Berlin's Best German Eateries for All Budgets



When it comes to German cooking, you can most definitely expect the wurst… Pardon the pun, but it is, of course, true that sausage in all its infinite varieties is a staple on German menus. And so are roast pork, sauerkraut, potatoes and cabbage. Gut-busting, artery-clogging fare best washed down with a mug of foamy beer. That's what German food is all about, right? Well, not exactly.

Sure, there are still restaurants clinging to the clichés but you don't need to look very hard to discover that German cuisine has solidly arrived in the 21st century. Nowhere in the country is this more apparent than in cosmopolitan and trendsetting Berlin where next-gen chefs like Tim Raue of La Soupe Populaire have made dishes lighter, healthier and more refined without sacrificing authenticity.

The organic and locavore trends have also made huge inroads. More often than not ingredients that end up in pots and pans follow the seasons and are hunted and gathered regionally. Rather than Argentine steak or Australian lamb, menus are more likely to feature apple-fed pork from the Havelland, pike-perch from the Müritz Lake District or duck from Neuruppin. The ample use of rediscovered heirloom vegetables such as parsnips, turnips and Jerusalem artichokes ensures that there are also plenty of meatfree modern takes on the culinary past.

But don’t worry if you’re more the traditional type - there's no shortage of places in Berlin where you can still indulge in rib-sticking classic German cooking, Max und Moritz and Zur Letzten Instanz being among them.



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Berlin's oldest restaurant has done a roaring trade since 1621 with such authentic local fare as roast pork knuckle and Bouletten (Berlin-style meatballs) that go well with a mug of frothy beer. The earthy dark-wood décor, accented with historic prints and paintings, radiates old-world comfort and coziness. A highlight is the 200-year-old-tiled stove that once warmed the back of Napoleon Bonaparte. In fine weather, the romantic beer garden beckons. The name, by the way, roughly translates as 'the eleventh hour' and is a reference to the nearby courthouse whose elaborate Art Nouveau foyer is well worth a gander. Dishes too have whimsical names based on legal jargon.


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Charlottenburg - Wilmersdorf
Repke
Photo courtesy of Andrea Schulte-Peevers


 

It's rare for a place to flaunt yesteryear flair, yet be a mere pup in terms of age. With its forest-green leather banquettes flanking rustic wooden tables and walls sheathed in wainscoting and vintage photos of Berlin, Repke gets the job done beautifully. For the past eight years, it has been the neighborhood go-to place for big portions of southern German faves, most famously cheese Spaetzle ('mac 'n cheese'), Maultaschen ('ravioli') and Flammekuchen ('French pizza'), all homemade of course. Add to these offerings seasonal specials duck and blackboard lunches and you know why you often have to shoehorn your way inside.


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Bavarian coziness comes to Berlin courtesy of the Augustiner brewery, which operates this earthy beer hall-type restaurant right on Prussian-era Gendarmenmarkt, one of Berlin's most beautiful squares. Sit down at one of the long polished wooden tables and peruse the enormous menu while watching servers clad in dirndl dresses and lederhosen bring out big mugs of foam-capped beer and groaning platters of classic Bavarian fare. Dedicated carnivores should order the Haxe, an entire kilo (2.2 pounds) worth of crisply roasted pork knuckle. Daintier types can stick to sausages and a pretzel or boiled beef with fresh horseradish.


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The location on a decidedly ho-hum thoroughfare is deceptive, for this bustling 1920s-style bistro is no secret among fans of honest-to-goodness, budget-priced German fare. In fact, at lunchtime you may have to elbow your way inside to score a table in the tunnel-shaped room whose walls are festooned with old framed photographs and books by its namesake, the Austrian Jewish writer Joseph Roth. Roth had his domicile next door before being forced into exile in 1933. Given its literary pedigree, it's perhaps no surprise that the place is popular with the gallery owners, artists and journalists based nearby. If the lunch specials are gone, there's an entire menu to fall back on, featuring everything from small dishes like scrambled eggs with ham to such gut-fillers as roast pork with noodles and salad.


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It's easy to walk right past this unassuming-looking little storefront bistro but that would mean missing out on a fantastic meal. This is not formal dining; it's a quick-in-quick-out hangout where you can watch veteran chefs Andreas Breuer and Stefan Kleinert give simple German dishes a refined and inspired workout. After helming various kitchens in Berlin, the two decided to leave the culinary rat race in 2010 and instead do what they love: serve great German food at reasonable prices. Aside from a daily changing lunch special, the blackboard menu features seasonally inspired dishes, including meatless fare and salads. Always on the menu are such perennial tummy-pleasers as Bouletten (meat patties) with fried potatoes and Wiener Schnitzel with homemade potato salad.


