Tag Archives: Food

EAT: The story of one man’s passion for his local café

EAT - a cafe in Berlin

Photo: Courtesy of Dave the Chimp

A couple of days ago I got an e-mail from Berlin-based artist, Dave the Chimp, with a great little story about his experiences at a local café in Kreuzberg called EAT.  Dave can tell the story much better than I could so here is what he sent me:

Last summer a cafe called EAT opened on Kottbusserdamm, in what was formerly a greasy Chinese imbiss sandwiched between a Späti and a Korean nail bar. One day I ate lunch there and the food was delicious – and cheap. As an artist I don’t have much money, so if I can eat lunch, drink a coffee, and leave a healthy tip while only spending 10 euros, I’m a happy man!

I went back the following week and once again really enjoyed the food. I was soon eating there two or three times a week, as were a couple of friends from my shared studio.

Some days the food would make me so happy I had to tell the staff, and once they got over the fact I’m the kind of weirdo who finds joy in salad, they were very friendly, and my lunch hour would extend more and more each day as I hung around talking about everything from politics and the environment to experimental Polish film.

Spending so much time there I soon realised that, despite the excellent food, they didn’t have enough customers. People would stop and look, confused as to what kind of restaurant it was, and move on. Tourists were quickly put off by having to try and read a menu board written in German. The boss, Henrik, confessed that if things didn’t improve he would be out of business before the next summer.

Henrik clearly has a passion for food. An Armenian, who grew up in Iran, he has lived in Berlin for 30 years. He ran a restaurant with his brothers for much of this time, but decided to go it alone and serve great tasting, healthy food, created from his own ideas (the stuffed paprika in a banana and ginger sauce last week was awesome!).

For me, EAT was a valuable resource, physically and mentally, and I didn’t want to see it disappear. So I decided to do what I could to help business, to give some of my time and energy towards keeping this source of great food in my neighbourhood.

I started by re-drawing the menu board to make it legible, and making a menu in English, so that tourists could read what was on offer without having to do so while standing at the counter. I installed a small lending library of English and German books, and invited different friends to lunch to ask their opinion on what could be done to increase business. Though all were in agreement that the “product” was great, they all had differing opinions on what needed to be done to attract customers.

One thing was clear though – no one expected to find this kind of food on Kottbusserdamm, and it was important that we make the place stand out. I decided to paint the windows, and asked my sign writer friend Juliane Kownatzki to help. She had the idea to create a facade of reclaimed wood on the outside of the building, to draw attention to the fact this was not just another falafel shop, and to make a statement among the plastic fronted stores that fill the street.

EAT Happy Vegetables logo (Dave the Chimp)

Photo: EAT logo courtesy of Dave the Chimp

This is still a work in progress for us. We are doing it to keep open a restaurant we love to eat in, a place we think is valuable to our neighbourhood and our community. I firmly believe that if you give of yourself, of your time and energy, your love, that life will give back. We’re not paid for the work we do, but when we’re broke we always know we won’t starve. And we have a new friend in Henrik.

Even better, Juliane and I have discovered how well we work together, and now plan to start a small sign painting/mural painting company, thus enjoying our working life more. It’s fun to work with friends!

Life in 2015 is pretty messed up in a lot of ways. We could all benefit from eating better, from sharing our time and energy, from thinking less about ourselves, and more about the world as a whole. Capitalist consumer society relies on us being divided, being individuals, so it can sell us more stuff. It’s time to fight back against this unhealthy attitude. Work for free, for food, for love! Research shows that people that give are happier and healthier than those that only think about themselves. Be a giver, and receive a better life in return! This is the revolution!

I hope this story can inspire others to give their time and energy to make their neighbourhood a better place.

Dave the Chimp, Berlin 2015

I don’t know about you but Dave’s enthusiasm for the food at EAT in Berlin makes me keen to try it so I’ll be popping along soon.  If you’d like to eat at EAT it’s at Kottbusser Damm 94 near U-Bhf Schönleinstrasse and is open Monday to Friday from 12:00 to 20:00.

Café Feuerbach

Close Up of English Breakfast at Cafe Feuerbach in Berlin

It’s not easy to find an English Breakfast in Berlin, let alone a good one, but luckily for me one of my local restaurants, Café Feuerbach has an especially tasty one, so when I’m in the mood for a fry up I don’t have too far to go.

English Breakfast at Cafe Feuerbach in Berlin

For 7,40€ you get bacon, two fried eggs, fried sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, homemade jam and toast along with a little bit of salad.

