Despite what you may have read about our feelings regarding food in Berlin, there are plenty of good restaurants to enjoy. They run the gamut, from fast food and street food, all the way up to pricier options. We highly recommend everything you see here.
Because I’m so damn verbose, we broke the list into two separate posts of five places each. This is the first of two posts, and it’s in alphabetical order.
A couple of notes before I get into the list:
We lived in Prenzlauer Berg, which means most of our favorite restaurants were within a few minutes of our place.
Everything is subjective. Well, almost everything. These are the places we liked best.
Again, this is half of the list. Watch out for the other half in an upcoming post.
Our favorite döner in Berlin, hands down. The “best döner” is a serious topic of contention for Berliners; everyone has their favorite, and most will never agree on what the best place is. People are fiercely loyal, and that includes us. I am not a fan of the fact that Ali Baba – and most döner restaurants in Berlin – do not serve French fries. It drives me insane, and I’ve been told that döner spot owners will yell at you if you ask for them. Ha.
Regardless of that: This is for döner, and our answer is Ali Baba. When we took it home to eat, we’d stop and get fries at another place along the way. I cannot comment on their falafel or their pizza (which smells amazing), but their döner gets the top prize from Ang and me.
Notes: The döner here is chicken, and Ang would suggest you make it a combo mix by asking them to throw haloumi (fried cheese) into the mix. Also, the bread they use is so good it’s almost pornographic.
Info: Ali Baba, Danziger Straße 2, 10435 Berlin.
Getting good seafood in Berlin is like dreaming you had a pony and then waking up with a pet unipegaligercorn that shoots rainbows out of its ass when it flies. Obviously you can ride it. (A unipegaligercorn is a unicorn-pegasus-lion-tiger hybrid, in case you didn’t know.) So yeah, it’s pretty difficult. Fortunately, we lived down the street from der Fischladen, which has a host of seafood dishes but is most well-known for its fish and chips. While I’ve had the real thing, done really well, in the UK, I am not really qualified to comment on its authenticity. What I can tell you, though, is that it’s really, really good. So good that I took a break halfway into my meal just to reflect on how good the first half was. The tattooed, stocky chef is proud of her work and wants to know what you think. The guy I presume is the owner handles the fresh fish and portion selection, and a waitress possessing her own kind of cute had a good time making fun of me as we cracked jokes.
None of those descriptions have much to do with the food, but personality goes a long way in the restaurant business, especially in a city that supposedly lacks any sort of regard for service whatsoever. I should also mention that they own the ice cream shop attached to the restaurant, and have a milkshake menu that borders on the absurd. I’m pretty sure there were over 100 items on there, not including the customizable options. The shakes could have been better, but the fish and chips has me drooling to this day.
Also fantastic: If you feel like doing your own thing, you can buy fresh fish directly from the fish counter. I cannot express to you how much I love that idea. It’s also worth telling you that once the owner is out, he’s out. I didn’t find any hint of stinky fish past its prime, and by 6pm at night, he was already sold out of at least half of everything he offers. I think we got our third choice of fish when we ordered. Bonus points for a smart business move there.
We played the “we’ll get there” game with der Fischladen the entire time we lived in Berlin. Smacks in the face to us for not going there until just before we left.
We walked by this place quite a few times, thinking it was merely a café and pension. It’s a nice looking spot on the corner of Buchholzer Straße and Greifenhagener Straße, which has a bar/restaurant/café on the ground floor, and vacation rooms and flats for rent above. Our friend DJ Jesus Face met the owner while JF was deejaying at a bar down the street. We found out more about it, and decided to head down there to see if it was any good.
Basically, hell yes. The owner is a born and bred native of the neighborhood, who serves his overnight guests in the restaurant and has fans among many of Berlin’s footballers. The menu features an array of traditional German food (Käsespätzle al forno, anyone?), pasta, and burgers. Good burgers aren’t so easy to find in Berlin, and we were obviously skeptical. Big mistake. They were spot on, and the best burgers we had while living in Berlin. Whoever mans the kitchen in back knows what they’re doing. And while The Bird, a bit farther north, enjoys its cult status as Berlin’s burger icon, this place is easily half the price, with no wait. No matter how much I want a burger, I’m not willing to drop €15 for it. So, Freiraum gets kudos for charging around €8, including sides. Bonus points: They serve Andechs on tap. I’m sure other places in Berlin do as well, but it’s the only place we ever went that offered it.
We were turned on to this tiny café by our friend Justin at The Lotus and The Artichoke, and it became a weekly staple for coffee junkie meet-ups. Despite being everything cutesy and artsy and smack-dab in the middle of Prenzlauer Berg’s Helmholtzkiez, the prices are affordable and the staff quite friendly. It’s one of those places that’s already packed by locals on the weekend, and we didn’t even bother going there unless it was a weekday. Outside seating is poor, with just a few tables and not much space. The inside is decorated in a sort of vintage country motif, with two serving rooms to get in as many folks as they can when German Church (weekend at the café) resumes.
They roast their own coffee here, which is always amenable. I never asked where it came from, but certainly enjoyed their list of available drinks, which stretched a bit beyond the typical four or five options at a Berlin café. The pastries are simply amazing, and also affordable. From fruit torts to chocolate cake and cookies, they know what they’re doing and I have no qualms about the owners calling themselves a ‘fine roaster, fine taste dealer, and patisserie.’
Outside of our annoyance at the slim and uncomfortable outdoor seating, the only thing I hate about this place is that I know it will eventually show up in guidebooks, and be lost to tourists forever. Guess I’m not doing us any favors by writing about it, but whatever. One soul cannot control such things! So, get there and get some goodness before you can’t get a seat in that place any longer.
We went to this place 100 times, and would have gone there 1000 times if it weren’t for the fact that they keep dinner hours on weekdays by opening at 6pm. (Weekends are fair game for all hours, though.) It’s also less than a block from our flat, which made it perfect for easy coffee jaunts and the like.
The thing I love most about this place is that they only use seasonal ingredients, which are locally sourced. Everything is organic, and even the coffee beans are imported from Costa Rica and roasted in Berlin before making their way to Lorberth. While the food menu has a few staples (especially for breakfast), they like to focus on daily menus and playing with the ingredients at hand. The coffee is on point. In fact, the straight-up black coffee is the best coffee I ever had in Berlin. No joke. It goes well with their selection of cakes and pies, and makes for a great afternoon lounge-and-recharge session.
These guys also did a wonderful job curating their outdoor seating area. They maximized their space with planters and proper tables, and shade it from an overbearing sun and traffic noise with a mix of umbrellas and a wall of trees.
We went here more for its café goodness, but the food is outstanding, with items like smoked venison plates and goat cheese salads making us very happy campers. It should be noted that this isn’t the least expensive option around, but here you get what you pay for and you will not be disappointed.