Berlin: Our favorite places to eat and drink

Berlin is my favorite German city, far and away. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times, taking advantage of tips from friends that live or used to live there, and I’ve written about it more than any other city on this site (I’m sorry, beloved NYC; I will get to you someday).

In the excitement of sharing what’s new, sometimes you neglect to share what you know and love most (i.e. it’s not personal, Big Apple). On a return trip it became blatantly obvious how loyal I’ve become to my favorite haunts (I arranged hotel stays and skipped half a trade show just to return to them), and I was also introduced to some new favorites. Without further ado:

 

Favorite restaurants

 

Monsieur Vuong (Alte Schönhauser Straße 46)

Inside Monsieur Vuong, Berlin

Inside Monsieur Vuong, Berlin

It goes without saying that Berlin has more culinary offerings than the famous currywurst. This particular Vietnamese joint is a local favorite (recommended by not one but two unacquainted locals prior to my first city visit), so get there early to snag your seat.

 

Located in trendy Mitte, this perfect lunch venue somehow combines modern cool with fantasies of Indochine-gone-by, and with a fresh menu that changes every two days, you’ll never grow bored. The lemongrass-ginger-lime-honey tea, served in a bowl with a wooden stirrer, is a must.

 

This same block is also home to my favorite boutique shopping, so if your eyes just lit up, be sure to set aside extra time.

 

Soup and tea at Monsieur Vuong, Berlin

Soup and lemongrass tea

 

KaDeWe Food Emporium (Tauentzienstraße 21-24)

Visitors think I’m crazy when I suggest eating at KaDeWe – or Kaufhaus des Westens – possibly the ritziest department store in Berlin. But ascend to the packed 6th Floor on a Friday night (when opening hours extend to 9 p.m.) and you’ll find the place packed.

Imagine a gourmet food megastore, filled with cheese and charcuterie and chocolate and prepared food counters. Then insert actual gourmet restaurants of varying specialties, tiny little preparation areas surrounded by bar stools for patrons. Next, make sure that each one has large ice buckets filled with great champagnes and wines by the glass, and you’ll realize why KaDeWe outings can become quite addictive.

 

KaDeWe restaurant booth

Diners pack the seats at each KaDeWe mini-restaurant

Favorite lounges and bars

The Black Lodge (Sanderstrasse 6)

I love speakeasys. Pretty much any speakeasy will do, but the ones that hide excellent cocktails (like my all-time favorite PDT in New York) take the cake.

What makes this one special is its laid back vibe (once you locate it, locate the buzzer, and are admitted inside), dark noir interiors, and the quality mixology within. It doesn’t hurt that it’s just blocks from Clärchens Ballhaus (below). Try the Russian Mule (recipe), which is the latest sensation storming Berlin nightlife at the moment.

 

U-bahn and S-bahn

 

IMG_7043

U-bahn tracks + socializing (Photo credit: kai.bates)

 

It’s not the name of a venue; I’m actually talking about Berlin’s public transportation, which in many places uses elevated trains.

 

The warehouse spaces below the tracks have been converted into restaurants and bars, with different neighborhoods contributing as befits their circumstances. By Humboldt University you’ll find pizza joints and pubs packed with – what else? – university students (always a brimming source of information for what’s happening NOW and where). Near the Savignyplatz station near the chain-store and designer shopping mecca of the “Ku-damm” (or Kurfürstendamm street), you’ll coffee shops, gift stores and outdoor cafes.

 

Then, in summer, head down to the Kreuzberg stations on the U-1 line, where locals grab beers at small kiosks and huge outdoor impromptu meet-and-greets form. It’s a quintessential Berlin experience that lets you feel that energy everyone raves about.

 

Favorite dance hall

 

Clärchens Ballhaus (Auguststraße 24)

 

Clärchens Ballhaus

Clärchens Ballhaus, now

 

Doesn’t everybody have a favorite ballroom dancing venue?

This one isn’t a trendy newcomer; it has history. Pre-war, its central position made it a popular meeting place for people from both sides of the city, and it was known for its grandeur. Post-wall, it became part of East Berlin and fell into disrepair. It has been lovingly recreated – if not to its former glory, then at least nostalgically reminiscent of its glory – without erasing its history; bullet holes are still visible on the outside façade.

Don’t expect to see too many non-locals in this eccentric dance hall, whose huge space and long tables lends it a biergarten feel, but it won’t mean that everyone looks similar. There are people of all ages, in all kinds of dress, who share a love of ballroom dancing.

Need to brush up on your fox trot? No problem.  Clärchens offers free dance classes several times a week. Check the site for details (via GoogleTranslate).

 

English: Clärchens Ballhaus (Clärchen's Dancin...

English: Clärchens Ballhaus (Clärchen’s Dancing Hall) at Auguststraße No. 24-25 in Berlin-Mitte. The building was constructed around 1890 as rear building to a residential building, which was destroyed in WWII. It is part of the protected historic buildings area Spandauer Vorstadt. DEBerlin10117 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

*Special thanks to GetYourGuide, our Valentines tour giveaway sponsor, and SANDEMANs NEW Europe, forerunner for the “free tour” concept, for the Clärchens Ballhaus and Black Lodge introduction.

 

 

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Comments

  1. OK, my curiosity was peaked when I initially saw the chopsticks. But why not? Berlin seems to have it all and I can understand why you enjoy it so much. It sounds like the citizens have taken great care and pride in their city, good for them! I especially enjoyed the story behind the dance hall. Thanks for sharing your favorite spots.

  2. Whatever happened to wienerschnitzel???

  3. Kristen – Gladly! I hope you get to try some of them out.

  4. Hi Wendy – Would you believe? Wiener schnitzel is Austrian! Wien = Vienna.

  5. Jen, well now that’s interesting!

  6. It’s been a while since we’ve been to Berlin. I can’t remember where or what we ate while there. Sad 🙁
    So, it’s great to have this list of your favorites. We’ll make a point to try a few on our next visit. Clärchens sounds interesting, as does the thought of trying a Russian Mule at The Black Lodge. Appreciate the info!

  7. Hi Gayla, I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂

  8. I’ve only been to Berlin once, but I’ve been to two of the places on your list! Three if you count the U-bahn/S-bahn. It makes me feel like I did something right 🙂 I could really go for a Monsieur Vuong lunch right now. That place is the best.

    You need to stop neglecting New York and get it caught up with Berlin. Of course, the best way to do that is to make another visit for some new material! 🙂

  9. Jessica – You’re right. Since New York is always renewing itself, I probably need to return soon and gather fresh material…

  10. Great to know about Berlin. Can you please tell me whether I can get good Indian restaurants over there. As I love to have them wherever I go and search all over the internet to get the information on the same before going to a place. Thanks and have a great day.

  11. Hi leelavas, from what I hear there are many Indian restaurants in Berlin, of varying quality. However, I haven’t tried any of them.

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