As famous as the clubs and techno music are the legendary döner kebabs of Berlin. Here are 12 of the best kebab spots in the German capital:
Once famed for its bratwurst, sauerkraut and, if you grew up in the seventies and eighties, Black Forest Gateau, Germany now loves one food more than any other: döner kebab. The typical Turkish dish, served in pita or flatbread with salad, has become Germany’s number one fast food. While there are 40,000 kebab shops across Germany, the capital Berlin has 4,000 alone – even more than Turkey’s most populous city Istanbul. Unlike in countries like Britain where döner is typically devoured after you’ve outstayed your welcome at the local pub, kebabs in Berlin are the go-to cuisine morning, noon and night. Armed with a hangover, a wallet full of five Euro notes, and an appetite for knoblauchsauce, TravelMag hit the streets of Berlin to find some of the best kebabs in town:
Mustafa Demir’s Gemüsekebap
Starting with arguably the most famous, popular and obvious kebab shop in Berlin – if the queue night and day is anything to go by – we hoped that Mustafa Demir’s Gemüsekebap would set a benchmark. The eatery on wheels is in a pretty horrible location, next to busy Mehringdamm, but luckily it has recently moved a few feet so that the inevitable queue doesn’t block the pavement. I’m not a fan of queuing a long time for food – I don’t care how good it is – but in many ways it is the queue itself that is the secret ingredient here. True the vegetables infused with the chicken juices, to make almost a ragout, is a good selling point but what you really notice after twenty minutes in the line is just how fresh everything is, from the salad, to the meat to the bread. Nothing stands around long at Mustafa’s place, there’s always a hungry customer at the window. Is it worth the wait? I’d say if you are in the area and find a perverse novelty in taking selfies in a queue then yes, it’s a great kebab, but there are others just as good elsewhere.
Rüyam Gemüse Kebab
Walk into this joint near Eberswalder Strasse Ubahn station and you feel like you’ve stumbled into McDonald’s new kebab franchise. Uniformed staff are packed behind the counter, with an electronic screen throwing up numbers, and the till constantly pinging open and closed. The reputation of Rüyam Gemüse Kebab – it gets 4.9 out of 5 on Google Maps – has meant they have had to streamline the operation to stop the queue outside reaching Mauerpark. The staff are super friendly and it is worth the wait. The chicken kebab is beautifully presented – the best I witnessed in fact – with flavoursome meat and the feta cheese giving a salty kick. It was big too – one kebab was definitely enough to leave you satisfied. This was arguably the best kebab out there.
Newly opened and already getting rave reviews, it was time to check out Kebab Bros. It’s a bit of an off-the-beaten-track location, hidden on the other side of the Ringbahn from the aircraft hanger-sized bike shop Zweirad-Center Stadler. It was worth the trek though as the queues from its recent opening had subsided and behind the matt black, almost Gothic facade were excellent quality kebabs in a really clean, modern environment. Top marks for the apparently homemade sauces and friendly and efficient staff – if this is the future of kebab shops then it tastes good.
Franz-Jacob -Strasse 2b
Imren Grill is a beloved kebab shop among everyone from Neukolln ravers to construction workers to those Berlin locals who eat döner for breakfast. Ask a local for a recommendation and they will likely say Imren. This Berlin fast food institution has a few locations dotted around Berlin the most famous being on Karl-Marx-Straße. However, armed only with a feeble two Euro bike lock, I decided to hit the quieter Boppstr location where it’s possible to sit outside and not worry that your bike is already being sold for parts at the floemarkt. Imren Grills don’t look like much from the outside but there is great attention to detail, from the free Turkish tea to the fresh ingredients used. What really makes the Imren kebab totally different from anywhere else though is their self-titled ‘secret sauce’, which is kind of like a rich, dark gravy that gives the meat a real richness. The beef is said to be flavoured with lamb fat, and what is left is almost a Philly steak – it makes a lot of other kebabs seem even more like fake, ‘what-actually-is-this?’ meat. The only downside was the size of the kebab. I may have been unlucky but there wasn’t actually much in the bread, but for taste alone this kebab is hard to beat.
Another relative newcomer, Kebab Kitchen is also trying to change people’s impression of what a döner shop should look like. It’s a bit disorientating at first. Gone are the racks of soft drinks in rumbling old fridges and an old man slumped at a fruit machine, and instead Kebab Kitchen looks like an upmarket deli, with black board menus and exposed woodwork. Thankfully the recipe for a decent, honest kebab is there, with lashings of fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, and creamy sauces, all updated with decidedly fresh-tasting meat and crispy, not cremated, bread. The lonely issue was the filling wasn’t as generous as some other kebab shops.
