Owner and Tour Guide @ Los Angeles Urban Adventures. Tourism veteran, third-generation Californian, global citizen, food lover, culture guru, local aficionado.
The mostly Turkish neighbourhood of Neukölln makes for an interesting and vibrant stay in Berlin. Kebap shops, Middle Eastern Backerei (bakeries) and colorfully tinted window casino Cafes line Karl Marx Strasse. The bustling boulevard is lined with equally as many Turkish and Arabic language signs as German. Most of the time we weren’t even sure what language we were ordering in as everyone speaks both and we neither.
While one could easily eat affordable and delicious doner kebab three times a day (we averaged two), it was refreshing to have a break from the obvious and find alternate cuisine hidden among the rotating meat spits, bright pictures of roasted chicken and flashing neon “Open” signs. It took some venturing off the beaten path, but once we did, we were surprised and delighted to find such quaint spots nestled just off the main streets. Not only did we find cosy ambiance but delicious food and friendly, welcoming staff. Of all the places we ate in Berlin, these were our favourites – true hidden gems and, if you only have three meals to eat in Neukölln, you should definitely support these fantastic little Mom and Pops.
BREAKFAST (or any other time of day!)
Roamers. Opened just seven weeks ago apparently this place can barely keep up with their business! A rustic interior with just a few tables pair well with their artisan breads and cakes (like cheddar beer bread and Guinness chocolate cake) and gourmet coffee service.
They have a simple menu of breakfast items, soups and sandwiches as well as teas, smoothies and everything else I like. Just between Reuterstrasse and ? One block from Karl Marx strasse near the Hermannplatz U Bahn stop.
LUNCH/MIDDAY: Gozleme Cafe
Ok, so this one’s on the main drag, but you would never know how amazing their food is unless you tried it, because it looks pretty much like all the other Turkish places. They churn out fresh Gozleme (hand-rolled dough stuffed with practically anything cooked until golden on a dome griddle) and homemade Ayran (a salty yogurt drink best accompanied by Gozleme) but you better not go without trying their house specialty, manti with garlic.
This flavour explosion will knock your socks off. Little pillows of homemade pasta filled with ground beef, drenched in a warm, white yogurt sauce, drizzled with a paprika garlic oil (or something like that), topped with sumac and parsley. This may be the best manti I’ve ever had, including in Turkey! It’s on Karl Mark Strasse just before Reuterstrasse.
DINNER/LATE NIGHT: Nini e Petirrossi
This place has five stars on Yelp (one of the few in the neighbourhood) and I’d give it just as many. First of all, it’s on the corner of a small park down a side street, past a Turkish youth centre, so the ambiance is truly local. Second, it has the cutest little window with lights in it and whimsical interior decor, a refreshing change from all the doner kebab photos and neon lights.
Third, the food is all homemade and visibly fresh, from the rows of thick-crust pizzas behind the vitrine to the stacked jars of perfectly-portioned tiramisu in the refrigerator. Fourth, the staff was super friendly and patient with us as we asked about every single item on display. Finally, the music was groovy and the place is open until midnight – that gives it five stars in my book!
See why Claudia Schiffer said ‘Berlin is like being abroad in Germany’ on this revealing Berlin tour which trades in the tourist traps for the back streets and out-of-the-way places favoured by locals.