Posts Tagged ‘the bird’

BEST OF BERLIN 2011/2012 — PART I

January 3, 2012

everyone and their duck compiles their “best of” lists at the end of the year – so naturally, i decided i’m gonna be totally, like, rad…and start the new year with a list of my personal favorites. might this be because in truth, i am a helpless victim of procrastination and just couldn’t be bothered to post this just a few days earlier? i guess we’ll never find out…

many of the places listed below have been previously reviewed on this blog, in which case i have linked to the respective posts (mostly in german, so sorry!). others are in dire need of reviewing, but hey – there’s a whole new, shiny year ahead of us.  who knows what might happen ‘-)

so let’s dig into part one:

American – Coffee

“AMERICAN” (BURGERS & STEAKS)

while i am well aware that american cuisine encompasses a whole lot more than just burgers & steaks, most berlin restaurants (as well as their customers, for that matter) are not. so there.

the bird / am falkplatz 5 / p’berg

everything that needs to be said about this place has been said. the music’s too loud & of the “shitty rock” category, but i can ignore that for a grand piece of beef. while the service can be spotty at times, the quality of both burgers and steaks remains consistent. the proof? just try to get a rez on the same day you’d like to go. good luck!

hamburger heaven / graefestr. 93/ xberg

not nearly as overrun as the big cheese above, but it’s become quite popular & is a great alternative for a very good burger w/out having to play the reservation game.

tartane / torstr. 225 / mitte

a daily changing menu with a special burger on offer every day & a small standard menu with good eats for pretty much any taste. hipster-factor = not too high, despite its location on torstrasse.

“ASIAN” (PAN-)

there are so many ways pan-asian food can go wrong.  just visit panasia near hackescher markt some time, or any other viet-thai-sushi-50% off place. thankfully, there are exceptions.

toca rouge / torstr. 195 / mitte

a fine example of  very moderately priced, interesting twists on chinese & thai stand-bys, with incredibly friendly staff and an interior as dark as my soul.

dudu berlin / torstr. 134 / mitte

despite the location (waaaay too close to st. oberhip on rosenthaler platz) and a ridiculously high hipster-factor, i found the food there to be surprisingly delish. a very good grilled salmon dish with seaweed salad comes to mind, as well as a very generous sashimi salad.  good ‘beautiful people’ watching, too >snicker<

BERLIN AT ITS BERLINEST

these are a few  places that represent the berlin i love, and love to share with visitors.

clärchens ballhaus / auguststr. 24 / mitte

an old-school dance hall with decent pizza & fantastic people watching.  the dance classes are legendary.

clash / gneisenaustr. 2a im mehringhof / xberg

quite a different kind of dance hall, and a very different kind of customer. i dare you to use the bathrooms sober.

mauersegler / mauerpark / p’berg

mauerpark itself is quintessential berlin history, and if you’re a dirty white hippie who loves drum circles and african dance, you’ll fit right in. mauersegler is a nice bar to hang out, sip beer and munch on various snacks while listening to some of the more interesting and talented bands than what you find outside on the dusty “lawn”.

prater / kastanienallee 7-9 / p’berg

oldest and most beautiful biergarten in berlin. ‘nuff said.

 

BREAKFAST / BRUNCH

brunch is a well-loved tradition in berlin, one i rarely enjoy because my breakfast at home is so goddamn awesome. but sometimes i get lazy or just want to get out.

café morgenland / skalitzer str. 35 / xberg

despite the fact that one has to go on a diet before being able to maneuver the tiny (but well-stacked) buffet area, it’s well worth the trip from other hoods.

CHINESE

like in any larger german city, there are a million and one chinese restaurants in berlin, a lot of them located on kantstrasse in charlottenburg, aka little china. i don’t get too excited about cantonese cooking, so you’re on your own there.

hot spot / eisenzahnstr. 66 / ch’burg

that other sichuan resto that’s not quite as awesome as tian fu. if, however, you’re a fan of riesling, do check out the extensive wine list and ask the very friendly owner for recommendations.

tian fu / uhlandstr. 142 / wilmersdorf

spicy. salty. oily. just like it should be.  order the hot pot or the chili chicken and let your tastebuds sing.

wok show / greifenhagener str. 31 / p’berg

best dumplings in town, and a garlicky napa cabbage salad that’ll make everyone you meet after dinner want to send you to a deserted island. just make sure to bring some of those dumplings along for company, which are also available to buy frozen for take-out.

