What food comes to mind when you think of German cuisine? Sausages? Kebabs? Beer? The truth is that, just like most countries, German cuisine varies by region and city. Recently, Laura and I did the Secret Food Tour in Berlin and discovered several of the amazing restaurants and dishes served in Germany’s capital.
Please note, this article is not a substitute for taking the Secret Food Tour in Berlin. It’s only meant to whet your appetite and make you want to take the tour. To help keep the Secret Food Tour secret, I’ll cover the dishes, but not the restaurants. You’ll have to take the tour yourself to find the best places in town, which might not be the same ones we went to.
Finding the Best Schnitzel Ever
When I went to Vienna back in 2015, I didn’t have any of the Wienerschnitzel, simply because they were way out of my budget back then. Then when I went to Berlin in 2017, I missed out on having any schnitzels. In fact, the only schnitzels I remember having in my travels were at a German restaurant on Koh Chang Island in Thailand back in 2016, and another small German restaurant in Vang Vieng, Laos earlier this year.
First of all, on the tour, I learned the difference between schnitzel and Wienerschnitzel. Weiner is the German word for Vienna, which is where the latter are produced. They’re also made with veal, whereas the German version is usually pork. You can either order them with mashed potatoes or french fries on the side, or you can get one in a hamburger bun with coleslaw or other toppings.
Our food tour took us to unquestionably the best schnitzel restaurant in Berlin (you’ll have to take the tour to find out which one). As I’ve said before, the best restaurants around the world are those that only sell one item, and this establishment was no different. You could get them with french fries or in a bun, but that’s all they sold. Our tour guide provided us with half a schnitzel sandwich each.
Now, you might look at the sandwich and think it’s a chicken burger. They look similar, but one is a Ford and the other is a Ferrari. I really don’t know how to describe the taste of the schnitzel. In America, I hated pork chops; Germany knows how to make them delicious! Laura said she had a new favorite food, and we ended up having one every day we were in Berlin!
Learning About the Different Kinds of Wurst (Sausages)
At the Christmas markets in Luxembourg, I learned about mettwurst, the sausages of southern Germany and Luxembourg. Bratwurst is the more common sausage of Germany, prepared a bit simpler with veal or pork and not as many spices as mettwurst.
Currywurst is Berlin invention. In 1949, a lady named Herta Heuwer acquired ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers. She used these to flavor her bratwurst sausages she then sold to the construction workers who were rebuilding post-WWII Berlin. They were a success, and at one point her stall was selling 10,000 sausages a week!
The meal continues to be popular today with dozens of currywurst stalls all around town. Our tour took us to a particularly good one which sold the “double currywurst special.” This is because there are actually two types of currywurst stemming from the former cities of East and West Berlin. The bratwurst of West Berlin had the usual sausage casing, but this wasn’t obtainable in East Berlin. As such, the bratwurst in East Berlin was made with a batter coating, effectively crating the German version of a corndog.
Did Germany Really Invent the Kebab
Many people say the kebab was invented in Germany, but that’s only partially true. The practice of cooking meat on a stick goes back nearly a million years on this planet. Doner kebab is that huge inverted cone of meat rotated on a metal stick against a vertical grill or electric heater. This was apparently invented in the 19th century in Bursa, Turkey, with the first restaurant in Istanbul serving doner kebabs in 1945.
It wasn’t until 1971 when the first doner kebab sandwich was served in Berlin, Germany by a Turkish immigrant. Whether that was the first time it was served in its sandwich form is highly contested by other cities and countries. Whoever invented it first, I think it’s safe to say that Germany eats the most kebab, with 600 tons of doner meat consumed daily within the country.
Our food tour chose to give us something slightly different. We went to an Iraqi kebab for a shawarma sandwich. The proprietor marinates his meat with turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, lemon juice and garlic before roasting it against a grill. To say our sandwich was massive would be an understatement. I think the food tour could have consisted of just that one meal. In fact, I believe I was the only person who finished the whole thing. How could I not? It was delicious!
One tip our guide gave us in finding a good kebab was to chose one where we could see the lines of meat, as if we could see the individual fillets on the spit, rather than a big blob of meat that almost looks like it’s minced. These are the higher-quality kebabs, and I’ve noticed the difference myself in my travels.
Kebabs aren’t the only product brought to Germany from the Middle East. Well, nuts aren’t just from the Middle East, but many of their desserts use nuts. The shop we went to featured a lot of Turkish sweets such as baklava, halva and Turkish delight. We also had a bunch of praline nuts, but I think those come from France.
