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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!

Il Punto

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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.

              1. Definitely go to Oderquelle. I was there in March and the food was terrific and reasonable. It's not fancy, but certainly worth it. Whoever is in the kitchen has a great immagination but little ego.

                1. I've relocated to Berlin in the past two months and now live just up the street from the Winterfeldtplatz. I have to add three recommendations for food at the Saturday market: a stand that sells Belgian waffles with caramelized sugar that melts down inside it... waffles from Liège and not Brussels. Excellent! And there are two raclette stands, one smaller that just has a few things in addition to the raclette, the other more professional with tables to stand at. Try the former. Finally, the coffee at the Italian stand that also sells tirami su and mini cannoli is far better than the Mokambo stuff next to the Flammekueche stand. While you're there, try out their tirami su, too!
                  I can also recommend the Trattoria Muntagnola - a bit more of an expensive place, in the Fuggerstrasse, but really good. I must check out Sale e Tabacchi, and am tempted to start a thread on the best Italians in Berlin.

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: Radiothomas

                    Oh man, you lucky guy! I do miss Winterfeldtmarkt... can't wait to be back. Have you had the spicy dumplings at the Thai stand?

                    Good idea about the best Italians thread. It's about time I think that Germany -- or at least Berlin -- gets its own board!

                    My fave Italian: Paparazzi. Trattoria Noi Quattro is pretty good, too. There used to be a great place near Winterfeldtplatz on Motzstr.: Motzarella, with Ligurian cuisine. Unfortunately, they closed this year.

                    Hey, we should assemble a "Best of" like the Manhattan board. Plan?

                    1. re: linguafood

                      I haven't tried the dumplings yet, but have had the middle eastern "tabouli" and other goodies... another recommendation.

                      Germany does deserve its own board - there must be people who'd use it and want it. How do we go about it - talk to the Chowhound team?

                      1. re: Radiothomas

                        Welllllll..... supposedly, they do keep track of the posts, so maybe they're reading this as we speak ;-). Or, we could ask in the site talk board?

                        1. re: linguafood

                          Ahem, hey Chowhound peoples, how about a board for Germany?

                          That said, I don't think a separate one for Berlin is necessary. Not just because the postings are not so frequent (Munich posters seems to be more active), but because Germany is so small. Maybe combine with Austria, too? Germanic regional board? What do you think?

                          How about a thread on best Berlin Italian and best Berlin Asian. The thing I miss most about California is asian (Vietnamese in Garden Grove, dim sum in San Gabriel, Palm's Thai Elvis in Hollywood) and mexican food. I've completely given up on finding decent mexican in Berlin (although there is one decent place in Munich), but love Good Friends and Edd's Thai on the west side.

                          1. re: desylicious

                            Hey d.

                            I've suggested a Germany board (perhaps including Austria & Switzerland, or the Netherlands & Belgium) on the site talk board. I was informed that the people in charge are working on rearranging the international boards.... so we'll see what happens.

                            I'm not crazy about Mexican food (the whole idea of wrapping limp dough around anything that holds still long enough -- well, mostly rice and beans -- kinda escapes me), but I guess I haven't tried The Real Thing yet. I've heard Americans who are more versed in this cuisine refer to Mexico Lindo, which I believe is in Charlottenburg or something.

                            Haven't been impressed with Good Friends, but a good Chinese resto outside of NYC or SF is hard to come by.

                            I absolutely love the Kabuki Sushi on Olivaer Platz. I would scoot over there at least once a week from Kreuzberg.

                            Haven't been to Edd's, must try that next spring. I like Phuket on Mehringdamm a lot. Good Time is also pretty good.

                            Vietnamese.... other than the ever-so-famous-and-hip Monsieur Vuong, which surprisingly has kept a good standard despite the hype, I haven't found anything that would rock my boat. Not enough heat, I guess.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              If you like the heat, go to Edd's. Sometimes I think he cooks like that just to shock Berliner taste buds. Probably why they have durian ice cream on the dessert menu.

                              I'll be moving to Kberg in January and would like some recs near Goerlitzerst., but maybe that's for another thread.

                              1. re: desylicious

                                Oh man, good for YOU!! My favorite brunch place is near Görli, on the corner of Skalitzer Str. is Café Morgenland. Their brunch is unbeatable. They have a fairly large outdoor seating area, which may be quite irrelevant in January, though, so either show up early, or later in the day. But their buffet is incredible.

                                Then there's the Wirtshaus "Zur Henne" on Leuschnerdamm, serving the best damn fried chicken in town.

                                A neat beergarden is Heinz Minki -- again, not relevant in winter.