Rosenthaler Strasse 46
Not somewhere you are going to stumble across, Langhans Grillhaus is located between the crumbling Postmodernist square of Antonplatz and Busy Prenzlauer Alle – its a backwater even by Weissensee standards. This means it’s one for locals, and what a lucky bunch they are. The kebabs are stacked with meat, the garlic sauce is sharp, sweet and tasty (and will have you reaching for chewing gum) and top marks go to the seated area out the back with table service – not something many kebab shops can offer such a smart environment to get hot sauce all round the chops. The only letdown was the bread, it had been flattened in the toaster, looking, and tasting, more like it could be used by Amazon if they ever run out of cardboard. The overall taste was delicious, flavoursome and full of herbs and spices.
You’d think that a kebab shop in Alexanderplatz, one of the main tourist haunts in Berlin, wouldn’t care much for returning customers. But Doner Inn – possibly one of the first places many tourists will see when they walk out of the nearby high rise hotel Park Inn – takes pride in their döners. They are big, tasty and with a good balance of flavours, and the bread was soft and fluffy, unlike the cardboard door stopper you might find elsewhere. The meat is not overpowered by sauce, it’s all surprisingly delicate – unlike the busy, grey, Soviet-era shopping square that surrounds it.
Nefis Gemüse Kebap
Remember I mentioned the gemüse kebab places that are as good as Mustafa’s but less of a queue? Nefis is one of them. It’s easy to sleep on this place, you probably wouldn’t notice it walking down Kottbusser Damm at all, it’s so small and unassuming. But the kebabs are anything but. In fact I’ll stick my neck out and say they are better than Mustafa’s thanks to the finely chopped mint that comes through in the salad and the fresh zing of lemon that reaches your nose even before the first bite. The workmen that were sitting outside before 12pm obviously knew this is a good spot not only for excellent kebab but somewhere you wouldn’t spend half your lunchbreak waiting in a line.
Kottbusser Damm 34
Best Gemüse Kebab
If you call your kebab joint ‘Best’ you’ve got to come up with the goods. Thankfully Best Gemüse Kebab is right up there when it comes to fresh ingredients and delicious puffy bread that is perfectly toasted with a crunch around the edges. Everything has a real sense of being homemade, with spices coming through, rather than that all-encompassing mulch that is the hallmark of a bad kebab. The friendly owner will even chuck jalapenos in for an extra kick. It’s a great location too, within easy access from many of the bars Neukolln has to offer.
ISY Döner Point
This one was a bit of a curveball. The reviews are generally pretty bad in the past but a reopening recently has led to some good feedback from friends in the area, so I decided to check it out. The staff are very welcoming, there is plenty of seating and, if you are in the mood, there are cheap beers in the fridge. This time I had a durum döner and it was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. It was generously packed, the sauces sweet and an all round good flavour – but definitely more in line with your standard kebab. At this point I had had a couple of beers, so this probably helped the palette too. Definitely worth checking out if you are passing Greifswalder Strasse on the Berlin Ringbahn.
Not many people venture out to Wittenau on a visit to Berlin, but it’s a missed opportunity. The north west Berlin suburb is strangely lost in time, untouched by gentrification and posh coffee shops, and with huge old 1930s buildings mixing it with looming seventies structures it feels like much of central Berlin twenty years ago. There are some great Turkish restaurants here too, few better than Emir kebab, an imbiss style no-nonsense kebab outlet. The kebabs are stuffed full of tasty meat and all the toppings, from cheese to sauce, are liberally applied. Nothing in particular stands out, it’s a just a good quality, filling kebab. What does make it extra special though is the owner, who is always happy to say hello, and the generous seating area around which, on a sunny day at least, could double up for a hidden eatery in Istanbul.
Eichhorster Weg 45
No, not a new venture by Björn Ulvaeus, but this is a good place to take a chance on a döner. Located in Charlottenberg, on the posh side of Berlin, it is definitely a no frills, old school approach to döner kebabs – and that’s why a lot of people like it. There are no crumbs of feta to get in the way of mountains of freshly grilled meat, that has that slightly crispy edging. It’s warm, aromatic and fresh, with just the right amount of krautersauce coming through. If you want to try a more original Berlin döner, this is the place to go.