Laura Harker tracks down some of the best independent food shops in the city…
Food shopping in Berlin can be a somewhat frustrating experience. While several mainstream German supermarkets (Rewe, Kaisers, Real) have dedicated deli counters serving meat, fish and cheeses, the likes of Aldi, Lidl and Penny are still bereft of such pleasures – and not everyone wants to shop in a supermarket anyway.
The city’s food markets are wonderful alternatives of course, but most are only open at weekends, which makes mid-week shopping a challenging experience. Fortunately the city does have some decent independent butchers, fishmongers, cheese-shops and more. Below are some of our reliable favourites…
While Germany is one of the world’s leading cheese producers, it can be frustratingly difficult to find a decent range as well as cheeses from outside the country. Fortunately shops like Knippenbergs offer a much broader selection than the supermarkets; up to 150 different varieties in fact, inluding cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s cheeses, from their various locations across the city (including their own shop in Wilmersdorf) and several local markets in Berlin and Potsdam. They also have seasonal specialities around the year such as their Christmas Käsepralinen.
Peppikäse in Neukölln – a shop that asks the all-important question “Is there life besides the world of cheese?” – also stocks an impressive selection of cheeses (all made with natural ingredients) that come primarily from Austria and Switzerland. As well as their main store at Weichselstraße, you can also find them hawking their goods at some of the weekly markets.
If it’s French cheeses you’re after, look no further than Kreuzberg institution Maître Philippe, which also does a brilliant line in wines and conserves. Other cheesemongers worthy of a shout are Kunst & Käse, whose owner Ute Rohrbeck manages to combine her twin passions of art and cheese; Chez Bruno, which doubles up as a wine shop – perfect if you’re planning a wine and cheese night; and La Käserie in Prenzlauer Berg, which has a sit-in cheese menu and is perfect for if you can’t be bothered to organise your own wine and cheese night.
One of the city’s, erm, Big Cheeses in terms of Käse coverage is Ursula Heinzelmann. A food writer, sommelier and gastronome, she has a string of cheese-related cookery books under her belt, gives monthly cheese and wine talks around Berlin (in German) and a regularly updated website.
Trying to find fresh fish in Berlin is one of the toughest tasks for the food shopper, but there are a few solid options. One of the most traditional is Charlotennburg’s Rogacki, a sprawling delicatessen operating since 1928 that sells a fantastic array of fresh fish – including fresh lobster in the mornings – alongside 150 types of cheeses, 200 different cured and fresh meats, and highbrow treats like black caviar. (Even if you’re not seeking fresh fish, it’s worth a visit for the atmosphere, to slurp on some delicious fish soup or gnaw on a freshly grilled fillet).
In the north of the city, Prenzlauer Berg has a couple of interesting options too. Der Fischladen on Schönhauser Allee is an Imbiss cum shop with a fancier fish restaurant right next door; offering such a good selection of fresh and smoked fish (and other seafood), you could be forgiven for briefly believingyou’re in Hamburg-Altona – or Britain, since the shop also serves British-style fish and chips, complete with traditional newspaper wrapping. Just down the road on Danzigerstrasse, Der Fischfabrik does pretty much the same job.
Elsewhere in the city, Fisch Schmidt in Kreuzberg has the honour of being Berlin’s oldest fish shop, and also has an Imbiss attached, while Lichterfelde West is host to Biolüske, which has a bountiful fresh fish counter every Friday and Saturday – their wares can also be found in Markthalle Neun on the same days. For a broader selection, try larger specialist shops like Frischeparadies (which has branches on the Prenzlauer Berg-Friedrichshain border and in Charlottenburg), Mitte Meer – which can be found in Schöneberg and Charlottenburg – or, if you can bag a member’s card, Metro.
The German love of swine means the city is something of a pork-fest; but trying to land some lamb is another matter entirely. Most supermarkets seem to be sheep-free zones, and when it is available it’s usually stuffed in a freezer and monumentally-priced. Hooray then for Olaf Willert, who sells fresh lamb from his farm at the weekly Kollwitzplatz farmer’s market. He also runs the Eichhorn sheep farm in Rüdnitz, a completely bio and organic enterprise which he opened alongside his wife in 1993. Other go-to places for lamb are the Turkish supermarkets, where it can usually be found at reasonable prices.
If you prefer your meat slightly wilder then the appropriately-named Wildfleischhandel Berlin in Kreuzberg offers an excellent selection of game meats from the surrounding area. The selection changes seasonally from red and fallow deer throughout the last half of the year to wild geese and hares in the winter months. It’s even possible to pre-order a whole wild boar for spit-roasting.
As for regular butchers who can offer a wide and varied selection of cuts of meat, Neuland Fleischerei Kluge has branches in Neukölln and Wilmersdorf, as well as a presence at the weekly markets. (Neuland meat means that while not certified organic, the animals have been raised in a way that is respectful to both them and the environment).
Another Neuland option is Wild & Geflügel Albrecht which has a long family tradition in Schöneberg and a good selection of game. For lovers of Blutwurst, Blutwurstmanufaktur’s online shop should be bookmarked; they have an interesting selection of sausages and can also cater for parties with their Spanferkel (suckling pig).
In the former East, check out Fleischerei Gottschlich in Prenzlauer Berg, which sells speciality wines and mustards along with its meat produce and Fleischerei Nino Domke in Friedrichshain – popular for its homemade soups and stews as well as its tender cuts of meat.
Specialist Shops & Delis
These days, vegetarians and vegans are fairly well catered for in Berlin too. Veganz – a completely vegan supermarket with bases in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic – has two stores in the city; one in Friedrichshain and the other in Prenzlauer Berg, both of which also have in-house cafes serving healthy food and, in the case of Prenzl’berg, even vegan cooking courses. For this in West Berlin, Dr Pogo in Neukölln also sells vegan groceries, cosmetics, and books amongst other things.
There are many niche and specialist shops worth exploring too. For the past decade, Prenzlauer Berg’s lovely little Pazianas have been making and selling their own branded olive oil and selling it alongside imported varieties. Just around the corner on Helmholtzplatz is one of the best all-round specialist delis in the city – Goldhahn & Sampson, which carries everything from wines, breads, meats and cheeses as well as a mixed selection of cookery books and cooking courses (some held in English).
You can find mustards and sauces galore at SenfSalon in Kreuzberg, which hawks innovative flavours like strawberry and liquorice as well as a decent selection of chutneys, marmalades and oils, or for something a little harder try Sake Kontor in Kreuzberg – Berlin’s only shop dedicated to the famed Japanese fermented rice drink.
Finally, those with a sweet tooth should head either to Kadó in the same district’s Gräferkiez, which has been selling only the finest liquorice since 1997, or Herr Nilson, a cute little boutique (with two stores in Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain) that offers old-style pick n mix sweets, including the highly sought after Paletas ice lollies.