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Berlin, Germany


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I used to live in Berlin; it's much more interesting culturally, though less beautiful than Munich. Also, it's just more poor and run down than Munich is. But, it's worth the trip and has tons of character.

If you go, stick to Savigny Platz, Prezlauer Berg, and Mitte for eating out. Charlottenburg proper is boring. Mitte is a bit like eating out around DC's Chinatown, though, fewer local places, more chains and showy spots. Good ethnic/Turkish eats are around Kreutzberg.

Pick up an (unfortunately named) Zitty magazine. Though it's in german, you can tell what the listings are for Art, Theater, Food, etc. There's some English sprinkled in.

Also, if you can head to a flea market in P Berg, it's pretty interesting, esp. since lots of the stuff is DDR made. There are some good eats around the markets and the people watching is pretty great, as well. Even better, it's the only area that has whole blocks that hadn't been bombed and that are much more beautiful than the rest of the city. Lots of them are being refurbished to their original splendor.

If you can, try to rent a bike. It's the best way to check out town, since the entire distance has bike paths. The park is really beautiful, too. If you're going around now, asparagus season starts, though lots of places that feature asparagus as the centerpiece for dinners are stodgier places in town. You'll also see asparagus being sold out of the backs of cars on the side of the road.

Last, the theater and art fairs/galleries, particularly in Mitte and the east, make New York seem downright conservative in comparison. There's some wild stuff going on in that city; have fun. Feel free to touch base with me should you choose.

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All this talk of Berlin has brought back some great memories of living there many years ago. I remember taking the 12 hour overnight troop train from Frankfurt to Berlin to compete in track events for high school or to visit the city. It would be interesting to visit Berlin now, as the last time I was there the wall was still up. Visiting the Eastern part of the city back then was surely an eye-opener for me.

Now where can I get a good bratwurst on a hard roll?

I need to get back...

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FYI, a friend who used to live in Berlin told me about the following restaurant. She said it was her favorite in Berlin. I plan to go when I go to Berlin in September, but since you will be there sooner, can't wait to hear more...


Have fun. Also, make sure to go KaDeWe in Berlin, which is a huge department store that has an amazing food area.

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watch this space people...i've been eating my way through berlin, germany, and devouring their genre of affordable, tasty, creative, non-pretentious restaurants.

Little Otik. http://littleotik.de/

interview with little otik

so the great thing about hanging out with colleagues, is that unlink most berliners they have jobs, and so they don't mind dropping (gasp!) 30€ on a dinner once in a while. so we went to little otik. on a friday. tiny restaurant in a fashionable part of east Kreuzberg. no seats available at the 2 big picnic tables, 2 2/4 tops and a 2 top in the window. no parties of more than 6 people allowed. a big long beautiful recycled wooden bar that always seems to have room if you like sitting at a bar. i like sitting at a bar.

it's run by 2 american dudes from michigan and new york, who don't speak much german. they told me what little otik stands for, but i forgot. i think it's related to the creepy movie of the same title (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0228687/)



anyway, the cook guy used to work at Diner in Williamsburg. he came to visit his friend in berlin and they started a supper club. and then they were like duh, we should do this in a restaurant.

they found a portuguese cafe at a nice address that was closing down and haggled with the owner to rent it cheap (well, rent is already stupid cheap in berlin) - and with everything in it. most of the kitchen was already there. they sold all the chairs, tables, bar stuff and a collection of mini fridges, then gutted and painted the dining room to convert it to an extremely simple, kinda echoey space with not much on the walls besides a few mirrors. (a stark contrast to the baubble you might find adorning every vertical surface of a buca di beppo's).

they are closed sunday, monday, (ah, european rest) and on tuesday they go to the farmer's market down the street and buy all the organic, local items from farmers. stuff like wild boar bacon and heirloom tomatoes, duck. then they plan the menu, and open wednesday-saturday. packed every night, call weeks ahead for a reservation. pretty cheap eats, a little pricey on the wines. we told them you can't get away with charging minimum 6€ for a glass of wine, berliners usually don't go for that. but it looks like they can. i recommended a wine shop they should talk to.

