readers of local publications including Jacksonville Magazine and Folio Weekly have continually voted E. Street as having the Best Deli Sandwich, Best Beer Selection, Best Happy Hour and Best Server.