Cold War cuisine in Berlin Part 1.
Searching for coffee refill diners, greasy spoon breakfasts and 1950’s rock n’ roll? How about some borshsch, dumplings or pirozhki to wash down a bottle of vodka? Never fear, if you’re looking for favourites from the motherland or want to get in touch with your inquisitive side, Berlin has loads of cafes and restaurants paying homage to the Cold War nations.
Part 1 of the Cold War series takes a look at Star-Spangled Banner American cuisine in Berlin. Where Mexico meets Johnny Rockets and everything in between there are some genuinely decent American themed restaurants in the city just waiting to be explored.
In the heart of hipster-expat Neukölln, Cabslam is all about California serving up American pastime favourites: burger and fries, hotcakes and Huevos Rancheros. Looking more like a dive bar than a credible café, restaurant and bar, Cabslam’s slapped together décor should not put you off waiting impatiently for a table. Famous for their Sunday roast and cocktails served all evening, the breakfast here is not to be missed. Whether your sweet tooth beckons on your mid-morning crawl home or if hunger pains strike at the critical brunch hour, Cabslam with their all day breakfast covers everything from eggs served everyway, with bacon and cheese on everything, to lunch and dinner steak sandwiches, mac and cheese and fish tacos.
On the flip side of town in the leafy suburb of Prenzlauer Berg, Nalu reeks of Route 66. With a line down the street and wafts from the kitchen drawing weekend crowds to the bright green doors, the traditional US diner experience can be relived. Serving free-refill coffee you can wash down a piece of pie (yes pumpkin is available) if you can after consuming the mammoth of all big breakfasts (served until 6pm). Take two eggs anyway with dinner-plate-size hotcakes, hash browns, tomato and bacon (with a Canadian bacon upsize option) plus an infinite number of additional sides to choose from topped with maple syrup, tomato sauce and mustard; you’ve got one very large breakfast. For those who prefer to order lunch (are you crazy!?) never fear, the burgers and shoestring fries are pretty good too, not as monster as the breakfast but definitely up there as some of the best burgers in town, with great fries and tasty buns.
Speaking of burgers, the Bird steakhouse has been boasting about having the best burgers in town since 2013. Whilst I wasn’t around for the initial phenomenon, their presence may be the cause of the thousand other burger places opening up in and around Berlin since then. They’re pretty good if you like English muffins instead of a bun, finishing your patty without the aid of the muffin buns keeping it all together and having meat juice drip down your arms. With almost thirty different burger-topping options on the menu – like pizza toppings but in burgers – there is no shortage of choice and with a strong emphasis – some might say pressure – on not overcooking the patty (great for my medium-rare preference and quite frankly a little out of place for an American steakhouse) be prepared for pink, fleshy meat. The chicken wings are pretty good too but don’t ask for them with the signature napalm sauce, because your server will practically do anything to not let you order it. If you like spicy, it’s not that spicy. With two locations, it is still hard to get a table but certainly worth the wait.
If sandwiches are more your thing look no further than Mogg. This small-seater deli café on the first floor of the art deco Kennedy Museum in the old Jewish Girls’ school on Auguststraße is a typical New York Jewish deli with a focus on one key feature: pastrami. Mogg is the home of the Reuben and is a meat lover’s haven. Although a deli, the space is more like a restaurant where the meats and produce are not really on display, and the bustle of a street deli is lacking. The Reuben is the clear choice and is available in a small and large size although the pastrami and pulled pork sandwiches are also delicious. With a mean Matzeknödel soup and one cannot forget about the New York cheesecake there are also many sides to choose from if you can consider fitting them in after all that pastrami.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Cold War in Berlin with all your Russian favourites.