Since 1989, Kreuzberg has become one of Berlin’s most buzzing areas, favored both by young creative minds and the city’s vibrant immigrant population. Its food bridges the divide between these groups, with family-friendly venues, hip haunts and some of the world’s best street food.
Although many of Berlin’s best restaurants are a little slack on vegetarian food, the city makes up for this with some superb vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Café V is one of the best. Visited both by a hip young crowd and old Kreuzberg stalwarts, its decor manages to be both minimalist and warm. The menu changes every week to reflect the best ingredients available, but will always stun customers – expect the likes of fennel and orange bean soup, scalloped polenta baked with gorgonzola, and curried celery schnitzels with bulgur. Portions are huge and well-presented, and the monthly wine list very well-chosen. The restaurant looks out over leafy Lausitzer Platz, and on warm days diners can sit outside. Check Café V’s Facebook page to see the latest menu.
Although Kreuzberg boasts many buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries, it’s rare to find restaurants founded before the 1980s. Regardless of its merits then, Henne — founded in 1908 — would be worth visiting for its age alone. Situated at the very edge of Kreuzberg, five meters from the site of the Berlin Wall, Henne has more than its past to recommend it. It’s one of the most charming traditional taverns in the entire city, with dark wood-paneled walls and antique artifacts. The biergarten is tranquil and atmospheric, depending on the time of day, and the food is divine, centered on a single dish: Henne’s signature half-chicken. Served without cutlery but with a potato salad and freshly-baked bread, it’s a must-try for anyone with even the slightest taste for poultry.
As Kreuzberg is one of the most Turkish neighborhoods of the city, with the most Turkish residents outside of Turkey, it’s not surprising that its restaurants run the entire gamut of food from Asia Minor. Now the center of a six-restaurant empire stretching from central Berlin to the district of Spandau in the far west, Hasir has something for every taste. Founded in 1984, it remains a family business, and its dining rooms are bedecked with Ottoman fittings and photographs of Anatolia. The izgaralar menu, cooked on a huge open-air charcoal grill, is astonishing – try the sis yogurtlu – pieces of lamb covered in spicy tomato sauce and yoghurt, or the enginartava – feta-filled and breaded artichoke. Finish with an authentic Turkish pudding cooked in a clay oven.
In 1987, aged sixteen, Adriano Lisanti moved to Germany from southern Italy. In 2009, after 22 years working his way through the restaurants of Berlin, he opened Peperoncino along with his wife Ewelina. It was worth the wait. Peperoncino offers simple, flavorsome dishes with fine seasonal ingredients. Alongside a permanent menu of salads and pasta, there is a daily menu of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. The antipasti is particularly excellent – try the fried artichokes with feta, or the beef carpaccio. Or go for the surprise menu, name your budget, and savor course after course of Adriano’s favorite Bazilicatan delicacies. The setting is that of a classic trattoria, with a rustic wooden floor, chessboard cloths and candles on the table.
Culinary Kreuzberg is known for both street food and family-run local restaurants, and Maroush sits somewhere between the two. A street-side cafe with both indoor and outdoor seating, it’s the place for a nourishing spot of Lebanese cuisine. The falafel and tabbouleh are mouth-wateringly good, while the baba ghanoush could easily be the best in the entire city. Meat-lovers should try the beef or chicken shawarma, both equally delicious and available on plates with falafel and vegetables or the core of a sandwich. The decor, with its mosaic walls and ornamental ceramics, is as authentic as the food.
Kreuzberg may be a youthful district, but it still finds room for the most delightful of German urban traditions, the biergarten. Situated along the Landwehrkanal, Brachvogel sits in a secluded patch of greenery. For the winter there’s a pleasant wooden pavilion, but of course the true joy here is to sit amidst the trees. Along with an admirable array of beer, the garden serves national classics like schnitzel and spaetazle, Bavarian vegetable dumplings marinated in sheep’s cheese and a spicy tomato sauce. There’s also a wide range of international dishes, including Argentinian rump steak, Greek beef dumplings and Turkish breakfasts.
As delicious as they often are, kebabs and plates of skewered meat are not the only variety of Turkish food available in Berlin. For something a little different, head to the unpretentious, unassuming La Femme, open for breakfast and lunch. Try the simit, circular bread rolls encrusted with seeds and and served with Turkish tea, cheese and conserves, or else the café’s range of pastries. The egg dishes, such sucukluyumurta (ground beef sausage with egg, peppers and spices), are equally good. The real star though is kumpir, the Turkish version of a baked potato. After being cooked in tin foil, the potato is mashed with butter and cheese, then covered in a variety of toppings including tabbouleh, jalapeños and olives. A delicious place for lunch.
Korean food has really taken off in Berlin in recent years, and Kimchi Princess manages to be one of the best restaurants around for both traditional and contemporary fare. With communal tables and a stripped back atmosphere, it’s a lively, social place, perfect for an evening with friends. At night Korean BBQs, placed on your table, fill the room with an alluring aroma. Try a mixture of spicy bulgogi meat and fine Argentinean steak, or go for bul nak, a mixture of beef and octopus. The bibimbap, available in both beef and vegetarian variants, is equally excellent, as are the kimchi pancakes. And if you’ve room for more, head down the street to Angry Chicken, the restaurant’s fast-food branch, for spicy Korean style wings.
With its street-side benches, whitewashed walls and young clientele, Nest might sound like just another hip coffee shop. Whilst it does serve excellent coffee, Nest’s true glory lies in its food throughout the day. Located on the edge of the wondrously scrubby Görlitzer Park, it is a great place for a light summery meal or a restorative weekend brunch. The German-turned-Mediterranean dinner menu changes every day. Regular lunch dishes include a burger topped with baked camembert and celery remoulade and a chicken, chickpea, cauliflower and avocado burrito. The breakfast is amongst the city’s best, with numerous combinations available to suit every taste. Come on Saturday for a first-rate eggs Benedict.
Grünfisch is my personal favorite among all the restaurants of Berlin. Recently moved to larger premises but still located in Kreuzberg, Grünfisch is the city’s premier Sicilian restaurant. The starters are delectable, whether the wild boar carpaccio, the scallops with seaweed or the perfect, authentic caponata topped with cheese. The main dishes are even better, with homemade truffle ravioli and squid ink spaghetti speckled with cuttlefish and sea urchins. Occasional specials, such as the rabbit risotto, are a worthy addition. All the wine comes from Sicily, and matches the dishes flawlessly. The atmosphere – sophisticated yet rustic – is wonderful, a world apart from Berlin’s usual tumult.