Everything is delicious though it would be even better if the strips of bacon were replaced by thick cut rashers of back bacon but that’s not easy to come by in Berlin.  For me the jam and the salad are surplus to requirements – you don’t order an English breakfast to get your fruit and veg in – but that’s a minor quibble.

Cheese Breakfast at Cafe Feuerbach in Berlin Menu at Cafe Feuerbach in Berlin Bread at Cafe Feuerbach in Berlin

Breakfast is served from 09:00 – 16:00.  There are plenty of other options available and, this being Berlin, there is of course a breakfast buffet on a Sunday.

It’s not just breakfast on the menu at Café Feuerbach though, there’s also a range of salads, snacks and main dishes, including weekly specials, served between noon and midnight backed up by an extensive drinks selection.

Gnocchi at Cafe Feuerbach in Berlin

I would recommend the Gnocchi, which is served with spinach, tomato and basil fondue, roasted pine nuts, shaved parmesan and pesto.

For anyone searching for that elusive English Breakfast in Berlin, Café Feuerbach is on the corner of Schöneberger Str and Holsteinische Str in Steglitz, equidistant from S-Bahnhof Feuerbach Straße and U-Bahnhof Walther-Schreiber-Platz.

Hokey Pokey – Ice Cream of Dreams

Ice Cream Pot at Hokey Pokey Berlin

It’s the last day of February, the sun is shining and Eissaison (ice cream season) is about to start. No, you’re not dreaming, this is real life.  Hokey Pokey, one of the most popular and in my opinion one of best Eisläden (ice cream parlours) in Berlin reopens on 28 February for its 2015 run.

Hokey Pokey is so popular that last year the owners were ‘forced’ to raise their prices and hire extra staff to appease the neighbours who complained about the ‘noisy customers’ queuing and eating outside on the pavement.

Navigate your way through the crowds of people and strollers and you are greeted by a freezer choc-a-block full of delicious looking ice cream options.  Choose your flavour, how many scoops you would like and whether you would like it in a cone or pot and prepare for ice cream induced ‘ooohs’, ‘aaahs’ and ‘mmms’.

Ice Cream Cone at Hokey Pokey Berlin

The Belgian Chocolate ice cream at Hokey Pokey is the stuff of fantasies.  Luxuriously rich ice cream with large chocolate pieces throughout that will have you craving more the moment you finish.

Hokey Pokey Berlin Logo

Photo: Logo courtesy of Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey is open daily from 14:00 to 19:00 (check Facebook for current opening hours) at Stargarder Straße 73 (not far from S/U Schönhauser Allee) in Prenzlauer Berg – treat yourself to some of the best ice cream in Berlin.

Chutnify – A Dosa South Indian Street Food in Berlin

Close Up Goan Pork Dosa at Chutnify Berlin

According to the Chutnify website ‘the owner, Aparna Aurora inspired by her Indian heritage and travels decided to open her South Indian street food dream in Prenzlauer Berg.’  And I for one am pleased as punch that she chose Berlin for her restaurant.

It’s no great secret and something that I’ve mentioned before that Berlin is sadly lacking in the quality Indian food department.  You can imagine my excitement then when I heard good things about Chutnify shortly after it opened in October last year.  Unfortunately for me though, I had just moved out of my apartment in the area and it has taken me far longer than it should have to actually visit.

Decor at Chutnify Berlin

My first impressions were good: the welcome was warm and friendly; the décor colourful and simple but at the same time clearly carefully put together, an obvious advantage of the owner’s background in fashion.

Dosa Man at Chutnify Berlin

I’ve been dreaming about the Dosas here and having studied the menu online had carefully selected the Tandoori Chicken for my debut meal, so I was a little disappointed to discover that the lunch menu is a slightly abridged version of the full menu displayed on the website and my dream dish wasn’t available.

Goan Pork Dosa at Chutnify Berlin

I plumped instead for the Goan Pork Dosa and all thoughts of disappointment were banished when it arrived.  The Dosa, a crepe made with rice batter and lentils and a staple of South Indian cuisine, was light and fluffy, the pork tender and bursting with flavour.  The accompaniments offered a variety of complementary flavours, my favourite of which was the spicy Tamarind chutney, which brought a touch of chilli heat to the meal.

Having cleaned my plate I only wished I had the appetite left to try the Thali but that will have to wait for another time.  I’ll also have to go one evening so I can try the Masala Wurst, Chutnify’s take on the Currywurst.

Tandoori Chicken Dosa at Chutnify Berlin Keema Mattar Rice Bowl at Chutnify Berlin

I’ve already been back with Steffi when we shared the Tandoori Chicken Dosa and the Keema Mattar Rice Bowl and both lived up to the standard set by the Goan Pork Dosa.

Many return visits are still needed.

