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Although the döner kebab may seem Turkish, this culinary creation’s roots have more to do with the melting pot of Berlin than the streets of Istanbul.
Though the humble döner kebab seldom gets the respect it deserves, this street snack may well be Berlin’s greatest claim to culinary fame. It’s typically made from beef, veal, chicken or, less commonly, lamb, and was born in Berlin’s sizeable Turkish diaspora. When made well, it marries caramelised meat with crisp veggies, fiery chile sauce and often a dollop of yoghurt or hummus. It’s best-known as a late-night snack after hitting the bars in Neukölln or Kreuzberg, but the finest specimens are tasty enough to eat when not under the influence.
A stalwart of Kreuzberg’s Turkish community for decades, Adana Grillhaus sticks to the basics and does them very, very well. Though it would be easy for the restaurant to rest on its laurels, the owner takes obvious pride in his work, going the extra mile to source humanely raised lambs from local farms and using coconut husks when grilling for the added flavour. Everything is excellent, but you’ll want to order the signature Adana kebab, along with a heaping plate of mezze to mop up with the lightly charred pita bread.
To find what must surely be the most famous kebab in all of Germany, simply look for the line stretching down the block near the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station. The fact that devoted regulars and curious tourists will wait up to two hours for a single chicken döner with vegetables is a testament to the quality of the food here. Even after all the years and all the hype, the owner refuses to raise the prices and this popular staple can still be yours for a few euros.
For those unwilling to brave the queues at Mustafa’s, this local favourite right near the Hermanstraße U-Bahn station serves chicken döner kebabs of equal quality (or even better quality, some might say). High turnover means that everything here is fresh, from the heaps of grilled veggies to the juicy meat. Unlike other döner stands, customers here can choose from eight different sauces, including curry, avocado, hummus, yoghurt, garlic and chile. Skip the optional wok-style Asian vegetables – a slightly odd fusion touch – but be sure to add the fried halloumi.