                                Restaurant Horvath on Paul-Lincke-Ufer. Restauration H. H. Müller on Paul-Lincke-Ufer....

                                Just tell me when to stop ;-)

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I like the idea of combining a board of Austria, Switzerland and Germany into one. Please don't put the Netherlands and Belgium into the German board - the food and habits are just too different. At least in the former arrangement, you have three largely German-speaking countries together...

                                  And if there are enough people who post on that hopefully new board under Germany, eventually, it'll get its own board.

                                  I'll be jotting down some of these ideas... they're great. Do all your friends know about Chowhound?

                                  1. re: Radiothomas

                                    Just one German buddy who enjoys culinary travels & some of my family -- most of my friends aren't nearly as obsessed with food as I am, or they don't live in Berlin.

                                  2. re: linguafood

                                    I went to Jolesch on Muskauer Sunday night and had the Tafelspitz mit Serviettenknödel. It was really a perfect meal for the damp weather, although the decor was a bit bare bones.

                                    I think I saw Morgenland on the cab ride there, if its the place with the neon sign that's partially out. Good location for me.

                                    1. re: desylicious

                                      Yeah, Jolesch is supposed to be a good place Austrian. I had their Wiener Schnitzel years ago & liked it. Not sure about the Morgenland neon sign, as I've only gone at the brunch hour. I found a short review on it below (the link to their website, however, is non existent).


                                    2. re: linguafood

                                      Turns out I'm living on Paul-Linke-Ufer between H.H. Muller and Horvath. What luck! Also good is the newish Kirk Royal on Mariannenst. and PLU- mostly a steak-frites place but really nice to pop in for dinner. Morgenland and Morena have been my breakfast go-to places. Haven't been there (Morgenland) for brunch yet, though.

                                      Also had Papa No delivery and was not impressed. Any asian recs?

                                      1. re: desylicious

                                        Nice location! Right across from the Turkish market.

                                        I've only been to Horvath once, but really liked it. Any comments on H.H. Müller? I always thought they looked pricey for what they offer.... but perhaps you can convince me otherwise.

                                        As for Asian... not a lot in that particular part of town. Papa No sucks, so does Mama Su -- I frankly think they're the same business.

                                        Which Asian are you talking about? My favorite sushi resto is in Wilmersdorf, which is a bit of a haul... but so totally worth it.

                                        Good Chinese is basically non-existent, the good Thai places are in Mitte and Charlottenburg (Good Time and Edd's, respectively).

                                        Good Vietnamese, but small menu is Monsieur Vuong, also in Mitte.

                                        You have GOT to brunch at Morgenland. Seriously. You'll never go anywhere else.

                        2. re: Radiothomas

                          I gather you never started that thread, bropaul, since I couldn't find it. But I really fancied friendly Italian and I went to Der Goldene Hahn in East Kreuzberg.

                          It was lovely food. All our dishes were tasty, well-cooked and balanced. The antipasto was generous and delicious. The menu wasn't trying to be pure Italian (it included dishes like Tafelspitz and Creme Brulee), but it was definitely more than just "Italian-influenced". It was based on Italian ingredients (like the peperonata for my delicious Lammhaxe dish) and the style was the don't-complicate, put-good-ingredients-together style that I love about Italian food. For a small place, the wine list was impressive. We enjoyed a 2000 Barolo with all our dishes except my dessert.

                          The place had loads of atmosphere and despite being small was not at all stuffy - possibly because of the front bar area with its view to the street. Eating there this Sunday night were many couples, two small family groups and one group of 6 or so friends who came and went at different times and staggered their food. The music (Bob Dylan tonight!) added to the ambiance - a bit loud for me but they did turn it down a little when I asked. The service was friendly and relaxed - it wasn't super-slick but in such a small place it was easy to catch someone's eye.

                          If I were living near Der Goldene Hahn I'd probably be there very often just for antipasto, wine and atmosphere, but it's a good place for long tasty sit-down meals too.

                          Three links to three previous chowhound mentions and two links to restaurant info:
                          http://www.goldenerhahn.de/ - NB domain-name spelling-change. Site under construction Jan 2008

                          1. re: suleika

                            Interesting, suleika. I've only gone to the Goldene Hahn once, and hated it. I thought it was overpriced, bad quality food (totally overcooked octopus in a pasta dish, tiny antipasto portion), way too loud music -- overall just not a great experience.

                            I think one's better off at Gorgonzola Club, a few streets further west. And they got a nice cocktail bar next door...

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Some friends were just at Goldene Hahn and really liked the food, housemade ravioli and such. Never been, myself. They also mentioned how loud the music was and asked for them to turn it down a bit. The waiter just shrugged and said " this is what we do".