Taxi With Bill at Chutnify Berlin

The owner’s eye for design and attention to detail was again to the fore when my bill arrived in a plastic auto rickshaw taxi.

During my lunchtime visit a touching scene played out in front of me involving a simple and heart-warming act of kindness on the part of the owner so I can only hope that in this case good things happen to good people and Chutnify is a roaring success.  Given that it serves flavoursome and well-spiced Indian food, something that Berlin has been crying out for it is hard to doubt that that will be the case.

Sironi – Italian Bakery in Berlin

Maritozzi at Sironi, an Italian bakery in Berlin

As the venue for Street Food Thursday, Markthalle Neun is well and truly established as a must-visit for Berlin foodies but thanks to Sironi, the Italian bakery occupying a glass cube in the market hall, there’s no need to write off the rest of the week.

Baker at Work at Sironi, an Italian bakery in Berlin

All the bread, pizzas and pastries are prepared on the premises and thanks to all that glass you can watch Alfredo Sironi, who opened his bakery in August 2013, and his team preparing and baking the Italian specialities on offer.

Savoury Focaccia at Sironi, an Italian bakery in Berlin Sweet Focaccia at Sironi, an Italian bakery in Berlin Dinkel and Sironi Bread at Sironi, an Italian bakery in Berlin Ciabattina at Sironi, an Italian bakery in Berlin

My personal highlight here is the Maritozzo, a sweet bread with raisins and candied orange peel from Rome, which reminds me in flavour of a Chelsea Bun – a perfect dessert treat at 1,50€.

Maritozzo at Sironi, an Italian bakery in Berlin

To find out a bit more about Alfredo Sironi’s journey from Lake Como to Berlin and to see the bakers at work check out this short video from iGNANT.

iGNANT Places: Sironi – Il Pane Di Milano Bakery

Sironi is open 6 days a week and also during the monthly Breakfast Market on the third Sunday of the month.

Based solely on the strength of the Maritozzo here, Sironi would be my Berlin bakery tip. Backed up as it is by a delicious selection of sweet and savoury snacks, it’s a no-brainer – and if all that hasn’t persuaded you to give it a go, it is Sironi that supplies the soft bread rolls for the other star of the Markhalle Neun, Big Stuff Smoked BBQ.

Grüne Woche Berlin

Swiss Cheese Stand at Grüne Woche Berlin

Grüne Woche (International Green Week) is a massive food, agriculture and horticulture exhibition held for the 80th time in 2015 at Messe Berlin.

I went for the first time on Saturday and was amazed by the huge selection of different food and drink from all around the world on offer.

My food highlight of the day was eating Poffertjes, a small pancake-like dessert from the Netherlands, served with butter and orange liqueur.

Poffertjes Batter Being Poured at Grüne Woche Berlin Poffertjes Being Prepared at Grüne Woche Berlin Poffertjes at Grüne Woche Berlin

Naturally, I took advantage of the opportunity to sample some beers and managed to Untapp 10 new brews, the highlight of which was a Pale Ale from Liechtensteiner Brauhaus.  For the real enthusiast there was also beer bread on sale.

Pale Ale from Liechtensteiner Brauhaus at Grüne Woche Berlin Beer at Grüne Woche Berlin Bread at Grüne Woche Berlin

Pigs, horses, cows, goats and alpacas were all on show in one hall.

Cows at Grüne Woche Berlin Alpacas at Grüne Woche Berlin

My first Grüne Woche Berlin experience was overwhelmingly positive and I’m already looking forward to a return next year when I hope to have a little bit more time available to check out the German and International Beer Hall.

Apples at Grüne Woche Berlin Food Sign at Grüne Woche Berlin Tulips at Grüne Woche Berlin Bavarian Cheese Seller at Grüne Woche Berlin Cow Balloon at Grüne Woche Berlin Green Funkturm at Grüne Woche Berlin

Konyali – A special Döner in Berlin

Close Up of Spezial Döner at Konyali in Berlin

In the UK, the kebab has been pretty much relegated to the status of post pub snack and alcohol absorber but, thanks to a large Turkish community, many of Berlin’s Kebab shops and Turkish restaurants are on another level and the Döner Kebap is a snack staple.  One of my favourite Dönerbüden (kebab shops), recommended by a very good friend, is Konyali in Kreuzberg.

When Cihan first brought me to the restaurant next to the exit from the U-Bahnhof at Kottbusser Tor it was the Spezial Döner that caught my eye when I scanned the menu.

Spezial Döner at Konyali in Berlin

A plate of Döner meat served on a bed of Pommes (chips or fries) and salad with sauce, the Groß (large), which I always go for, clocks in at a very reasonable 5€.