The Turkish are the biggest cultural group in Germany after Germans themselves, comprising nearly 3 million citizens in the country and almost 100,000 in Berlin alone. Thus, it’s no wonder that they would bring their cuisine to the country.
Flammekueche – Germany’s Answer to Pizza
Someday I’m going to get around to writing about all the different types of pizzas around the world, such as the french fry-topped pizzas of Sweden, the oblong pide in Turkey, or the Thai pizzas that use something similar to tortillas for their base.
Flammekueche comes from the Alsace region of southwestern Germany and western France, not far from Switzerland. This dish can be found in all three of these countries (and I found it in Luxembourg too at the Christmas market). Often it’s referred to as German pizza. It wasn’t surprising that we were served some as part of the Secret Food Tour, especially as most people who haven’t been to Germany aren’t familiar with flammekueche.
The basic recipe of flammekueche is pizza dough rolled out really thin and topped with various toppings such as crème fraîche, onions and bacon lardons. It’s then cooked just for a couple minutes at high heat in a wood-fired oven so that the outer crust gets a little burnt. After everything else we’d had on the tour, I was surprised I had room for anything else. But I’d built up a reputation for cleaning off the plates, so I was passed the last several slices to devour.
German Dishes Not on the Food Tour in Berlin
As mentioned above, the food tour in Berlin covers just one region of German cuisine. In Hamburg, I had the idea that the main meal would be hamburgers. They did serve amazing hamburgers, but as a port city, it was more popular to order a fish sandwich. Laura went with a coalfish sandwich, while I went with the salmon. Both were really delicious with a huge amount of fresh fish. The restaurant we got our sandwich at is called Brücke 10, on the recommendation and sponsorship of the tourism board.
There’s a lot of debate whether Germany or the USA invented the hamburger. Either way, we found some seriously delicious burgers in Germany. In Berlin, we stopped at a tiny shack called Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor located under a bridge. I’ve eaten burgers all my life and all over the world, but I can honestly say this one stood out as one of the best I’ve ever eaten! I know Berlin is cheap, but it’s still hard to believe that the burgers only cost us $5 each!
We also tried a highly-rated hamburger restaurant in Hamburg (as you do) called Otto’s Burger. There were two locations, one just down the street from our Superbude Hotel, and another in the center of town. The one near our hotel was closed by the time we arrived, so we went to the other location a couple days later. Their burgers were a little more expensive ($10), but getting a massive, homemade burger covered in oozing raclette cheese and caramelized onions was a whole different level of divine!
There were several more dishes we had in Germany, including many from other cuisines. Perhaps I just got lucky choosing good restaurants, but we didn’t have a single meal that we didn’t thoroughly enjoy! I often say I travel primarily for the different types of food around the world. Well, I’d consider living in Germany for a few months just to be able to experience their delicious cuisine every day.
Booking the Secret Food Tour in Berlin
Secret Food Tours operate in 56 cities across the world and they’re adding new cities all the time. I did their Edinburgh Food Tour, on which I learned about even more delicious Scottish food than I already knew about. Another I did in London was no different and I was introduced to a couple of British dishes I was unaware of, while getting information behind many of my favorites.
The food tour in Berlin lasts about 3 hours and starts outside the Warschauer Straße metro station. There are two other tours available – a vegan tour and a beer tour (adults only). I had no idea Berlin was such a vegan-friendly city. In fact, there are four different supermarket chains that sell only vegan products. I know Edinburgh is very vegan-friendly, but Berlin might just top the world with the highest number of vegan restaurants and markets per capita.
- Location: S+U Warschauer Straße, Berlin
- Hours: Mon-Sun 11:30 a.m.
- Price: Adults – €59 ($65); teens – €56 ($62); children – €54 ($60)
- Phone: (+49) 32 22 109 0195
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: Secret Food Tour Berlin
- What to bring: Comfortable walking shoes and a big appetite, although there isn’t a lot of walking on this tour.
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Interested in booking another Secret Food Tour? Here are some others I’ve been on around the world.
- London Food Tour: Learning All About the British Cuisine
- Begin Your Journey in Scotland with a Secret Food Tour in Edinburgh
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
- Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
- Click here to claim your $25 credit with AirB&B
Disclaimer: Laura and I were given complimentary tickets to the Secret Food Tour in Berlin on behalf of Secret Food Tours. As always, all views and opinions are my own.