Germany is a country known for its food -- from massive schnitzel and pretzels galore to giant steins of beer -- and their capital is no slouch in the iconic foods department, in fact the very word Berliner means donut. Here’s our list of the city’s must-eats, and of course, the best places to get them...
9 iconic Berlin dishes and where to eat them
Currywurst: Curry & Chili
The Berliner story is that local Herta Heuwer threw together a mixture of ketchup, Worcester sauce, and curry powder back in '49, and the currywurst was born, creating the city’s most iconic food that has since earned its own special cutlery (the currywurst fork!), has a freaking museum entirely devoted to it, and spawned a rivalry with Hamburg over the true inventor (it's Berlin, trust us). We scoured the city for the hottest curry dogs (which you’ll find at Curry & Chili); locals head to Konnopke’s Imbiss for the classic version.
Döner Kebab: Mustafa's Gemüse Kabap
It’s said that Turkish immigrant Kadir Nurman originally invented the döner kebab in the early '70s, turning the Turkish meat and salad -- which were typically served on a plate -- into a portable meal by stuffing them inside the fluffy bread. Today the döner is equally popular with Berlin’s massive Turkish population as it is w/ late-night revelers looking for a cheap meal. You’ll find them all over the city, but the line at Mustafas Gemüse Kabap is worth the wait.
Bockwurst: Curry 36
In Germany, you’re probably going to want to eat your weight in wursts, and in Berlin that means a bockwurst, invented in 1889 by a local restaurant owner who added pork to the classic veal bratwurst mix. Today bockwurst is made using a whole zoo's-worth of meats, incl. pork, lamb, chicken & turkey, and there’s even a fish-only version. You’ll find them at most biergartens & currywurst stands incl. Curry 36; do it right and eat your bockwurst w/ a bock beer.
Ketwurst: Alain Snack
Back in the late '70s, when that pesky non-Pink Floyd Wall was still around, the guys in charge of the former East had their own food think tank just to whip up new food items. What did they come up with? Hot dogs, covered in ketchup, and shoved inside a bun, which they named ketwurst by shortening ketchup + wurst (easy on the creativity there, fellas). Today you’ll find a few remnants of the GDR-era food still lurking around the city, including this Schönhauser Allee stand.
A classic grandmother dish, “senfeier,” or "mustard eggs" is as simple as it gets -- hard-boiled eggs served with mashed spuds and covered in a creamy mustard sauce. Doesn’t sound appealing? Well the dish is a childhood throwback along the lines of PB&J for Berliners, and you’ll find it everywhere from lunch canteens like Kantine to Chef Tim Raue’s modern interpretation (w/ a poached egg!) at La Soupe Populaire.
Eisbein (Pork Knuckle): Zur Letzten Instanz
German cuisine falls heavy on the pork, the king of which is the knuckle. In Berlin, the oinktastic dish is called “eisbein,” or "ice leg" (oh-kay), and it’s boiled or steamed for several hours, usually in sauerkraut, giving it a nice pink glow. The dish is generally served with potatoes and Berliners also eat it with pea puree. Try it out at the city’s oldest restaurant, Zur Letzten Instanz, which opened in 1621, and has supposedly since served Napoleon, French prez Jacques Chirac & Jack Nicholson.
Königsberger Klopse: Max und Moritz
These meatballs, named after the Prussian city they come from, are much-loved for their sauce; a creamy mixture of capers and lemon. They are always served w/ mashed or boiled potatoes or rice and are dee-lii-cious. Get a taste at the Berlin classic resto Max und Moritz, where you can also gnaw away on eisbein.
Schnitzel Holstein: Borchardt
The classic Berlin schnitzel may be awesomely made w/ cow udder, but only a few daring Germans eat that these days. For another city take on the deliciousness that is breaded-and-fried meat, try the Schnitzel à la Holstein, which was drummed up at fancy resto Borchardt in the 19th century for the German diplomat Friedrich von Holstein. He must have been one adventurous eater: the traditional veal schnitz is topped w/ anchovies, a fried egg, and capers.
Berliner/Pfannkuchen: Bäckerei Siebert
When we start talking about German donuts, things get confusing. The word “Berliner” means donut -- specifically the jelly-filled variety -- but in Berlin they call them “pfannkuchen”, which means pancake everywhere else in Germany. Confused yet? On NYE, Berliners have this great tradition of putting one mustard-filled donut in the pile of jellies; the lucky recipient supposedly gets good luck for the year. The old-school Bäckerei Siebert is the place to get all the delicious, and non-mustard, flavors.
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1. Curry & ChiliOsloer Straße 109, Berlin
2. Konnopke’s ImbissSchönhauser Allee 44b, Berlin
3. Mustafa’s Gemüse KebapMehringdamm 32-34, Berlin
4. Curry 36Mehringdamm 36, Berlin
5. Alain SnackSchönhauser Allee, Berlin
6. KantineJoachimstrasse 11, Berlin
7. La Soupe PopulairePrenzlauer Allee 242, Berlin
8. Zur Letzten InstanzWaisenstr. 14-16, Berlin
9. Max und MoritzOranienstr. 162, Berlin
10. BorchardtFranzösische Str 47, Berlin
11. Bäckerei SiebertSchönfließer Str. 12, Berlin
This place serves some of the spiciest currywurst you'll ever taste, with their best registering 7.7 million on the Scoville heat scale.
This is pretty much a Berlin institution solely known for their fantastic currywurst. They serve a number of different versions, but their classic is the most popular.
You might have to wait in line for awhile to get a kebab from this tiny street-side stand, but once you take the first bite, you'll understand why you did. Kebabs here are loaded with crispy chicken, fresh feta, and a secret ingredient that, undoubtedly, sets this place apart.
Some people claim that Curry 36 has the best currywurst in the city, and if you want it really hot, you'll have to ask for it "scharf".
This Schönhauser Allee food stand serves a handful of items, but you're gonna want to order one of their famous ketwursts, which is basically a hot dog covered in ketchup in a roll.
This Mitte resto serves up a number of traditional German dishes including senfeier, which consists of hard-boiled eggs served with mashed potatoes and is covered in a creamy mustard sauce.
La Soupe Populaire aims to combines art and the culinary arts, with a comfortable contemporary interior and meal concepts designed by Tim Raue. Enjoy your pleasant surroundings while chowing down on meals that you can piece together from a choice of four appetizers, four main courses, and two desserts.
Dating all the way back to 1621, Zur Letzten Instanz's more than kept its medieval vibe that its had going since its creation all those centuries ago. At the head of a quiet three-way intersection in Mitte, the restaurant beckons to hungry passerby (and famous faces like Napoleon, French President Jacques Chirac, and Jack Nicholson) as the only labeled building on the block and keeps them inside with its carved-wood lining, vintage beer stein collection, and German comforts like meatballs and seasonal fried fishes.
Unless you completely flunked geography/social studies, you should know that being in Berlin means you're also in Germany. As such, there's really no reason not to head to this Kreutzberg spot for a taste of Old German cuisine. Max und Moritz survived both World Wars and has been serving traditional German fare like schnitzel, eisbein (pork knuckle), lamb stew, and Westphalian sausages for ever. On top of that, they've got their own house lager, which should help to wash everything down.
This Berlin hotspot features menu options that change daily and exhibit flavors of both German and French cuisine.