In a city obsessed with the strange and spectacular when it comes to music, arts and entertainment, Berlin’s culinary scene also has a quirky, unconventional side. From seven-course desserts to zero-waste dining, the most unusual restaurants in Berlin are as surprising as they are special.
Visitors to Berlin may be tempted to seek out a traditional currywurst or track down the best döner kebab in the city, but some of the best dining experiences are hiding in plain sight. These weird and wonderful restaurants of Berlin speak to the character of the city itself: from a self-sustaining urban garden and a daringly indulgent dessert-only hotspot, to an eatery serving french toast after midnight.
Given its Michelin star win in 2018, there’s never been a better time to visit CODA, Neukölln’s upscale dessert bar. The brainchild of innovative chef René Frank, CODA takes an already unusual concept – dessert as fine dining – and spins it into a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Visitors can choose from the seven-course Dinner menu or the three- or four-course Late Night menus, all featuring a mix of sweet and savoury flavours, like aubergine paired with pecans, apple balsamic, and liquorice salt. Take advantage of the nearby canal and the handful of cosy bars in the area (try Café Jacques or the Naturales Weinbar) to bookend an evening of indulging your sweet tooth.
On the western edge of sprawling Tiergarten, hungry park-goers can take a break at NENI for a taste of unpretentious yet indulgent Mediterranean food. The overhead greenery and polished wood floors give the space a relaxed feel, but the views are what really make this spot special – watch the sunset over the city as you split wild prawns, roasted cauliflower and fried aubergine with your dining companion. If you’re stopping in for lunch, wander over to the zoo for a stroll after filling up on crispy falafel and smoky baba ganoush; if you’re there for an evening meal, head over to Monkey Bar for a nightcap to keep the stellar views going. Be warned: NENI is a popular spot and thus requires a reservation, so be sure to book in advance.
What once was an empty lot off of Kreuzberg’s Moritzplatz has now been transformed into Prinzessinnengärten, an urban agriculture project that produces more than 500 different types of edible plants. Started in 2009, this collective worked with the community to clear the area of trash and build a green space for urban gardening and education right in the middle of one of the city’s busiest districts. An excellent (and delicious) way to support the garden is to stop at the on-site restaurant for a meal prepared with ingredients from the Prinzessinnengärten itself, as well as from other farms and gardens in Berlin and greater Germany. Important to note: the restaurant is only open in the warmer months, between April and October, so plan your visit accordingly.
Eco-friendly initiatives abound in Berlin, from “critical mass” (group) bike rides through busy streets, to plastic-free cafés and bars. Enter Frea, a vegan restaurant with a heavy emphasis on locally sourced products and a mission to keep their space zero-waste. At Frea, plastic is nonexistent and food waste is turned into compost, which is later returned to the farms from which they source their products. Be sure to try the homemade pastas and breads, and look out for seasonal favourites like white asparagus (spargel) with hollandaise sauce. For those curious about sustainability in the kitchen and the zero-waste lifestyle, Frea also hosts regular events.
Stepping into Good Bank feels like entering the cafeteria of the future, its clean white countertops and mirrored walls reflecting the soft pink glow of the vertical farms where they grow their own greens. It’s these very greens that give Good Bank the extra oomph that makes it worth stopping in for a salad – their signature creations combine crisp homegrown Yacht or Chocolate Oak Lettuce with interesting ingredients like burnt goat cheese, gin-cured salmon and homemade croutons. Pop outside to grab a seat in the sun in the summer months, or sit inside by the window to watch the comings and goings of office workers on the busy Mitte streets.
Ever wanted to have pancakes for dinner? Benedict understands those late-night breakfast cravings, which is why this Wilmersdorf establishment dishes out your favourite morning specialties 24 hours a day. From the namesake eggs benedict to sweeter options like french toast and crepes filled with creamy chocolate, Benedict has something for every appetite. With its extensive international menu, you can stop in for a full English in the morning, a plate of Russian syrniki (cheese pancakes) in the afternoon, and a French croque madame at night. Depending on when your appetite emerges, you can work off the meal by strolling between the art galleries in the nearby Kurfürstendamm area – Contemporary Fine Arts and LUMAS are both worth a visit.
Although its name is a rough translation of “the last resort”, Zur Letzen Instanz is a popular choice for Mitte dining, serving up fine, regionally sourced German fare such as apple tart and pork knuckle. First opened in 1621 and claiming to have served Napoleon himself, Zur Letzen Instanz combines old-fashioned furnishings with an elegant ambience that make Berlin’s oldest restaurant feel surprisingly modern. Take the time to admire both levels, connected by a spiral staircase, and check out the 200-year-old tiled stove on display before sitting down for a plate of meatballs and a cold glass of local beer.