so we had the last of heirloom tomatoes (a freeze this weekend), perfect, simple, coarse salt. ate the super delish no salt needed chicken n dumplings, and an amazing turnip soup with smoked wild boar bacon that was just awesome. they were stingy on the bread (and yeah, we recommended a better bakery and they should probably switch from baguette to ciabatta or something. germans know their bread!!).

they make coffee themselves on the bar in these plastic filter things from taiwan and a plug in water boiler, and cross their fingers in the hope that no one ever orders more than 4 at a time. (drank it without milk and i was up ALL night. good stuff, though i would recommend a french press. afterall, i am franzosich!).

all the plates, mugs are from ikea. cash only. 4 employees total (someone in the kitchen and a german girl for front of the house). every order written on notebook paper, no computers.

so that's pretty much your typical, ok let's open a restaurant and do this right and low key and not bother with liquor licenses kinda place.

in the back of my mind i was thinking about wrestling the property away from the owners (perhaps a duel or betting it in poker?) and instilling my brother as chef, but then, i think my brother can do even better...

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Should you find yourself in Berlin and in the mood for a drive, head towards Potsdam to Braumanufaktur. The website is braumanufaktur.de; I can't get it linked from my hotel room.

It's a restaurant and organic brewery that is over 100 years old. In it's hey day, before the war, it had seating for 4,000 and a boat dock with 9 slips. Today's incarnation is much smaller with indoor seating for about 100 and outdoor seating for probably another 75 more. There is a great playground, full of equipment that the US's safety lawyers dream of in their nightmares, and a few goats in chickens.

Take this with a grain of salt because I don't know a lot about beer, but I did enjoy what I tasted and throughout our meal, on a Saturday night, locals were coming in to buy their beer. The food was fine; I had a sausage made of game meat which was as good as one would hope.

The brewery offers tour on Wednesday if that's your thing. I don't know that I would go out of my way to stop by but if you are visiting Potsdam it's a quick drive and if you are in Berlin and have a car and want to take a drive it's a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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Restaurant/brewery/boat docks, & goats & chickens? Sounds like my kind of place. My husband has been posted to Germany (Stuttgart), & I'm looking forward to going over for visits, I love beer, & German beer is some of the best.

Go to Baiersbronn which is in the Black Forest 75 or so minutes west of Stuttgart.  Specifically either Schwarzwaldstube or Bareiss, each of which has three Michelin stars.  The first has a six+ month wait for dinner reservations and two + months for lunch.  Schwarzwaldstube:  http://www.traube-tonbach.de/en/schwarzwaldstube-restaurant http://www.bareiss.com/en/restaurants/restaurant-bareiss.html is Bareiss.

If you stay in Baiersbronn  take Bareiss as your first choice.  The rooms, ambience, character are very similar to the Inn at Little Washington.  The countryside surrounding this is exquisitely beautiful and well worth getting lost in.  Baiersbronn itself is enchanting; the village that hosts Schwarzwaldstube is Traube Tonbach, or "village of the grape."  This is THE major dining destination of all of Germany with four restaurants that have at least one Michelin star-all in a literal village.  Again, this is not that far from Stuttgart.

 I'd also make the argument that one of the most beautiful and unique wine countries on earth is the Kaiserstuhl on the French border (Colmar is on the eastern side of the Rhein).  From Stuttgart this is probably a 90 minute drive.  Colmar, Strasbourg and Munich (90 minutes or so to the east) are all well worth visits.  To the south is Lake Konstanz.  Further south are the Dolomites which are breathtaking.

Restaurant/brewery/boat docks, & goats & chickens? Sounds like my kind of place. My husband has been posted to Germany (Stuttgart), & I'm looking forward to going over for visits, I love beer, & German beer is some of the best.