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Charlottenburg - Wilmersdorf
Curry Wolf
Photo courtesy of Andrea Schulte-Peevers


 

If shopping on Kurfürstendamm, Berlin's premier retail mile, has left you hungry like a wolf, this teensy snack shack in a tree-lined side street makes for a tasty refueling stop. The stock in trade of Curry Wolf, named after its proprietor Mathias Wolf, is the Currywurst, Berlin's iconic street food invented here in 1949. It may look humble – a slivered sausage swimming in tomato sauce and sprinkled with curry powder – but don't be fooled: Local foodies are perennially in headlocks over who makes the best curried wiener in town. If the usual long lines outside this shoebox-sized joint are any indication, Curry Wolf is certainly a contender. Perhaps it's because of the subtly spiced links that hail from a local butcher in southern Berlin. But more likely, the secret weapon is the habit-forming sauce – fittingly called 'Opium' – that gets people hooked. To prevent withdrawal, you can even take home a wurst in a mason jar.


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In the heart of Kreuzberg, this charming gastropub has been doing brisk business since 1902 and changed little in appearance since. Characterizing the cozy ambiance are such historic details as blue-green wall tiles, glass paintings, wrought-iron railings and ornate ceiling stucco. The food also channels 19th century Berlin and is heavy on the meat. A classic dish is Eisbein, a salted and lightly pickled pork knuckle. If that sounds too challenging, stick to the Kutscher Gulasch, a robustly flavored beef stew paired with home-made noodles. The name Max und Moritz, by the way, was inspired by the characters of an illustrated children's story penned in the 1860s by German humorist and painter Wilhelm Busch.


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'Brutally local' is the philosophy of Nobelhart & Schmutzig, the new restaurant of star sommelier Billy Wagner who earned his stripes at the Michelin-starred Rutz and other reputable outfits before setting out on his own. Without exception all ingredients hail from producers in and around Berlin, while the fish is sourced in the nearby Baltic Sea. So don't expect salmon, avocados or even pepper but do treat your tastebuds to trout with chicory, goat cheese with elderflower or salsify root with hazelnut and currantbush. All ingredients are either fresh and seasonal or naturally preserved by using such traditional methods as pickling, brining and fermenting. There's no a la carte menu. Instead, all guests are served the same 10-course meal private-dinner-party-style right in the kitchen while Billy and his team do their magic. Kind of like one giant chef's table. Food allergies, by the way, can be accommodated.


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Among meatheads, Bernhard H�tzl is very much a Berlin household name thanks to his animal-centric restaurant Fleischerei, fittingly located in a former butchershop. By contrast, his second venue G�rtnerei clearly shines the spotlight on vegetables, a concept also reflected in the name ('plant nursery') and in the rustic-elegant d�cor that juxtaposes minty-green chairs with frilly chandeliers. Berlin veteran head chef Sebastian Radtke digs deep into his extensive arsenal of culinary tricks to coax maximum aromas out of the entire vegetable kingdom, including rediscovered gems with a strong native identity such as sorrel, parsnips and black salsify. Since G�rtnerei is not a purely vegetarian restaurant, though, these sometimes cuddle up against a filet of pike-perch or pork belly. The presentation is pure eye candy and the service as impeccable as the wine list for which H�tzl has selected top vintages from his native Austria.


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Weinbar Rutz
Photo courtesy of Wienbar Rutz


 

Wine lovers and fans of hearty German cuisine cherish the Weinbar Rutz, helmed by Marco Müller who's also the mastermind behind the gourmet restaurant Rutz upstairs. Here Müller practices a more down-to-earth form of cooking that shines the spotlight brightly on quality ingredients from various German regions. Crispy ducks hail from Oldenburg, the black pudding bread has roots in Berlin, and the ox shoulder comes from Holstein. A true highlight, though, is the enormous wine selection with over 850 different bottles to choose from. The focus is squarely on Rieslings but there are lots of other German wines as well, many available by the glass.


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Meet Andrea Schulte-Peevers

Andrea has made a living as a travel writer and photographer for over 20 years, visiting some 70 countries in the process and authoring a similar number of guidebooks, mostly for Lonely...  More About Andrea

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