Budget Bites: Cheap Food and Street Food, Berlin
Here’s some really good news for anyone who wants to visit Berlin on a budget: it’s really easy to eat well there for very little money. I went on a mission – to have a cheap and cheerful weekend there, and to eat well without spending a lot. Meals often end up being one of the most expensive parts of any trips I go on – it’s the cross I bear for loving good food and big portions in equal measure. In Berlin, I wanted to satisfy my appetite, my foodie sensibilities and my purse strings, all at once.
I was spending the weekend with some lovely friends who live in Berlin. I told them about my budget mission, and they were more than happy to accept the challenge of keeping me happily fed on the cheap food and street food Berlin is famous for. What occurred was a glorious tour of some of Berlin’s best budget eating, and I absolutely have to pass on what I learned…
(Please note, this is not a health conscious blog post.)
Ahhh, nothing like a hulking chunk of cheese-stuffed bread the size of your head to start the day! No really, I mean it. I had never heard about butterring until I came to Berlin; never knew of its existence. Actually, I’m glad it’s not a thing where I live, or I’d be a few stone heavier and would fritter a good deal of my money away on giant bread rolls. They are slightly chewy on the outside and really, really soft inside with a sneaky little stuffing of cottage cheese. They will feed two people until at least mid-morning (or currywurst o’clock, as I have affectionately come to call it). These things cost around a euro or €1.50, depending on where you get them.
Even if you’re not on a budget, you kind of have to eat currywurst at least once in Berlin. Yes, I know it’s not pretty but it’s like a rite of passage – like having a Guinness in Dublin, a hot dog in New York, or pizza in Naples. Currywurst even has its own Museum in Berlin (I didn’t go, mainly because I was too busy eating the stuff to learn about it too). I can’t honestly say whether or not my slightly hungover palate was discerning enough to tell the subtle differences between them all, or maybe it’s like that first hit that you can never quite recreate, but I do know that I remember my first one most of all. It was from a place called ‘Curry Fritze’ in Friedrichshain, and for €2 I got one wurst with a bread roll. They do really nice chips too. I know this because my friend ordered them, and I was that person who doesn’t order her own chips but eats all of yours instead (sorry).
There is an unassuming little joint called Sahara on the corner of Reuterstrasse and Weserstrasse in Neukölln, and it sells falafel wraps drenched in a peanut sauce so delicious that it might just change your life. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my mouth is watering as I write this, just at the memory. The peanut sauce is culinary perfection. This was the first thing I ate in Berlin, and if it weren’t for my learned friends taking me to lots of other great food places, I could have happily dined on these bad boys for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. It’s so good that I didn’t give even a little bit to the extremely cute dog who was outside the place begging, and I’m usually a sucker for big-dog-eyes. But he got nothing. I had falafel and halloumi in mine, it cost €3, and I want another one.
Berlin’s kebabs are famous. In fact, thanks to a large Turkish population, kebabs are some of the best street food Berlin has to offer. But in a city of cracking kebabs, one stands out. One takes the crown. There is one kebab to rule them all. Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab in Kreuzberg is worth every moment of the half hour or more you might have to spend queuing for it (top tip, bring a beer for the queue. It’s completely normal to drink on the street in Berlin, and you won’t look/feel like an alcoholic). I got a döner kebab and it was mind-blowing. So much so that I got a bit delirious, and can’t quite remember the price, but it was definitely under €4. I’d go back to Berlin tomorrow for another one. I’d consider having one shipped to Ireland.
It rained a lot on one of the days I was in Berlin, so we decided to get a bit fancy (and a bit dry) and head indoors for dinner, with seats and tables and everything. Il Casalore on Grimmstrasse in Kreuzberg was the perfect shelter from the storm. They serve up seriously good pizza. I was blessed to be eating with people who know how to make the most of a meal, so we ordered a pizza each, split them into ‘peace sign’ thirds, and had a taste of everything. We also had lots of tastes of their incredible homemade chilli oil, which had a genuine kick to it and was good enough to make me consider checking in a bag just to take some home with me (I decided not to, and instead use it as another excuse to return to Berlin). Including some beers and a tip, we paid around €12 each for our feast, and were absolutely stuffed.
This was all in one and a half days, by the way. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.
I know I’ve missed some iconic places. I didn’t go to Bugermeister. I didn’t go to Curry 36. I didn’t get a kofte sandwich from Gel Gor, or a Lahmacun. I quite simply didn’t have the time needed and/or the room in my tummy. So please, please tell me what else I missed and where else I have to try, because I have every intention of going back there for a street food Berlin sequel. Remember, it has to be both delicious and inexpensive. For the purposes of this blog, it does not have to be healthy.