A City That’s Poor, But Sexy
Compared to other cities, Berlin’s dining scene is unique because of its history. There’s not a lot of money in the city and you can feel that depending on the quarter you’re in. Berliners say: “We’re poor, but sexy”. It all started changing in the last few years, but we still have a situation where young people open self-owned businesses without big investors so you feel there are opportunities in the city. Berlin is extremely open. It does not mirror German food culture but represents an international, mixed one, which makes it very fun and varied. Also, the mindset of the people working in the food industry makes Berlin special and they have a sense of community and exchange knowledge and producers. You can see similar products from similar producers across restaurants, but everyone does their spin on it, which I think is very cool. That’s exactly what we foster with Die Gemeinschaft.
Noodles With a Secret Chilli Sauce
I think different dishes from different backgrounds make Berlin unique and no one dish represents it. Of course, we’re famous for the currywurst, but now so many different dishes from many different nationalities are very “Berlin”. Köfte (grilled meat) is one of the famous dishes in Berlin, but so are Chungking Noodles from Ash Lee. She’s a friend of mine from China who opened this tiny place in Berlin to make noodles with a spicy chilli sauce with Sichuan pepper. You can choose between some tofu, pork or braised beef toppings and it’s just all in the flavour. She doesn’t tell people what she puts into the chilli sauce but it’s a dish I always crave, because it’s not replicable. It’s the only dish she makes, and outside Berlin, I have not eaten anything like it.
One Of My Favourite Restaurants in Berlin
Lode and Stijn are two Dutch guys behind Lode & Stijn. I went to their restaurant even before I lived in Berlin and I love going back ever since. Their place is beautiful, welcoming, and homely and they’ve been doing great work since day one. You feel like you’re sitting in their living room, basically, which makes it one of my favourite restaurants in Berlin. They work closely with many high-quality local producers. Lode comes from a family of bakers, so they have one of the best breads in town. Everyone went crazy for it during the pandemic when he started selling the loaves you would only get dining in the restaurant. Now every diner gets given some of his amazing sourdough bread to take home, but I don’t know if that’s going to stay. The guys introduced me to their great Belgian and Dutch selection of sour beers including some vintage bottles. They also introduced me to bitterballen, a Dutch snack of little fried balls of meat stew you can find in vending machines across the Netherlands along with other kroketten (croquettes), but Lode and Stijn make high quality ones. I always tell Dutch people that the best bitterballenis are in Berlin.
Brutally Local Cuisine
My other favourite is hard to describe: Nobelhart & Schmutzig has a Michelin star and it runs at fine-dining level, but once there you do not feel like you are in a restaurant with Billy and the team. I think everyone needs to be there to realise it. You sit at a wooden bar that surrounds the open kitchen so, everything is very eye level. It is not only about the food, music or service, but about getting to know the people around you and sitting next to you. Sometimes it can be very fun to talk to your neighbour. The service is not stiff, and chefs bring you food which is brutally local cuisine. It means they only work with the farmers they know. You’ll even find some Polish producers here because it’s more about the closeness to the producer than vicinity to Berlin. The cuisine is not German, but you can find traditional flavours. The menu is seasonal and changes weekly but there are recurring classics. I love Micha’s dish of schmorgurke (braised) cucumbers he cooks instead of serving raw: it tastes like the cucumbers my Polish grandmother preserved. Another dish that reminds me of my childhood is potato mash with apples and onions: a classic combination from West Germany where I graduated school. It comes in different versions depending on the season. Micha adds some smoked butter to it too. I don’t want to know the ratio of it, but I love it.
Simple Knödeln That Makes You Happy
Knödelwirtschaft‘s concept is only to serve knödeln (dumplings). I love that it’s a very small place in Berlin run by young people: it’s super cosy and has less than 10 tables. You choose if you want to get between one or four knödeln. Every time, they have different flavours that go from classical to something with beetroot or just cheese or speck. You can add some pilzrahmsauce, a mushroom cream sauce, and it always comes with a beetroot salad or kraut (cabbage) salad. Sometimes for dessert, you can get a sweet knödel. That’s all they serve, but that’s their thing; it’s all very simple, you drink beer, and you’re just happy afterward.
Turkish Food Beyond Kebabs
Gözleme on Karl-Marx-Straße is the Neukölln area is a women-run place where you can watch them cook and make fresh gözleme every day. But what I always get there are manti: basically, small tortellini that are filled with meat or vegetables. The hot dough, the umami filling, and then this cold, acidic, fresh yogurt on top — I love that dish. They always put a ton of garlic in it, so you shouldn’t plan a meeting afterward. One of my favourite places.
Organic Shopping and Eating
One of my favourite markets in the city is Winterfeldtmarkt in Schöneberg. It’s nice on Saturdays and even nicer on Wednesdays. First, there are two rows of amazing organic producers. Second, there are also great food stands like Teig & Füllung. They make maultaschen, a German dish that isn’t that well-known among foreigners, so I like to take friends from other countries there. If you’ve never heard of maultasche, it’s a big square dough that’s filled with meat and is a traditional South German dish. A fun couple makes them by hand using very good produce and sell them from a food truck: Bruno from the south of Germany, and his girlfriend Anusha from India, where they both met. I just love them and their food truck. You can get a maultasche auf die hand, which means as a snack “on your hand” or have it in broth which is how it typically comes.
