Until the end of the 19th century, the German capital's cuisine was rather simple with hearty flavours and focused on saturation. Characteristic staples were crayfish, goose, fish as well as legumes, cabbage and potatoes.
Today, Berlin’s food scene is a flavourful and diverse potpourri of all kinds of influences, traditional dishes and hidden gems and Europe’s capital when it comes to vegan and vegetarian food. From hearty Döner to the classic Currywurst, sweet Pfannkuchen to Asian fusion kitchen and unique liquors, Berlin’s modern and diverse cuisine has something for everyone.
This delicious Turkish-inspired filled bread took the Berliner’s hearts by storm and is often even considered the national dish of the city. The classic version consists of a flatbread filled with spicy calf, chicken or lamb meat that is roasted on a spit, fresh cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cabbage and salad and either a hearty garlic or herb sauce and a spicy sauce.
If you ever come across a long queue in Kreuzberg on Mehringdamm, it’s probably for Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap, Berlin’s most popular Döner. Every day, several hundred people wait for hours to taste it and decide whether it is worth the hype. However, due to its vast popularity, the street food can be found anywhere in the city.
Other popular spots are Tadim Döner at the Kottbusser Tor or Zaddy’s by Kaplan in Charlottenburg. Vöner offered the first vegan Döner in Germany 20 years ago and is a popular spot for meatless alternatives to this day.
Berliner Luft is not only a brandy dessert with raspberry sauce but also a popular liquor from the former DDR, also known as ‘Peffi’. The refreshing mint liquor is a cult favorite in the capital’s party scene and the East’s snotty answer to Crème de Menthe.
The alcohol content varies from 18 to 40 and 50%, depending on the version. Usually it is served pure on crushed ice as a Frappé or as part of a cocktail like the ‘Grasshopper’ with white cocoa liquor and cream or as a ‘Stinger’ with brandy and/or vodka.
Eisbein is Berlin cuisine for advanced travelers and a true classic among traditional German dishes! The corned and cooked pork knuckles are typically served with Sauerkraut, mashed peas, salted potatoes and mustard. The meat is strongly marbled and surrounded by a thick layer of fat, yet it is very tender and aromatic.
The dishes name translates to ‘ice leg’. However, there are a few different explanations for the name’s origin. A common theory is stemming from folk etymology, deriving from the formerly common use of shin bones as material for skate blades, called islegg in Norwegian.
Berlin’s most popular fast food since the 1950s is the classic Currywurst, typically served with curry ketchup or a special tomato sauce, sprinkled with curry powder, and often fries. The Currywurst belongs to Berlin like the Brandenburger Tor or the TV Tower at the Alexanderplatz. Here it was invented in 1949 by Herta Heuwer, owner of a fast food outlet in Charlottenburg.
At Curry 36, located on Mehringdamm close to Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap, you can find some of the city’s best Currywurst since 1981 that is made from high-quality meat that you can order with or without skin or as an organic or vegan version. Konnopke’s Imbiß in East Berlin was founded in the 1960s and is just as much of a legend. Here, you can choose from many side dishes such as potato salad or go for a Bratwurst instead.
This refreshing ice tea made from sparkling mate tea is the go to drink for hip locals. The herbal taste might not be for everyone but it is definitely worth a try and thanks to the caffeine it is the perfect condiment for a little break from sightseeing.
The most popular brands are Club Mate and Mio Mio Mate and you can either enjoy them in of the many cafes or you can find them in every supermarket or one of Berlin’s unique small shops called Späti all day long.
These donut-like pastries made from sweet yeast dough are known as Berliner or Krapfen in the rest of Germany but are called Pfannkuchen in Berlin. Pfannkuchen, on the contrary, are crepes in the rest of Germany! In Berlin, Pfannkuchen are not only popular during carnival days but all year round and come in many varieties and with different fillings.
Most locals enjoy their Pfannkuchen simple and filled with marmalade and powdered sugar. Looking for the best pastries in the whole city? Whether you’re looking for the traditional version or prefer unique creations with chocolate fillings, mini Pfannkuchen or even a Pfannkuchen pie, Sugarclan has the best Pfannkuchen in town with the fluffiest dough.
If you’re looking for a vegan alternative on the other hand, that are popular well beyond the city’s border, pay a visit to Brammibal’s Donuts. From classic versions to flavourful specials, this shops makes their donuts daily by hand.