                              And linguafood, I'm looking for Thai or Vietnamese in East Kreuzberg. I am well acquainted with, and love, M. Vuong, Edd's etc., and in fact have recommended them above. I guess I'm trying to establish some good neighborhood places within walking distance from my house. Lazy, or efficient?

                              1. re: desylicious

                                Not lazy, but maybe hopeless '-). Granted, I've been gone from Berlin since last July, so maybe something has sprung up that I am not aware of.... but I can't for the life of me think of any (not just good, but ANY) Asian places in your neck of the woods...

                              2. re: linguafood

                                Shame about the octopus, but - tiny antipasto! Our was enormous. And I can't imagine calling it overpriced but then I'm a Londoner. I wonder if they'll ever calm down the music. Thanks for the tip.

                                1. re: suleika

                                  Yeah, if you're from London you don't get to comment on food costs. Hard enough for us Amis to deal with the dollar:euro exchange rate let alone thinking about the pound! Gah!

                                  Goldene Hahn:
                                  Finally went there the other night. Totally charming and cozy and filled with Berlinale people, big surprise. The back room doesn't seem to have the loud music playing at all. Totally possible to carry on conversation back there.

                                  I hate to say this, as I had high hopes for this little place, but I agree with linguafood- eating there was disappointing. The mushroom risotto was bland, the bacala was too salty (I know it is dried salted cod, but it should be soaked adequately enough so that it doesn't dessicate the atmosphere around it) and the accompanying slices of polenta were so thin and tough it was like eating the tongues out of my Converse All-Stars. The spinach salad was the only decent thing I tried that night. Too bad.

                          2. Hi!
                            Sorry this has taken me so long but I just wanted to report back on my Berlin Trip. First I'd just like to say that I had some really great dinners, but I think Berlin's food scene is still pretty young and has some growing up to do. It's probably just my californian bias, but I'd love to see more of Berlin's top restuarants focus on interesting presentations of classic german dishes with top ingredients instead of the fusion cuisine I found at so many places. Just my personal opinion though!

                            44 - Wow, this restaurant was expensive. And while it was quite good, I definitely don't think it justified the $450 price tag for two (obviously the dollar/euro conversion hurt here). We had four courses each and the food was experately prepared and beautifully displayed, but the flavor combinations didn't always mesh quite right - for instance a lobster salad with sweet meringues. Service was very friendly though and it definitely felt like a special occasion place. Just a little too stuffy for me.

                            Maxwell - I really liked this place. Despite the fact that we were asked to switch tables three times (poor communication among the waitstaff) and the fact that service was quite slow, the food was solid throughout and I loved the little court yard you walked through to get to the restaurant. I can't remember any of my courses, but I would definitely recommend it to someone who is looking for a business dinner spot.

                            Oderquelle - I loved oderquelle. It was possibly my favorite night. They were very understanding when we arrvied 20 minutes late, and the atmosphere was perfect. It was lively and packed and I heard mostly german conversations going on at the neighboring tables. I had a delicious soup to start, but my meat was a bit tough. My favorite part was when we asked for dessert, assuming they would bring us a menu, they just brought us dessert - since I guess there is only one option! We loved it though (and I wished I hadn't agreed to share!). Perfect family type restaurant. I would definitely go again.

                            Balthazar - Really great value meal. A little heavy on the european fusion end, but very good food, good service, a moderate sound level, and not outlandishly priced as far as upscale restaurants go. Although the decor was a little bit blander than I had expected (I had read somewhere it was supposed to be romantic), it would be perfect for a business dinner. I also enjoyed the communal table which helped make the atmosphere a bit more lively.

                            Monsiour Vong - This restaurant was great. I had zero complaints. My food was delicious, nicely spiced, and very reasonably priced. I could easily picture this place thriving in San Francisco (with me being one of it's loyal patrons). Definitely nothing german about it, but I enjoyed it nonetheless

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Hungryfina

                              Glad to hear you liked Oderquelle. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

                              1. re: Hungryfina

                                >>but I think Berlin's food scene is still pretty young and has some growing up to do.

                                Anyone gonna take this one up? Interesting topic...

                                1. re: desylicious

                                  I think I would agree with that. While there's always been a number of reliable ethnic places, Berlin was decidedly NOT a foodie destination & is only very slowly becoming known for its younger chefs (Tim Raue, Stefan Hartmann, et al) who only recently have become more creative with regional food...

                                  I think Germany in general (and this has been echoed in another thread started by Chinon00) is behind in discovering the pleasure of eating. Perhaps it's our Prussian history -- seeing food only as fuel for life, instead of embracing it as a pleasure in and of itself.

