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Berlin - What do you think of my picks?

Hey! I'm going to Berlin in December for 7 nights and I've been pouring over restaurant reviews trying to decide where to eat. Money isn't a concern, but I generally don't like fancy/stuffy/quiet restaurants - I'd much prefer something that is packed and lively. My list is below - and I still need to drop 3. I really want a mix of special occasion and casual restaurants (I can't eat a big meal 7 night's in a row). I'd really appreciate some input!

44
Maxwell
Remake
Il Punto
Oderquelle
BrewBaker
Borchardt
Balthazar
Storch
Gugelhof

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  1. I would drop Gugelhof (touristy), and instead go to Trattoria Paparazzi (corner of Husemann/Danziger Str.) which is in the same district. I have never been disappointed in any of their dishes -- their pasta is exceptionally good, and not crazy expensive either (between 12 and 16 Euro). Their meats and fish also look good, but I was never able to resist the pasta.

    Borchardt is not known for its great food, but rather for the 'scene' -- i.e. lots of stars and wannabes, so if you're not part of that crowd, be prepared for subpar service and subpar food.

    44 is supposed to be fab, and though I haven't been myself, I would definitely check it out -- if you can get reservations. The chef just got a Michelin star recently, so it may not be that easy.

    Other 'special occasion' restaurants I would recommend: Margaux, though perhaps a bit stuffy, their food is outstanding. Besides that the First Floor, and Hugos.

    A great place for atmosphere and a unique Berlin spot is "Die Henne": very low-key, cheap, great beer, and the only thing on the menu is the best damn fried chicken in town, along with a choice of awesome potato salad or kraut salad (we always get potato).

    Other low-key places with great food are
    - Ousies, Berlin's best Greek restaurant imho;
    - Austria for good schnitzel (don't order app's, you won't be able to finish)
    - Monsieur Vuong -- trendy but very good Vietnamese place, small selection but fresh and flavorful

    I've heard very mixed reviews of Remake. If you are into trying molecular/experimental cuisine, give Pata Negra a shot.

    I'd be happy to give you more suggestions -- what neighborhood will you be staying in (if you know)?

    1 Reply
    1. re: linguafood

      I would skip Remake. Its on the gastronomic tour bus itinerary (the bus idled in front of my flat every Wednesday afternoon!) but other than that it was empty most of the time. We went once had had the chateaubriand for two and were not impressed. Gugelhof is touristy- but so is all of P'berg- but in winter will be festive. Borchardt is grand with an old europe look and is full of table hopping celebs. The food is good and I have had many nice meals there (perhaps because I was with table hopping celebs) but service can be condescending even then. For some reason everyone gets the frisbee sized schnitzel.

      M. Vuong is tiny and popular and will be a refeshing break after heavy german winter food. Really reasonably priced, limited fresh menu, and great cocktails.

      My favorite Italian is Sale e Tabacchi. If I remember correctly, Margaux has a really reasonably priced business lunch. Storch will be heavy.

    2. Thank you both for the advice! I'm getting really excited about my trip! So far I've definitely dropped Remake and Gugelhof and added Monsieur Vong. Breadbaker has moved to a lunch visit, and In response to desylicious - I am staying in the Miette, but definitely willing to travel. Just to add on a whole other list of restaurants - these are some cafes I came up with. I'd love any other suggestions you have!

      Café/ Lunch/ Bar/ Food Store
      Savarin (trendy café)
      Kakao (café - really good chocolate drinks and treats)
      Wohnzimmer (best coffee)
      Cafe Einstein (breakfast - touristy but still a must)
      KaDeWe (must for lunch - big food hall)
      Duckwitz (Lunch – looks good, attached food shop, opened in sept. casual)
      Cafe Altes Europa (casual - popped up on a bunch of sites)
      Pastaroom, (Goltzstraße 52) – lunch (daily fresh made pasta)
      Newton (bar)
      The Weinerei (bar – busy, hard to get into)
      Wein-Salon (bar)
      Kollwitzplatz Farmers Market
      Winterfeldplatz Farmers Market
      Albrechts Pâtisserie – (best french pastry)
      Goldhahn & Sampson - Cool food shop
      Café im Literaturhaus (old café, check out)

      6 Replies
      1. re: Hungryfina

        I am growing more and more envious of your upcoming trip to my favorite city in the world... sigh. Take me along!!

        Anywho. If you can make the Winterfeldtmarkt, do go on Sat. The Wed. one is much, much smaller & not really worth it. If you go, try the Thai dumplings. That stand rocks, the zucchini fritters are pretty good, too, and there's a tarte flambé (Flammekuchen) stand as well. Basically, plan on having lunch there :-D

        Kollwitzmarkt is on Sat. as well. If you had to decide between the two, I'd go for Winterfeldt -- though given that you're in Mitte, Kollwitz is closer (they're both on the U2, so if you get up early you could do both).

        Definitely check out KaDeWe.

        The Weinerei is a neat place, but small, and it tends to get crowded. You pay 1 Euro for a glass, drink however much wine you want, and pay however much you feel like in the end. It's a cool idea and crazy that they manage to stay alive, but as you can imagine, it's not top notch wines there. If you're really into wine, check out Weinbar Rutz, also in Mitte.

        If you like pastries, pies, tartes, etc. -- go to the Opernpalais on Unter den Linden. They have a huge selection of delicious cakes, etc. Or, for something less touristy, the café Sowohl als Auch in Prenzlauer Berg near Kollwitzplatz is very popular with the young families who live there. Great cakes, good coffee. I think Einstein is overrated, though the coffee is good.

        Check out Tacheles (bar/café/movie theater/gallery) on Oranienburger. It has managed to retain a bit of the early 90s feel to it, despite the fact that it is on THE main tourist trap strip: Oranienburger Str. I would recommend to not eat there, and if you must, try Kadima (Jewish-Russian food, non-kosher).