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Decided to get out to Berlin for a quick city break over New Year's Day, so we're looking foward to eating at reinstoff again (had a very memorable 10th anniversary dinner there last year) and also going to a couple of other restaurants (Tim Raue, Hugos).  Suggestions welcome!

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We spent two nights here last week.  A bit too cold and rainy for my tastes, but such a good public transportation system.  And for those who are into it, tons of great Third Wave coffee options (Concierge, The Barn, Father Carpenter, to name a few).  The reuben we had at Mogg was, as some have claimed, on par with what you'd find at the NYC delis.  I liked that the meat wasn't as over-the-top smoky or fatty (i.e., better-controlled flavors) as what you'd find at Stachowski's but also recognize that some prefer their pastrami the latter way.  Also bummed that we didn't have as much doner kebab as I had hoped, with some of the more critically-acclaimed places located a bit out of the way.

One spur-of-the-moment trip that we were glad to take was to the Fassbender & Rausch chocolate factory store, with their "irregular" selection heavily discounted by around 30 or 40 percent.  Basically truffles that weren't perfectly shaped but still tasted the same.  It was conveniently located only a 15-minute subway ride from the Westin.  Unfortunately, we learned that the factory store is closing on April 15 though I assume the flagshop location will continue to run as always.

Also, for those who are into seeing animals, Berlin's zoo blows away what we have in DC.  Everything is so much more accessible, and the indoor houses are way better designed.

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After shying away the last time I was in Berlin, I decided to stick out the line at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Kreuzberg. On a breezy and cold Sunday afternoon, there were close to 100 people in front of me, and as I got closer to the food cart and would look back, the line stayed very long behind me. Was it worth it? Based on my one experience, no--it was a good doner, but not splendid. And for the Döner connossieurs, at the risk of being truly heretical, I enjoyed by Kebap the next night much more--this time from Zaddy's right near the Kurfürstendamm U bahn station. This one, using veal, had brighter flavors and was delicious. Could have been my jetlag when I visited Mustafa's, but Zaddy's won this round.

Dinner at Repka Spatzlerei, just off of Savignyplatz, provided a filling and very nice spätzli plate with cheese and fresh spinach. With a red Berliner Weisse (a summer drink, maybe, but for me a nice counterbalance to the cheesy, heavy spätzli), this was a very nice meal. 

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While in Berlin for a few more nights, I ended up at Noblehart & Schmutzig, a Michelin-starred delight, not so far from Checkpoint Charlie. Wow--this was one of the most expensive dinners (195 Euros for dinner, plus wine pairings on top!) I've ever had, but was a beautifully-prepared 11-course dinner. No photos allowed--a very strong focus on eating as a social activity. The food was, as they refer to it, 'violently local'--somewhat over the top, perhaps, with even spices and herbs being limited based on what is available within Germany. But the results were impressive. The wine pairings were almost entirely German, perhaps a wine or two from Italy? The owner of the restaurant is a renowned sommelier in Berlin, and he almost seemed like a wine DJ, dropping an interesting wine into the mix here and there based on what he knew would work. It was likely perfectly orchestrated, but was impressive nonetheless. Service was warm, enthusiastic and professional. I would go back, even at the steep price--as someone blessed with so many great Asian restaurants in the DC area, Tim Raue's menu just doesn't seem so interesting to me, and Noblehart & Schmutzig really delivered a great, fun dinner.

Final night in Berlin: pizza at Mamadi, at the edge of the city (more or less). This was a semi-neapolitan style pizzeria, with very interesting combinations. It was good--the dough was a very nice sourdough (I think); I ordered the doner kebab pizza and it was a doner rendition done with restraint (just the right amount of doner fillings on top--veal shawarma, I believe. A very small but nice selection of local beers, some good wines, and this place is worthwhile.

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