I still remember the smile that I had on my face when I realised that the basket of bread the waiter put on the table was for me and how that smile broadened when I tasted it – amazing!

Bread at Konyali in Berlin

There is a smaller version available for 3,50€ and also Döner Kebap im Brot for 2,80€ if you’ve left your appetite at home, though you’ll still need to be hungry to finish them.

Döner Kebap im Brot at Konyali in Berlin

My only criticism of the Döner im Brot is that the bread is a little crispy for my preference.

I should also point out the only other drawback for me, which is that like a number of kebab shops in Berlin, Konyali doesn’t sell beer but don’t worry, this is Kreuzberg so there are a handful of Spätis within spitting distance.

I haven’t made it past the Döner options but as you can see from the menu, Konyali serves lots of Turkish specialities.  If watching this video, which I found on their website, of the dishes being prepared doesn’t make you hungry, nothing will.

Konyali Berlin

The Kebap here is the best of the traditional lamb or veal Döner that I have had in Berlin and since Cihan introduced me to Konyali it has been one of my go to lunch options when I’m out and about in Kreuzberg.

Curry & Chili – Currywurst with a kick in Berlin

Close up of Currywurst & Chips (Currywurst & Pommes) at Curry & Chili Berlin

As a general rule Currywurst is a sausage smothered in ketchup with a sprinkling of curry powder but the best Currywurstbuden take things a step further.  You could say that Curry & Chili on the corner of Osloer Strasse and Prinzenallee in Berlin Wedding has taken it several steps, as it lays claim to the title of Deutschlands schärfster Imbiss (Germany’s spiciest snack bar).

Curry & Chili, a Currywurst Imbiss in Berlin

Frank Spieß opened his Imbiss in 2005 with the intention of offering a 1 Euro takeout but rising costs meant he had to increase prices and led to him searching out a new concept.  Driven by his own passion for spicy food, Frank decided to offer 5 different levels of spiciness.

There are now 12 options on offer.  First, the standard Currywurst with a sprinkling of curry powder and then, with the addition of chilli flakes, what most Buden will serve when you ask for ‘ein bisschen shärfer’.

And that’s when it starts to get interesting.

The 10 Sauces in the window at Curry & Chili Berlin

The brave, or foolhardy depending on your viewpoint, can now opt to add one of 10 levels of spiciness from a range of sauces – from Crazy Jerry at 11,000 Scoville to the own-brand, Curry & Chili Gold Edition at 7,777,777 Scoville.

The 10 sauces (Stufen) on offer at Curry & Chili Berlin

Photo: Courtesy of Curry & Chili

I’ve been to Curry & Chili three times now and the spiciest Currywurst I have eaten is the Stufe 5 – 250,000 Scoville – and I’m pretty sure this is right on my limit.  It was a bit of an effort to eat the two sausages I had and I didn’t quite finish my chips.  It is worth noting that as well as changing the spiciness, the different sauces also have a considerable affect on the flavour of the Currywurst.

Obviously, there are plenty of people out there with a higher tolerance for spicy food or a greater desire to push themselves than me because the Curry & Chili Club, reserved for those who have eaten all 10 sauces, now boasts over 200 members.

The rules for anyone interested in joining (translated from the Curry & Chili website) are:

  1. All 10 levels must be eaten.
  2. All 10 must have been eaten within a 6-month timeframe.
  3. The sausage or chips must be eaten within sight of a Curry & Chili employee.
  4. The sauces can be eaten in any order but level 10 must be eaten last to complete the challenge.
  5. Membership is of course free of charge. Events for members will be displayed on the Curry & Chili website.

I’m pretty sure that this is the kind of challenge that would appeal to groups of men on a stag do (Junggesellenabschied) in Berlin or a ‘lads holiday’ but I have noticed that there are a number of female members too.

I think that the enjoyment is taken out of eating a Currywurst when your lips are burning and your eyes watering so I would definitely recommend working your way through the sauces to find your level.

Currywurst & Chips (Currywurst & Pommes) at Curry & Chili Berlin

Curry & Chili is definitely the place to go for Currywurst in Berlin if you would like to test your capacity for spicy food but the standard of the sausages and the ketchup, made fresh each day by Frank’s wife, mean that I would recommend it for a more leisurely and pleasant snack too.

Berlin Maps: Bars, Burgers and Christmas Markets

A stroke of genius from Giulia Pines kicked off a new trend in Berlin in November.  Her Berlin U-Bahn Bar Map for Thrillist inspired a number of other guides based on the Berlin transport map.  Best men the world over now have the perfect tool to plan a bar crawl in the German capital and the map will provide no end of inspiration for spontaneous after work drinks.  Thanks to the imitators you can also do a burger crawl or a Christmas Market marathon.