        Brauerei Lemke near Hackescher Markt has nice beer. Never been to BrewBaker, sounded good though. Will have to try next spring. Hope this helps.... there are so many places, it's hard to decide ----

        1. re: linguafood

          Wohnzimmer: LOVE. post-DDR decor with bobo hipster mamas, great coffee, turns into bar at night. not much on the food front. watch ping pong outside if the weather's nice. Great chocolate shop on the same square.
          Cafe Einstein - in Tiergarten: love, like an old viennese cafe, great breakfast and great cappuccinos. bauernfruehstueck, zwei eir im glass, muesli. also the struedel.
          KaDeWe - absolute must. mindblowing.
          Altes Europa- my old stammtisch! that said, not worth a special trip, but if you are in Mitte, you might as well go for a very casual bite. Cheeky bartender. Also nearby, Greenwich, great drinks, chic interior. Sophieneck for pinko student taverna atmosphere.
          Kollwitzplatz Farmers Market- I don't know any actual germans that shop here. But if you do, fortify yourself at Wohnzimmer, its close.
          Winterfeldplatz Farmers Market- the real deal. go saturday.
          Café im Literaturhaus- always preferred Clarchen's Ballhaus across the street, for the garden in the summer, also Strand Bad is better.
          Tacheles- yes.
          Instead of Brauerei Lemke, go next door to Riva for cocktails- the bouncer will open the door for you, its not closed just 'cause the door's locked.

          Also- this is christmas market time! The one at Gendarmenmarkt is the prettiest, one euro to get in keeps the drunks out. Try the Glühwein, pay the extra euro and keep the mug, organic bratwurst im brötchen with hot mustard. Yum. Local crafts. And so festive.

          1. re: desylicious

            Well, perhaps no East Germans shop at Kollwitzplatz because the whole area including the market has been so yuppified and gentrified they can't afford it. I certainly have gone there quite a few times, if only for the fresh pasta stand.

            In any event, Winterfeldtmarkt ist much, much better in any aspect.

            Disagree about the Glühwein. That stuff is fetid. Try the honey wine (met) instead, though you probably won't be able to have more than one mug of it either. At the Gendarmenmarkt christmas market, you must try the 'Rahmbrot': it's fresh baked bread from the oven topped with sour cream, cheese, and chives. It is to die for, I went back twice --- and paid the Euro cover -- to get it. The stand was near the entrance.

            Didn't know Riva bar still existed, I thought they were closed.

            1. re: linguafood

              Gluehwein at Weihnachtsmaerkete can be repulsive, but the real deal made at home can be wonderful.

              1. re: saacnmama

                Like most things that are homemade, I'd say, as opposed to industrially. But I'm not a big fan of hot alcohol anyway.

            2. re: desylicious

              Happened into Sophieneck back in March - loved it! I had the best Thuringer bratwurst ever.

        2. I'd steer clear of Storch ("Stork"). First of all, they've re-named it (to i forget what) and changed owners. Mainly, they have "aspirations". The food was good enough, but the dining experience was way off-putting. First, the place was empty when we walked in. We had made a reservation, but they wanted to seat us in a common area in the front bar. When i peered into the back room (with white tablecloths and 2-4 party tables) and asked for a table there (only one other table was occupied) we had to threaten to leave in order to get a "fancy" table. I know what they were doing: trying to pad out the front room to make it appear busy. Good luck, pal.

          As noted, the dinner was very good. However, when we went to pay, we were told, despite a listing to the contrary in the "Time Out" guide, they only take cash. Luckily, we had some. Not worth the trouble, in our opinion.

          For great traditional German fare, try Marjellchen. Be sure to reserve as they only have about 10 tables, and we got the last one as a very lucky early dinner walk-in. It filled up completely thereafter (030 883 2676).

          For a more raucous, but very tasty, dining experience, go to the KaDeWe department store.

          And a cautionary note: This may be about to change, but smoking is permitted in restaurants throughout Germany. And they smoke.

          1 Reply
          1. re: schlimmerkerl

            That's too bad about Storch changing hands. It was probably our favorite of the places we visited in Berlin. I noticed that the website went down for awhile and now is back with just a link to PraterGarten...I should have known something was amiss.

            For what it's worth, my understanding is that part of Storch's schtick was the large communal tables shared by multiple parties and presumed the back room was for private parties or something...

            While it's frustrating that Time Out said they took plastic, so few restaurants actually do that you're probably better off just assuming you need to pay cash.

            I heard from a friend that the smoking ban is already beginning to take effect in Berlin (she was sneaking a smoke in the bathroom at TXL!), but I wasn't able to independently corroborate this.

            A related humorous anecdote...We sat in the "non-smoking" section of a little kneipe (at least that's what we thought the metal objects on the table with crossed-out cigarettes signified) and the waitress brought us an ashtray without us even asking for one.

          2. This is great. I'm headed to Berlin on Friday and have had no time to research. Thanks!

            1. Good Friends Chinese Restaurant on Kantstrasse is one of the best I´ve found in Germany, although they don´t have Mu Shu Pork on the menu and neither do any of the other Chinese restaurants I have been to in Germany.

              As to the smoking, the world is not yet non-smoking and, as Schlimmerkerl pointed out, many people here do smoke. For my part, as long as I have to put up with people taking dirty stinking dogs into restaurants and also screaming kids, then I think we should be entitled to a smoking section. Dogs are outlawed in the US in restaurants except for seeing-eye dogs and handicapped service dogs for a reason - they are a health hazard. Screaming kids are also a health hazard and are bad for your nerves, not to mention my disposition.