Molly Hannon’s guide to some of the best German cuisine in the Hauptstadt…
Berlin’s food culture is as diverse as its population – to the point where its traditional cuisine often gets overlooked. Heading on a mission to find German food in the capital can uncover some pleasant surprises, since the city offers abundant opportunities to test your notions of what constitutes traditional German cuisine.
Sauerkraut? Pickled herring? Wurst? Check, check, check. But you’ll also find Spätzle and Maultaschen, the delicious Southern German take on pasta, tasty Klöße (dumplings), smoked trout, bolete (meatballs) and plenty of pork hocks, all backed up by a dizzying array of cakes and locally produced wines and beers. Guten appetit (and Prost!)
This atmospheric Palatinate wine bar is slightly hidden amongst a huddle of Spätkaufen (late night kiosks) and commercial stores in Charlottenburg. Despite its locale – and Berlin’s ever-evolving culinary landscape – the weinstuben has sustained its authentic and distinct flavor for over 75 years. The menu represents Palatine cuisine with items such as Saumagen – pig’s stomach – a particular favorite of the Palatine diet along with bratwurst, grieweworscht – a blood pudding sausage, and läwwerknedel – liver dumplings. Even more impressive are the more than 20,000 bottles of wine in the basement.
Kurfplaz-Weinstuben, Wilmersdorfer Straße 93, 10629 Berlin; 030 8836664, www.kurpfalz-weinstuben.de, Open Tue-Sat 6pm- 1am, Sun 6pm-midnight.
Zur Letzten Instanz
Zur Letzten Instanz dates back to the 16th century, and as such is one of Berlin’s oldest pubs. Appositely located in the Nikoleiviertel (Berlin’s ersatz Old Town), it has done its best to retain an Old World charm, with simple wooden tables and chairs, old photographs and paintings on the wall and a menu that pays hearty tribute to Germany’s traditional cuisine.
Dining here can be a serious gustatorial endeavour with mains that cater to the German appetite for large portions, featuring house specials like “Berlin in a clay pot” – the equivalent of a meat pie stuffed either with Buletten (Berlin meatballs) or pickled herrings and heavyweight three-course options. Recommended are the braised shoulder of lamb with fried dumplings or the mouth-watering Eisbein (pork shank), which arrives already impaled with a meat knife.
Zur Letzten Instanz, Waisenstraße 14-16 ,10179 Berlin; 030 2425528, www.zurletzteninstanz.de, Open Tue-Sat Midday-1am.
This Prenzlauerberg hotspot is one of the best examples of traditional German cuisine in town. Despite the high caliber of its food, its wooden interior and simple furnishings lend the place a down-to-earth German pub feel. The menu is limited but changes daily and reflects locally available seasonal ingredients; consistent highlights are the marinated sheep’s cheese and the pork fillet stuffed with plums. Note that this is a highly popular place and it’s sometimes difficult to secure a table after 8pm, especially at weekends.
Oderquelle, Oderberger Straße 27, 10435 Berlin (030 44 00 80 80, www.oderquelle.de). Open daily 6pm-1am daily.
Prenzlauerberg’s Gugelhof pays tribute to the exquisite taste that the Franco-German region of Alsace continues to exude today. It takes influence from the well known gastronomical hotspot located between three major rivers (Mosul, Rhine, Saar), and where ingredients are as diverse as they are numerous. The space has a solid, traditional feel with large wooden tables and professional service, and previous guests have included former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Gugelhof’s regional specialities range from Flammkuchen (known in France as Tarte Flambé, a flatbread pizza smothered in fromage blanc or crème fraîche and baked in a wood fire oven) to Alsatian cassoulet, composed of potatoes, leeks, onions, beef, lamb marinated in Alsatian white wine.
Gugelhof, Kollwitzplatz (corner Knaackstraße 37), 10435 Berlin; 030 442 9229, www.gugelhof.de, Open Mon-Fri 5pm-Close Sat-Sun; 10am-Close.
Named after German film director Ernst Lubitsch, this restaurant blends Berlin’s flair for the arts with its insatiable craving for traditional comfort food. Directors, film and TV stars mingle with locals and the smell of fine food that wafts from the kitchen. Lubitsch’s menu changes according to the seasons and features beloved house classics like der “Lubitsch” burger, Maultaschen (filled Ravioli-style noodles) with fresh tomato salad or the Berliner Kartoffelsuppe. If the prices are too high for an evening meal, enjoy a casual 3 course lunch for €10.
Lubitsch, Bleibtreustraße 47, 10623 Berlin; 030 8823756, www.restaurant-lubitsch.de, Currently being refurbished, the restaurant reopens in March 2015.
Cafe Obermaier’s main ingredient is authenticity. Located off bustling Kottbusser Tor, Obermaier’s menu offers a tasteful blend of Alpine and Bavarian regional classics, such as pork loin smothered in cranberry sauce served with fried dumplings and Wiener Schnitzel. Its atmosphere is simple and sparse lending itself more to the down-home charms of a biergarten with its bulky wooden benches and tables clad in blue and white checked tablecloths. The extensive selection of domestic brews provide a nice window into German beer culture, as well as the perfect complement to the hearty fare – all at the very unbeatable price.
Café Obermaier, Erkelenzdamm 17, 10999 Berlin, 030 6165 6862, Open daily 6-11pm
Spätzle & Knödel
As the name implies this place is a hotspot for those Swabian staples spätzle (pasta) and knödel (dumplings). One of the few good German-themed eateries in Friedrichshain, don’t let the small, almost dingy exterior and minimal interior put you off: the food is very decent. Aside from the eponymous main attractions, other Southern classics are on offer such as liver dumpling soup and sauerkraut, touted for its unique acidic taste and high nutrient content. There’s a sweet selection of Bavarian brews too.
Spätzle & Knödel, Wühlischstr. 20; 030 2757 1151, www.spaetzleknoedel.de, Open Mon-Fri 5pm-Close Sat-Sun 3pm- Close.
Zur Haxe is like visiting a German Oma’s; cuddly toys line the backs of benches and window sills while the walls are covered in quirky decorations. The bubbly staff are enthusiastically dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndls, and the menu is made up of classic comfort foods and Bavarian specialities. Be warned: the Schweinehaxen is bigger than your head.
Zur Haxe, Erich-Weinert-Straße 128, 10409 Berlin; 030 42 16 312; www.zurhaxe-berlin.de; Open Mon-Fri 4pm – midnight. Sat-Sun 12pm-midnight. Kitchen closes at 10.30pm.
Marjellchen specialises in superlative East Prussian, Silesian and Pomeranian cuisine. Heaven for meat lovers, the menu features classic dishes like Königsberger Klopse, goulash and pork kidneys. Dark woods, pink tablecloths and crackling vinyl records conjure up a homely and nostalgic mood. After dining, take a seat at one of the velvet bar stools and chat with the lively staff; the gregarious owner himself has been known to spontaneously recite poetry.
Marjellchen, Mommsen Straße 9, 10629 Berlin; 0330 88 72 98 90; www.marjellchen-berlin.de; Open daily from 5pm.