As you may remember me mentioning in my Spanakopita post, I spent last week in Berlin. Austria (and Germany) have a Winter Semester/Summer Semester school year that runs from October to June or July rather than August/September to May/June, and the Semesterferien (semester break) is always in February. I took off with some fellow TAs to visit my old stomping grounds in Berlin, and to play tour guide to my friends who had never been.
Now, I know there are probably a million guides to eating in Berlin. I won’t say that this guide is perfect, that it will work for everyone, or that it for sure lists the best places to eat. But it’s my guide to eating in Berlin, and hopefully you, dear Reader, will enjoy it for that reason. And hopefully you’ll know some of the places to go, should you end up in Berlin. In the spirit of What I Ate Wednesday, I’ll share my suggestions in two posts, today and next Wednesday. There are a lot of things to eat in Berlin.
This week I’ll kick off with savory things, which, for me, means the Imbisse, or food kiosks. I rarely ate out at restaurants in Berlin, which isn’t too strange for a college student on a budget, but I did eat lunch almost every Monday through Thursday at some sort of Imbiss near school. Imbiss food is super cheap and, in my opinion, is the true culinary culture of Berlin. Your options for Imbiss food generally fall into three categories: Asia-Box, döner kebab, and sausage. We’re going to talk about the latter two, because Asia-Box, or Noodle-Box, (a take-out container filled with Asian-style noodles) is less of a Berlin staple.
Sausages are probably what most people think of when they think of German cuisine. It’s true, the Germans are fans of their meat, especially when it is cylindrically shaped and served with potatoes in some form. On the street you can find many people selling Bratwurst inside a Brötchen, a hard bread roll. There are different kinds of Brats, the differences are ones I don’t fully comprehend. You can find these in Berlin and they are tasty, but what we really want to talk about is Currywurst. Currywurst (wurst meaning sausage) is a steamed and fried pork sausage covered in a curry-ketchup sauce. Yes, I said curry-ketchup. Yes, it’s delicious. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it, please. The story goes that in 1949 the owner of a sausage Imbiss in Berlin wanted to make her sausage unique, so she mixed together some things and…voila! It’s best eaten with french fries (Pommes) that have been liberally sprinkled in Pommesgewürz (french fry seasoning), a mix of curry powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You have to pay extra for a portion of regular ketchup or mayonnaise for dipping the fries, but I’ve never found this necessary. My favorite place to go is Curry 36 whose main location is at Mehringdamm 36. Their sauce is the best I’ve ever had, the fries are always hot, and a plate costs just €2,80. I personally feel that paying more than €3,00 for currywurst and fries is highway robbery, though there are plenty of stands that do it. Avoid currywurst stands in large train stations or sit-down restaurants, as it is likely to be less authentic and overpriced. Currywurst is so important to Berlin culture that Google honored what would have been the inventor’s 100th birthday last year with a currywurst Doodle.
Also not to miss in Berlin is the Döner kebab. It’s hard to miss, as there seems to be a döner stand on every street corner. You can get döner in any European city, but the popular döner sandwich is a German-Turkish, specifically Berlinerish, food. Döner is, technically, the meat cooked on a vertical spit, so you do have to ask for either Döner im Brot or Döner kebab(döner sandwich), Döner-Box (döner meat in a box with salad and fries), or Dürum Döner (döner wrap). Döner meat itself is usually a combination of lamb and beef, though some places offer a chicken option. You get to choose what sauce you want–each stand has its own types, but they usually consist of a Kräutersoße (herb sauce, think tzatziki), Knoblauchsoße (garlic sauce), and something spicy. The meat is then topped with a pile of fresh veggies such as lettuce, red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. You tell the person working the counter which veggies you’d like. Gemüsedöner also exist but are lesson common. These are döner kebabs with the option of roasted vegetables and fresh cheese added to the usual mix. They are usually more expensive but are super tasty. The most famous is Mustafa’s just down the street from Curry 36 at Mehringdamm 32. Cebo’s at the corner of Schloßstraße and Muthesiusstraße in Berlin-Steglitz is also good, should you happen to be in the area. A Döner im Brot will typically cost you anywhere from €2,50 to 3,50. Somehow I have NO PHOTOS of döner. I don’t know how this happened, really, I don’t, other than the fact that I forgot to bring my camera the last time I ate döner.
Most döner stands have more to offer than just döner. Many places sell falafel, french fries, halloumi, or Türkische Pizza as well. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember türkische pizza or lahmacun, a flatbread topped with a spiced sauce made with meat, tomatoes, and red peppers. In Berlin you can get this plain, or topped with döner meat or salad. A türkische pizza mit Salat (with salad) will usually be cheaper than a döner (about €2 or 2,30) but just as filling. Everyone has their neighborhood Imbiss, and my friends and I frequented Bodrum Imbiss under the Rathaus Steglitz S-Bahn stop.
Turkish culture has a huge influence on Berlin though they aren’t fully integrated into society. On Tuesdays and Fridays you can visit the Türkischer Markt on the Maybachufer in Berlin-Kreuzberg between 11 am and 6 pm. You can do your grocery shopping and your fabric shopping, buy housewares or lunch. My favorite place to get gözleme is from one of the stands there. I think they might be a catering company, but I’m not sure. See the pictures below to know what to look for! Gözleme is sort of like really thin spanakopita, though you can get it with fillings other than spinach and cheese. Spinach and cheese is my personal favorite, though. At this stand one piece will cost you €1,50, though I’ve seen them sold at other markets for as much as €3,50. Even if you don’t plan on eating, the Turkish Market is quite a lot of fun to visit just to see what there is to see. You can also buy fresh Turkish breads and simit (bagel-like bread rings covered with sesame seeds), Middle Eastern spreads like hummus and baba ganoush, and fresh Quark, a thick German dairy product that is sort of like a cross between creme fraiche and yogurt.
Ok, I know that was longer than I usually write. But I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you get to go to Berlin sometime! There are lots of things to do there besides eat, too.