Home to more than 6500 restaurants, 2800 food stands, and too many delis to count, Germany’s capital is dense with gastronomic delight. But don’t be fooled by the abundance of delicatessens – whose etymology evokes delicacy – because there is nothing dainty about Berlin’s food scene. Rather, the city is known for its wealth of hearty (if not always healthy), meat-heavy, mouthwatering dishes. And while Berlin is certainly no stranger to Michelin stars, fine dining, or sumptuous culinary refinement, the true character of the city’s cuisine is decidedly down-to-Earth, casual, and quick. With average winter highs hovering around 2 degrees Celsius and only 46 hours of daylight each January, it is no wonder Berliners are enthusiastic about meals that (if you will pardon the expression) put a little meat on the bones.
Brats and Burgers
Berlin’s currywurst kiosks are iconic in the local culinary landscape. Patrons order these delicious pork sausages covered in spicy ketchup and curry powder, then eat them standing at raised tables in typical brisk and efficient German fashion. Discerning palates always order their wursts ohne darm, without skin, which is slightly paler and juicier than the alternative.
As for burgers, they come in all shapes and sizes, but are often bacon-laden and smeared thick with stone ground hot mustard. And for those who prefer no bun, Buletten (succulent meatballs served with chips) is another signature dish you’ll find at popular kiosks around Berlin.
Everything is Bigger in Berlin
The characteristically tall locals aren’t the only aspect of Berlin that exceeds the ordinary. The city is also home to the world’s largest and most widely renowned beer garden: the annual Berlin Beer Festival. Needless to say, no German culinary guide would be complete without mentioning beer, a staple of the Bavarian diet. In this city, they pour draft beers slowly, the way beer ought to be poured, and most local menus feature a selection of quality pilsners and stouts—the perfect accompaniment for everything from eisbein mit sauerkraut(ham hock served with sauerkraut) to kartoffelpuffer (pan fried potato cakes with egg, spices, and sometimes applesauce).
Berlin also boasts the largest deli in Europe. Shoppers in KaDeWe’s 7000 square meter delicatessen section choose from more than 34,000 products, including artisan cheeses, handmade mustard, signature local sausages, and a seemingly endless selection of meat. Be sure to spend a few hours here if you’ll be cooking for yourself between restaurant stops during your next stay.
How to Say ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’
Well, the easiest way is probably to just say ich bin ein Berliner; but you’ll be much more convincing if you manage to order like a local instead. So for appetizers, don’t miss an opportunity to try hackepeter. Just be forewarned: it’s not for the faint of heart. Hackepeter is raw pork seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, caraway, and sometimes onions, and eaten on slices of toasted baguette. If you can adapt to the local disposition, and get past the raw pork, it is actually quite delicious.
For dinner, practice your German accent and order gebratener hering (fried and battered herring) and erbsen puree (pea soup garnished with roasted onions and bacon). Or if it happens to be wintertime, and your appetite is light, get flammkuchen (a thin, pizza-like flatbread with bacon, sour cream, and onions). If you still have room when it is time for dessert, get a slice of Käsekuchen (opulent quark-based German cheesecake).
Brilliant Breakfasts and Twisted Snacks
While there are countless ways to enjoy breakfast in Berlin, the one not to miss combines the best of German meats, cheese, and bread. Head to a local café (you won’t have to look far) for a toasted open-faced sourdough sandwich, spread with creamy quark, chives, buttermilk, and cured ham. Later, as you tour the city, taking in the sights and sounds, keep an eye out for South German lye bread pretzels. While perhaps not a native Berlin snack, they are a must-eat for every visiting foodie.
Of course, Berlin’s food scene today is also flavored by a wide range of multiethnic influence. With large Turkish and Jewish populations, Germany’s capital is rich in dishes ranging from falafel to baklava, and home to countless fusion eateries and international tastes. In fact, Vietnamese food has become quite popular amongst Berliners, and Phó restaurants have been cropping up throughout the city in recent years. As with all important culinary centres, however, Berlin’s food culture constantly evolves, yet never truly departs from the flavorful tradition that makes its dishes so distinct, unique, and delicious.
This article was contributed by Catherine, a lover of the continent and everything with which it tempts our taste buds. She writes for HouseTrip.com. If you fancy broadening your culinary horizons, why not pay a visit to Germany’s wonderful capital by booking a Berlin apartment with HouseTrip.com?
Photo 1: Bratwurst by Cucchiaio (Flickr)
Photo 2: German Beers by Nikos Roussos (Flickr)
Photo 3: Shrimp by Chris Bulle (Flickr)
Photo 4: Pretzels by Judy Doyland (Flickr)