                                  I'm certainly doing my part in propagating the idea of Berlin as a worthy foodie (oh no!! not *that* word) I mean chowhound destination.... :-D

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    Not all of Germany is Prussian...I've been very impressed with the food in Munich. Also, Berlin is a remarkable special case. Twenty years ago it was in the the middle of communist East Germany.

                                    1. re: Behemoth

                                      Yes, well, I am quite aware of that... having grown up in the distinctly non-Prussian Rhineland. However, I would argue that the pleasures of eating & food are only a fairly decent discovery -- 'xcept perhaps the South -- NOT talking Bavaria/Munich here, but the Saarland and Baden-Württemberg, whose cuisine is reminiscent of French. No surprise given the vicinity to Alsace/France.

                                      Besides, the point was made about Berlin's food scene, not Germany in its entirety. And most Germans and Berliners would agree that Berlin has only recently become more culinarily adventurous & exciting.

                                      Given the subsidies granted to Berlin tourism in the 80s, there really is no excuse for no decent restaurant scene even back then, regardless of being located in the East.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        A restaurant scene doesn't come into existence because of tourist subsidies, it comes into existence because of demand, driven by greater spending power. People need to make money first, and then they start demanding quality. Berlin is still behind the rest of the big urban centers in Germany gastronomically, which is to be expected given that it is still lagging economically. Ten years ago most of the city was still a construction site -- and while the buildings are mostly built, constructing a diverse and stable economy takes more time.

                                        I know the statement was mainly about Berlin, but I think a lot of people have the impression the rest of Germany is similar, and if you'll indulge me a little, I would like to say that I've not found this to be the case. (Maybe this is a topic for a new thread...)

                                        Munich and Hamburg (the places I know best) for example have had decent food scenes for quite a while. Germany will never be as ethnically diverse as the US, and OK it's not France (what is?) but at least with the people I know, there is an awareness of quality as it relates to local products that does not give the impression of being new, and there has been a well-established high-end food scene for quite a while -- two measures that I think cannot be dismissed.

                                        What is perhaps new in the past few years is the sudden boom in high-level cookbooks (eg molecular gastronomy as opposed to Dr. Oetker Kochschule) and cooking shows like "Perfektes Dinner" or Tim Maeltzer. They have some ways to go before they catch up to the States, but I think that has more to do with the size of the market, and the different economic setups of German vs. American television stations.

                                        I guess what I am saying is that gastronomic awareness in Germany has always existed for certain classes (both Michelin-level stuff at the high end and also organic/local/etc in general), but maybe now the difference is that it is beginning to enter mainstream culture in a more self-aware way, possibly because of the recent improvement in people's financial outlook (or in the German case, what they *think* about their financial outlook....)

                                        Also, I think, given its geographic location between Italy and France, and its history, Germany generally gets overlooked and undervalued by both its own and potential visitors. As an outsider who has spent large amounts of time in Germany for the past 8 years, and has been living there for the past two, I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised by the standard of living, especially in terms of what there is to eat. Else I am not sure I would have lasted very long ;-)

                                        1. re: Behemoth

                                          B, you make some valid points, though I would still say that even in the 80s the kind of people travelling to Berlin -- apart from many, many high school classes -- had enough (company) money to support places such as Paris Bar, Paris Moskau, or Ana é Bruno... granted, since reunification, tourism has grown even more, and so has the restaurant scene, thankfully. I spend every summer in Berlin and it is getting tougher to keep up '-)... a problem I certainly don't mind having!

                                          I do think the German cuisine with its many regional differences and emphasis on fresh, local produce, is totally underrated and underappreciated. It's because tourists go to Munich, have their Eisbein mit Sauerkraut, and think they've had German food.

                                          btw, most of the multi-starred restos in Germany are not in any of the larger cities, but in the smaller ones in the South. And they have been there for longer than 20 years.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            This brings up an interesting subject -- I wonder to what extent a city's restaurant scene can depend on tourist $$ without having a local base of customers to sustain it. From what I've seen, I would suspect Hofbrauehaus might do fine without the locals, but the Michelin spots seem to be supported to a large degree by local expense accounts. (By local I mean within an hour's drive, let's say.)

                                            1. re: Behemoth

                                              Yep... expense accounts and their (ab-) use of them by the so-called "Spesenritter" -- it's not nearly as easy as it used to be, which is really a bummer... now that I work peripherally in the restaurant business, imagine all the lunches I could deduct for taxes ;-P. I could whip up a list of Berlin restos in no time ---

                                    2. re: linguafood

                                      I think Berliners are ahead in the pleasure of discovering thinness; generally, they don't stress over food as much as fashion, style, and unpretentious artistic pretense. Style, even the anti style, matters more than taste for most.