Berlin might not be the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of great European cuisine, but don’t be fooled by visions of sauerkraut and currywurst, the city is a haven for haut cuisine, quick snacks and everything in between. From delicious re-imaginings of traditional German fare to supreme Turkish street food, here are ten places that run the gamut of Berliner Küche, all with outdoor seating for those pristine summer days.
Over the past few years, Berlin has seen a glut of superb burger joints opening across the city. Madcap flavors are in vogue, whether the gourmet sourdough concoctions at Brot & Zeit biergarten or Kimchi Princess’ Korean-style creations, loaded with so-bulgogi beef. For a classic patty and bun, however, Burgermeister remains unsurpassed. Sitting in an elaborate art nouveau booth directly under the railway bridges at Schlesisches Tor station, it’s the perfect place to get a sense of Kreuzberg in all its post-industrial glory. The noise only adds to the atmosphere. Portions are generous and the meat is perfect. Get the Meister Aller Klassen, a towering edifice of beef and cheese, or the Meisterburger with fried onions, bacon, and mustard, and you’ll be sated for hours. For vegetarians, the tofu burger comes with a delicious mango relish.
Burgermeister, Oberbaumstraße 8, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 23883840
The Tiergarten, Berlin’s huge central park, is a sylvan paradise in the center of the city, composed of a labyrinthine collection of bucolic groves and winding wooded paths, the perfect place for shady walks on sweltering summer afternoons. Stop at Cafe am Neuen See, in the southwest section of the park, and you may just bring your promenade to a halt. Perched on the edge of the beautiful New Lake, where rowing boats can be rented, the Café serves a seasonal array of Bavarian favorites. Try the German-style pizzas, with crème fraiche instead of tomato sauce, or traditional pretzels, accompanied by a sizable range of German beers. Stay until dark, and the whole garden will be be-decked with fairy lights, creating the impression of an enchanted glade.
One of a handful of Berlin restaurants with two Michelin stars, Facil can lay a claim to one of the world’s most delectable menus. It also has one of the best locations in town, on the fifth floor of a hotel between bustling Potsdamer Platz and the world-class galleries and concert halls around the Kulturforum. Facil is set within a glass pavilion with a retractable ceiling, surrounded by a lush, tree-spotted garden terrace. Chef Michael Kempf manages the rare trick of balancing boundless creativity with a sublime aptitude for flavors. The lunch menu features such fantastical dishes as essence of guinea fowl, wool pig with watermelon, and granary bread ice cream accompanied by celery and peach. Dinner, which can be ordered a la carte or as a set menu, is equally extraordinary, with smoked onglet steak and tea spiced saddles of venison.
Facil, Potsdamer Straße 3, Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 590051234
In a city that, despite the ravages of war and the trauma of separation, often seems startlingly modern, it’s rare to be reminded of Berlin’s historic status as capital of Prussia and center of the unified German Empire. With a wood-paneled interior and an outdoor area facing the mirror-image cathedrals of the Gendarmenmarkt, Lutter & Wegner provides a taste of grandiose old Berlin. The schnitzels are among the tastiest in town, and the menu bursts with superior Teutonic fare, tempered by French and Italian influences. Lutter & Wegner began as wine merchants in 1811, so peruse the extensive wine list for some gems, or else ask the staff to source the perfect bottle for your culinary choices.
Lutter & Wegner, Charlottenstraße 56, Mitte, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 2029540
Over the past few decades, Berlin has become associated with a particular branch of cool, all austere dark clothes, sparse concrete spaces and minimal techno. But in the 1970s and 80s Berlin was a hub for punk and new wave, and White Trash Fast Food offers a glimpse back to those days. Enter through a rusting old bus to discover a huge, sandy biergarten. The kitchen purports to serve ‘German-Asian-Mexican-French-Swiss-Army fusion,’ which boils down to a choice of seven prodigious burgers, supremely flavored jerk chicken and a BBQ pit for grilled entrecôte and fillet steaks. Step within the kitschy decorated warehouse and you’ll find nightly gigs and DJ nights, focused around rock n roll, punk and classic R&B. Afterwards, visit the neighboring Club der Visionaere for some digestion-easing canal-side dancing.
White Trash Fast Food, Am Flutgraben 2, Treptow, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 50348668
Though Berlin can now boast some of the world’s most ingenious restaurants, sometimes you find the most delicious food in the most unprepossessing of places. Mustafa’s, located in a popular clubbing locale at the western end of Kreuzberg, is a kebab shack with a reputation that exceeds all others. And when the city in question boasts the largest Turkish population outside Turkey, standards are stratospheric. The döner kebabs and dürüms are filled with feta, fresh vegetables and three different sauces. Thousands of Berliners swear by the flawlessly balanced combination of flavors and textures, unmatched by the more upmarket mangals elsewhere in the city. There are seats to the side of the stall, but this is street food, enjoyed equally well standing and chatting midway through a long night out.
The glut of excellent Vietnamese restaurants currently spread across Berlin isn’t entirely the result of that cuisine’s well-earned position as the hippest in the world. It’s also due to Berlin’s sizable Vietnamese population, by far the greatest East Asian minority in the city. Located on a peaceful boulevard in the largely residential area of Schöneberg, Saigon and More stands above all the rest. Sit on the avenue and watch the rhythms of urban life flow by while supping on a regenerating noodle soup. The pho xao – noodles and meat flavored with tamarind sauce is a perennial favorite, while the French-inspired chicken dish ‘Spit a la Ertugrul’ relies on a secret marinade. If the choice is too much, just ask the proprietor, famed as the one of the most genial hosts in town, and he’ll be happy to order something to suit your tastes.
Saigon and More, Geisbergstraße 12, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 23626090
Berlin has no shortage of excellent steakhouses, but there can’t be many that let you choose your cut from an international range of suppliers. Will it be a Pomeranian, American, or Wagyu-style Australian entrecôte? Do you prefer your fillets Bavarian or Argentinean? All are magnificent, though the real luminaries are the German Angus, six-week dried aged and of limited availability, and the Temmener Queen, from grass-fed heifers in a farm just north of the city. Grill Royal’s seafood options, which include Fine de Clair and Slyter Royal oysters, North Sea sole and a raw marinated kingfish starter, are equally sumptuous. The terrace, which sits on the banks of the Spree with excellent views of the exuberant Bode Museum on Museum Island (a World Heritage Site), is the perfect place to feel steeped in the city’s pre-war past.
Grill Royal, Friedrichstraße 105, Mitte, Berlin, Germany, +49 30 28879288
By Joe Lloyd