COCKTAIL BARS

cocktails and spirits have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance in the last decade, with all the insufferable snobbery and self-acclaimed “mixologists” that inevitably go hand in hand with such trends. that said, one can get a damn fine cocktail in all the places mentioned below. just ignore the hype if you can.

reingold / novalisstr. 11 / mitte

definitely in the mixology category. this bar has a great atmosphere and high-quality drinks to match. if you are so inclined, you can discuss the intricacies of tequila or nuances of aged rums & rhums – berlin’s newest obsession – with the superduper-knowledgeable mixologists (no mere bartenders here, thank you very much). or, you can just sit back and enjoy your drink.  that is, if you don’t mind smoke. cuz this is a smoking bar, just so you know.

stagger lee / nollendorfstr. 27 / sch’berg

likely also falls in the mixology category, but with fewer pretensions suffered elsewhere. a small place with cozy leather seats and an atmosphere that’ll transport you to a saloon in the wild wild west, the drinks are fantastic, with the mint julep being the house specialty: served in a pewter cup with house-macerated cherries. i could make a single meal of those cherries. oh my.

rum club / top-secret location

an incredible collection of rums (the owner’s passion), a monthly sushi night and special tiki events await those select few who are invited to enter these holy halls of high-end alcoholism.

COFFEE

unlike amsterdam, where one can get a great cup of coffee pretty much anywhere, you have to be a bit more selective when it comes to a bean-brew that’ll wake you up and make you happy.

double eye / akazienstr. 22 / sch’berg

certainly no longer a secret, this is where you’ll get your perfect caffeine fix – likely after having waited on line for a while. it’s worth it, tho.

röststätte / ackerstr. 173 / mitte

you can buy the house-roasted beans or browse the wide selection of espresso machines in the store next door, or sit down with a delightful cuppa joe and watch the parade of “ironic” jeggings & fedoras pass by.

the berlin bites burger bonanza

November 17, 2010

it seems like these days you can’t swing a cat without hitting the window of a recently opened or soon-to-be-opened burger joint.

haus or house – what’s it gonna be?

granted – the lowly hamburger has always been a popular fast food, but the sudden explosion of  burger places in berlin is a fairly recent phenomenon.  let’s avert our eyes from monstrosities such as this

papa… no! nooooooooo!

some things are better left unthunk. good heavens.

on offer at a local chain hitherto mainly famous for being a horrific excuse for a “sushi” restaurant that apparently didn’t want to feel left out.

to select the good, bad, and ugly, i took the heavy burden upon me to visit a few of them, ranging from established places to newbies, so you don’t have to waste money on sub-par patties.  i basically stuck to ordering cheeseburgers, because a burger without cheese is like pizza without cheese, and i sometimes got fries on the side, but they were a minor point in my final judgment.  sooo – let’s start with the worst of the bunch and work our way up to the ultimate burger nirvana, shall we?

V. ketchup & mayo / oranienstr. / newbie

i simply couldn’t resist the rather grandiose advertisement promising ‘finest burger cuisine.’  the namesakes – ketchup & mayonnaise – are available at the counter in large vats with no restrictions and no extra pay.  bonus point.  the menu offers a variety of burgers including vegetarian versions, but really, why bother?  we’re talking beef here, after all.  and omg, those patties are bad.  it’s like biting into a slice of meatloaf: densely packed & strange-tasting, no amount of free ketchup and mayo could make up for this awful, pasty mouth feel.  i don’t recall whether the patties are fresh or frozen, but really – who cares at this point?  epic fail.  stick to the fries instead which are actually some of the best i’ve had at any of the burger joints visited.

IV. marienburger / marienburger str. – duh / old school

this place has been around for a while, and has a fairly large and passionate fan base.  the people working the grill that day were ink & metal-augmented, which is a rare sight in the overly gentrified pregnant hill these days, and very friendly and swift.  orders are taken at the counter and called out later by name.  it’s tiny, and there is very little room to sit save for a narrow counter at the wall and a couple tables outside.  ketchup and mayo are on the tables free of charge.

looking good, baby. but beauty is only skin deep…

unfortunately, the patties are frozen, fairly flat (but much larger than your usual mcdirt size), the toppings generous & fresh, the buns toasted.  bonus point for that one.  no floppy buns for me, please.  alas, the mouth feel is once again too dense for the perfect burger, but certainly edible.  damage per burger: €3-4

IV. drachentöter / am falkplatz / newbie / update: CLOSED (huge surprise. not.)

it sure takes some ginormous balls to open up a burger place right next to the bird (reviewed below), undoubtedly the benchmark for any burger joint in berlin with obsessive fans, and it’s been around for a good 4 years.  i just had to find out what kind of a nutcase was running this operation, and how their burgers stood up to the competition next door.

