So, as you all know, much of my life revolves around food. Eating it, looking at it, cooking it, thinking about it, etc. Well, I knew before coming to Berlin that it wasn’t exactly hailed as a culinary paradise, even among internationally lukewarm feelings toward German food in general. Let me just tell you about some of the things I’ve eaten since I’ve been here.
Best overall food experience: This is probably brunch. Even at the hostels we’ve stayed at, their breakfasts have pretty decent, if not downright amazing (read: Corner Hostel’s varied buffet and coffees served with those little Italian amaretto cookies…yummmm). Usually it’s pretty reasonable, pretty varied, and coffees are big. What more can I ask?
Best street food: Street food is a religion in Berlin. I don’t know how people can always eat standing up and then walk places. As soon I as I eat something, I need to promptly visit the restroom (TMI, yeah, I know). This makes street food a little tricky. So far the best have been the pretzels. Big, yummy, soft, mall-style pretzels. I haven’t had the luxury of downing a beer with one yet, but I’m sure it’s heaven. Another street food winner is the curry- and/or bratwurst, usually served by men with those strap-on grills that hot dog vendors at baseball games use. For 1 euro or so, you can enjoy an embarrassingly large wurst with conspicuously small bun with amazing German mustard. Sometimes the guys play percussion with the plastic guards of their grills. The currywurst, a Berlin invention, is usually accompanied by fries and tiny fork. There’s no actual curry in the wurst – it’s a normal hotdog-like sausage covered in something resembling ketchup and then topped with curry powder. Sounds disgusting, tastes amazing.
On the sweet side, you can’t go wrong with ice cream. I’ve obviously been ice-cream deprived during my years in Spain, because I’m still amazed at the variety of the flavors and the freshness of the ice cream here. Also, waffle cones! How I’ve missed them! Though Spaniards eat a lot of ice cream, it’s always those prepackaged bars with sticks, which aren’t bad, but are expensive and not nearly as fresh. A scoop here costs anywhere from .50 to 1.20, though .70 seems to be the norm.
Fast food: There doesn’t seem to be a lot of slow food in Berlin. Everything seems to be designed to go. But there are amazing deals out there that will leave you satisfied and without that weighed-down feeling that you normally think of as accompanying food on the run. China Box: A simple, 3-euro concoction called simply “China Box,” this is a large-size Chinese takeout box filled to the brim with fried noodles, vegetables, and chicken. It’s amazing and a lot of food…especially good when accompanied by hot chili sauce and a cold beer. Yum. Doner kebap: The Turkish version of a gyro, it’s impossible to escape these stands all over the city. Some are better than others, but a decent kebap can be had for about 2.50, and will keep you full for the rest of the night. These too, are usually full of vegetables and can even be had in vegetarian-only versions. Pizza: There’s a lot of Italian influence here, and it shows. You can dig into huge, Italian-style pizzas (read: super thin crust) for anywhere from 2.70 to 4 euro. They’re quick, easy, tasty, and there’s endless variety. Always a good option!
Bad food: Unfortunately, I’ve had my share of just-ok food here already. The worst was yesterday. We visited a fast food fish restaurant called Nordsee (yeah, it already sounds bad, I know). I wanted a shrimp salad but instead opted for a newspaper-wrapped fish and chips. In the photograph, it was accompanied by a small dollop of tartar sauce. I thought this would be a good idea. In the end, what I got was three tiny chicken-nugget-sized bits of some nameless fish, some greasy fries, and then the lady asked what kind of sauce I’d like. I opted for garlic. She turned to put the sauce on, and started a conversation with one of the other workers. As she was chatting with the other lady, I saw her ladle a HUGE spoonful of what looked like mayonnaise onto the top of my newspaper cone. I was already horrified, but couldn’t interrupt her….and then she went back for ladle #2. I was already sickened just looking at it, and hoped that it hadn’t all dripped down to the bottom of the cone and I could salvage some of my too-expensive, over-fried meal. No such luck. I managed to swallow the fish nuggets and two or three salvaged fries. The rest sat sadly congealing on my plate while Carlos ate his slightly less greasy meal, and then into the trash they went. I felt sick for quite a while afterwards, despite not having eating any of that. Yuck. Needless to say, I will not be visiting Nordsee again!
German food: The German food in general has been okay. Nothing has seemed truly “traditional,” though we’ve had the misfortune of being able to try the infamous sauerkraut, and the sausages, sauces, and thick noodles of the dishes we’ve tried have sent us straight to the bathroom (TMI again). Anyway, it’s hard to find good German food anyway, so I think we’ll probably have to look for those things in other cities, when we finally get a chance to visit a little bit more of Germany. Until then, it will be pretzels and bratwurst for me!
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little guide. If any of you ever come to Berlin/Germany, maybe it’ll help you out. If not, maybe it’ll get your mouths watering for a good ol’ fashioned brat on the grill…or…pretzel…on the grill…or….sauerkraut? Well, anyway….guten apetit!