A Special Occasion Market
I don’t go to Karl-August-Platz Wochenmarkt in Charlottenburg often: it’s far for me so I’ll only go if I have a free Saturday and I’ll always meet my colleague Carla there: she was the one who introduced me to it. Many chefs go because of the very good stands including some of the best tomatoes sold by Hof am Weinberg and a great cheese stand called Natursprung. Once we are done with the grocery shopping, we go to Lon Men’s Noodle House for dumplings or maybe have an amazing crêpe at Bubar: I always get one with hibiscus sugar. Then with a full tummy, we head to Vini Culture, a cool, well-known natural wine store around the corner, buy some wine and maybe have a glass there.
A Berliner Friday Tradition
One of the highlights that I would always bring people to is the Domberger on Fridays – it’s the only day Florian Domberger, the baker, makes dampfnudeln, a traditional dish from the south of Germany where he’s from. His nanny used to prepare it for him on Fridays which is why he continues to make them only on that day. It’s a big yeast bun dumpling which he bakes in his bread ovens. There’s salted butter and sugar on the bottom so it becomes very dark, salty, and crispy underneath with this yeasty, cloudy, fluffy amazingness on top. Florian serves it with a lot of vanilla sauce and some reduced plum confiture. You can sit outside or inside his tiny space, but what is cool is that it’s an open bakery, so you can see them baking and selling their bread.
The Foraging Bartender
Velvet is one dark, small, and intimate place worth the journey because it’s not just a bar where you sit around the bar and watch bartenders make cocktails. Service is very mindful, staff are good to talk to, and Ruben Neideck [the bartender] forages a lot with his team, so you get surprising local drinks that are super seasonal, like a quince cocktail made from quinces from a backyard garden 200 metres away from the bar, or a drink made with Japanese knotweed that I tried there for the first time: it tastes a lot like rhubarb. It’s fun to go there, try drinks that you wouldn’t normally order and try out different flavours. I once tried their asparagus cocktail, which I loved. It’s all just very well done with a lot of knowledge and craft behind it.
Late Night Köfte
At night, I would go to get köfte at Gel Gör. It’s a great sandwich with two köfte in there, some fresh tomatoes and rocket. I order an extra portion of sumac which I love and which brings the acidity. Drink some ayran (a cold yoghurt drink) with it and it’s a perfect late-night snack.
The Legendary Market Hall
It’s important to mention Markthalle Neun, not only for its high standard among other market halls, but also for bringing so many local producers into the city. Some stands are always there, while more stands pop-up for the Saturday market. You’ll get the best German and foreign cheeses at Alte Milch. Worth a try there are cheeses from Paul and Yule, a young couple from Urstrom that started making cheese. On Saturdays, look out for the Biokelterei Bergschäferei stand with young Leonie who has revived an old apple orchard outside Berlin. Each bottle of her apple juices presents a single apple variety that she blends almost like Champagne. She makes some light ciders too. At coffee roastery Kaffee 9, you’ll find good coffee, and there’s also Marktlokal, a great traditional kneipe (restaurant) and bar. A new group of people took it over during Covid-19 to revive its cool history and it’s now run by a Swedish chef who only uses products from the market hall. If you want great, hearty simple food that’s affordable and made with fantastic produce, that’s the place I love to go. In the summer, it’s also nice just to have a beer in their outside area.
Next Level Spaghetti Ice Cream
Lecko Mio is a great ice cream store I love for something distinctly German. In school, if you got a good grade, you’d get this vanilla ice cream out of a kind of potato press, that looks like spaghetti. There’s strawberry sauce on top, whipped cream underneath and sprinkles of white chocolate: that’s your spaghetti ice cream. I haven’t seen it elsewhere, so it must be a childhood thing for German kids. Normally this is a low-quality dessert you would get at lousy ice cream places with terrible strawberry sauce out of a tube, but Nadja takes it to the next level by making the ice cream and sauces herself. She also makes a pesto version with pistachio sauce, it’s ingenious. I just have the time of my life there.
The Most Beautiful Gift to Take Home
Nearby is a store called Pars Pralinen from Kristiane Kegelmann, a sculpture artist who started making pralines for a project. Her pralines are geometrical, and they look like beautiful art or jewellery which she sprays with a colouring spray made from dehydrated vegetables or fruits such as red beetroot. She works directly with farmers and tries to only use seasonal produce. Her seasonal taste varieties include elderflower and hazelnuts, but she also creates amazing flavours that you’ve never had before such as garlic or dill flowers. She’s an ambassador for collaboration and better quality of chocolate with more acidic flavour profiles that she works through with Holger In’t Veld. Kristiane likes pairing her pralines with drinks, so on summer evenings you can go there and have a praline with a glass of wine, Lambrusco, or cider. It’s the most beautiful gift you can take home: so pretty to look at and so special.
Underappreciated Dining In Wedding
Baldon is a place run by two women a little out of Berlin in Wedding. They’re inside a very special architectural building and operate a produce-based kitchen. Their lunch menu changes daily, and they also serve a more refined dinner menu: it’s not small portions, instead it’s down-to-earth, casual but contemporary cooking where you can find chips for dinner, but also cucumber in a cucumber broth. I think this place is very underappreciated. People know about it, but it’s not as hyped as it should be. The girls have very good taste and they just have fun in the kitchen. You can feel that in their dishes. They also have a nice outside area that you can sit in the summer. I recommend going there.
Profile Photography: Courtesy of Caroline Prange
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