it’s got a bistro atmosphere with 80s style pastel colors, which somehow just didn’t seem right for a burger joint.  surprisingly enough, the people who run this place don’t seem crazy at all and are rather friendly.  you can choose from a variety of burgers with cutesy german first names, and made with fresh meat.

this burger may slay the dragon, but not the bird.

the buns are toasted, there’s some sort of ‘special sauce’, and the toppings are fresh.  unfortunately, the patty has a similar texture to the marienburger – too dense.  overall not bad, but just.  not. right.

the fries are second best to ketchup & mayo. damage per burger: €3.50-6

III. bbi – berlin burger international / pflügerstr. / newbie

neukölln’s first address for your burger cravings.  a hole in the wall just off of sonnenallee, this place offers burgers made with a mix of  90% beef & 10% lamb = 100% fresh, and you also have the option of ordering any of their burgers in a mini version, which is about a 4 oz serving and perfect if you’re hungry, but not that hungry.  you order at the counter leaving your name, and wait till you’re called & eat at a tiny counter on the wall or at one of the few tables outside.

international (?) burgers in neukölln

this is where i noticed what seems to be a relatively new fashion:  potted rosemary as a centerpiece (i’ve seen this at a bunch of places now). not sure if this is a burger joint thing or just the latest trend, but whichever it is, i like it.  it creates the illusion of ‘atmosphere’ and style while sitting across the street from a bookie, and your only view is the M29 bus stopping right in front of your table every 10 minutes.

raw cheese… now, that’s just wrong.

the patty is flavorful, if overdone – my ordering med-rare was refused by the cook for some reason, and the cheese wasn’t melted on the patty, which is a massive bummer.  the salad topping consists of an interesting mix of spring greens, not your usual watery shredded iceberg, which adds a nice touch.  damage per burger €4-6

II. hamburger heaven / graefestr. / newbie

hamburger heaven indeed.

this is the place to have a burger if you are craving good meat – after all, you can choose between regular, halal, organic, and free-range (the priciest at €8 or 9).  the tiny booth, tucked away in a side street near kottbusser brücke, is usually run by the owner who can be a tad bit slow when more than a couple of orders are up, reinterpreting the notion of “fast food”, but he is super-friendly, and the quality of the resulting burger more than makes up for the wait.

cheeseburger heaven, even! oh yeah, baby.

both the ketchup and mayonnaise are house-made fresh daily (!), the ketchup being tomato-y to the max, and the mayonnaise having a nice, eggy taste to it.  your choice of cheese is appropriately melted, and the burger is grilled to order – yes, you can get your patty med-rare if you ask for it. the fries are pretty awesome too, a small portion is definitely enough.  you can park your lardass on one of the few picnic benches and tables (decorated with the aforementioned rosemary planters. weird.), or stand at the single table near the window.

hands down best newcomer burger in town.  highly recommended.  damage per burger between €4-9, depending on your ecological conscience.

and now, the top banana, the big cheese, the winner!  the bestest, juiciest, most delicious piece of ground meat on a bun in all of berlin & perhaps the rest of germany:


I.  the bird / am falkplatz / old school – the be all and end all in burgerosity

what can be said about this meat lovers’ paradise, this cavern of carnivorous delight, that hasn’t been said already?  two expats from new york opened this place in 2006, and they have since set the standard for all burgers to follow.  orgasm on a bun, that’s what it is.

the ghetto deluxe w/american cheese. ’nuff said.

the meat for the patties is ground up freshly every day from quality meat cuts (the steaks served here will make you believe you are not in germany anymore), not cooked beyond medium, regardless of how much your german ass begs for a patty ‘well-done’ … talk about a misnomer.  your MEDIUM-RARE burger is loosely packed and NOT over-handled, it’s beefy, cooked just right – tho they do tend to err on the rarer side, making those sweet meat juices running down your chin and hands.

bite me. burger with an attitude.

the cheese is a generous helping of molten, gooey deliciousness, the buns (english muffins, which has led to some controversies but i frankly find they handle the massive beast better than those cottony fluff buns) are toasted, the toppings kept simple – tomato, onion, lettuce leaf, pickle on the side.

the fries are hand-cut, and of varying quality.  nobody cares about the fries here, tho.  seriously.  damage per burger €9-13 – cheap it is not.  good it is.  fantastic, to be exact. yoda out.