Thrillist’s Berlin U-Bahn Bar Map

This is the map that started it all.  Substituting the names of each of the S and U-Bahn stations inside the Berlin ring for a bar within 10 minutes walking distance, Giulia Pines created a guide that really captured Berliners’ imaginations.  Thrillist’s Berlin U-Bahn Bar Map was a massive social media hit and at the time of writing has over 35,000 likes on Facebook.

Thrillist Berlin U-Bahn Bar Map

Photo: Thrillist

Burger City Guide Map Berlin

The success of this simple and effective idea guaranteed a herd of copycats.  The Burger City Guide Map Berlin has a number of suggestions for several stations but others have been left blank.

Burger City Guide Map Berlin

Photo: Burger City Guide

Burgers and Hip Hop – U-Bahn Burger Map Berlin

Appearing in my social media feeds on the same day as The Burger City Guide Map Berlin, the U-Bahn Burger Map Berlin from the folks behind burger extravaganza Burgers and Hip Hop is a more comprehensive guide and will no doubt be responsible for a slew of broken diets.

U-Bahn Burger Map Berlin - Burgers and Hip Hop

Photo: Burgers and Hip Hop

Weihnachtsmarktfahrplan Berlin – Christmas Markets Map

An Amazing Earth magazine gave the map a festive twist with their Weihnachtsmarktfahrplan Berlin.  The city is awash with Christmas Markets and remembering where they are can be a bit tricky.  With this map you know you’ll never be far away from your next Glühwein.

Weihnachtsmarktfahrplan Berlin - a map of Christmas Markets from An Amazing Earth

Photo: An Amazing Earth magazine

Talking of Glühwein, this widely circulated meme (which I haven’t been able to track down a source for) will sum up the Christmas build up for thousands of Berliners.

Glühwein

Photo: Source unknown

BVG Transport Map

And finally…just in case you’ve forgotten what the original looks like here is Berlin’s S and U-Bahn map

Berlin Transport Map - BVG

Photo: BVG

Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap – Cult Favourite Döner in Berlin

Close up of Hähnchen Gemüse Döner at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Emerging from the U-Bahn station on the west side of Mehringdamm in Berlin Kreuzberg, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was the first day of the sales or that a famous celebrity is signing autographs but the long line of people you see are queuing for a Döner at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap.

The queue at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Strolling down almost any street in the German capital you’ll find a handful of options for Berlin’s most popular snack options the Currywurst and the Döner Kebap.  Mustafa’s has been a cult favourite since it started selling a twist on the traditional kebab made with chicken and roasted vegetables.

Mustafa’s has appeared in numerous Berlin guide books and newspaper articles that guarantee it a steady stream of tourist trade to add to the local interest.

If that wasn’t enough, the guys made an advert.

All this adds up to spectacularly long queues.

Just walking along the pavement on Mehringdamm is difficult at times because the queues from Mustafa’s and another local legend Curry 36 often meet each other.

It’s not unusual to have to queue for 30 minutes or more.

The queue at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin The queue at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

The big question: is it worth the wait?

I have to say that I’m a big fan of the Hähnchen Döner mit Gemüse (Chicken doner with vegetables).

As is the norm, there is a choice of three sauces: Kräuter (herb), Knoblauch (garlic), Scharf (spicy) and the usual array of salad.

For me though, it’s the finishing touches that make the kebabs here special.

The serving window Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Firstly, shortly before serving a mystery liquid (Mustafa’s secret ingredient) is squeezed onto the meat and vegetables.

Hähnchen Gemüse Döner at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Then, the pièce de résistance a crumbling of Feta cheese and a squeeze of juice straight from the lemon add a freshness that elevates the Gemüse Kebap above the average Döner.

Whether it is worth standing in the queue for upwards of half an hour to get your hands on one really depends on how busy you are and what else you could be doing with your time.

The obvious question when confronted with such a popular spot is why there aren’t branches in every corner of Berlin.  There were outposts under Eberswalder Straße U-Bahnhof and on Oranienburger Straße near Hackescher Markt in 2012 but neither lasted unfortunately.

Other shops and stalls have popped up all over Berlin selling Gemüse Döner though so there are alternatives if you can’t face, or don’t have time, for the queues – I would recommend K’UPS Gemüse Kebap on Kastanianallee.

With so much hype surrounding a kebab shop it would be easy to write Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap off as a Berlin tourist trap but the truth is that the Döner here is something special – and they do say the best things in life are worth waiting for.