Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab Mehringdamm

Hello, Döner Fans. Well, what a week it’s been! I am freshly returned from seven days of overindulgence in Berlin, and am feeling all the better for it. As you know, I have been to Berlin many times before. However, this time I decided to do something for the first time. One is never too old and jaded to try new things, Döner Fans! In all these years it has not escaped my attention that there is one döner shop in Berlin which is more famous than most. A fabled place, a mythical place… Its name is whispered from the breathy lips of one döner-lover to another. It has reached international acclaim, and tourists flock to its siren call, ready to be inducted into the circles of those kebab ‘connoisseurs’ who have deemed it the best döner in Berlin. As I am not one to blindly follow a trend, however, it is a place I have hitherto always avoided. And yet, with the inevitability of the daily rotation of Earth and Moon, it came to be that on Tuesday 30 August 2016, I queued up to order a kebab from none other than Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab at Mehringdamm!

Mehringdamm: a kebab pilgrimage site at the junction of the U6 and U7.

I had of course heard the fearsome rumours about the queues of eager kebab-hopefuls that snaked away from Mustafa’s hallowed hut of meaty treats. And so I thought I’d delay my visit until about 3:45pm, to avoid the lunchtime rush. But when I alighted at Mehringdamm U-Bahn station, shock horror! The queue that I saw, upon scaling the steps up to street level, was every bit as formidable as I had been led to believe. Eyes bloodshot, feet shuffling, teeth clenched, fists convulsing, the line of hungry hipsters stretched out before me. Wordlessly I took my place at the back of the procession. Over the heads of the people in front of me, I could see the focal point of our attentions: there, rising above the dusty pavement, was the off-white wall of Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab, in which three men slaved tirelessly. They slathered sauce, they sliced up meat, they scooped up salad. It was like watching ballet dancers performing a well-rehearsed routine. I wondered, suddenly, if one of them was Mustafa himself. But no, impossible. Surely that great man had no need any more to dirty his hands with meat and sauces? Surely he sat in some vast office overlooking Berlin, clad in a sharp suit and smoking a fat cigar, and laughing over the rooftops of his empire? Or, perhaps, the necessities of his fame and fortune had forced him to devote his life to marketing and commerce, and had dragged him reluctantly away from his true passion: the art of making kebabs. Alas, indeed, I know not.

A lot of c*nnoisseurs out today.

The anticipation was mounting as we approached the hut. It was a hot day; the sun was up. Traffic thundered by on the main road, and the dust rose. A group of three youths stood before me. Clearly one of them was an aficionado. He drooled and gibbered to his companions that this was going to be ‘der beste Döner der Welt’ – the best döner in the world. High praise indeed! But this was nothing that I had not heard before. Yes, upon revealing my profession to people in the past, I had often been asked in awed tones whether I had tried Mustafa’s on Mehringdamm. And I had always felt something of a fraud by telling them that no, I had not. ‘Oh you simply must!’ they would trill. ‘It’s the best döner in Berlin!’ Well, I was about to find out.

Drawing ever, ever nearer. Mustafa's log of glistening meat beckons out of the gloom.

The immediate downside of so much fame is that you have to wait a long time to get your gratification. I stood in that queue in front of Mustafa’s hut for more than half an hour before I got to order, with the result that I was almost doubled over bursting for a p155. But by the time I was finally summoned to approach the hallowed opening, I was pleased to see that everything looked very promising inside. There was no red cabbage on display (red cabbage in a kebab is an abomination) and the salad looked fresh and classy. There were three sauces: spicy, garlic and herb. I ordered a dürüm. It did not take long to make. The efforts of their constant dance from sauce to salad to meat had evidently taken its toll on the kebab purveyors, however. They seemed weary and glazed-over as they took my order. They had been here too long, they had seen it all before. My dürüm was handed over, but without the love that one sometimes appreciates from one’s döner seller. I bought a bottle of Berliner from the nearby Späti, and leaned on one of Mustafa’s metal Stehtische to eat my meal. ‘Well, Mustafa,’ I thought to myself as I peeled back the tinfoil foliage of my dürüm, ‘you and I have had this date with one another from the beginning!’

Mustafa's and a Berliner. Das ist so Berlin.

As I’ve said before, people every bit as qualified as me have claimed that Mustafa’s is the best döner in Berlin. Döner Fans, I hope you will forgive me, for I am about to commit an act of kebab heresy in saying that I do not think that it is. No. It was a fine meal, I’ll give you that, and I would definitely place it in the top 5 of the kebab shops I’ve tried in Berlin. And yet, and yet. Was it better than Mısır Çarşısı on Kottbusser Tor? Was it better than the Gemüse Kebab at Bilakis on Schönhauser Allee? I would say, probably not. Mustafa’s dürüm was plump and juicy, and the sauces blended well with the finely-flavoured meat and the soft and succulent vegetables from which it gets its name, and the crumbled feta and squeeze of lemon juice added a special squirt of je ne sais quoi and joie de vivre. But having waited about 35 minutes for it, and paying 4,30 EUR (which is a lot in Berlin), I was not as blown away as I had expected to be. Furthermore, I did feel something of a poser as I washed it down with my Berliner Pilsner in full view of the lengthening queue. I was left slightly with the impression that the whole thing was a harmless but veritable case of the emperor’s new clothes.

And so, Döner Fans, I will leave you with the following advice: by all means go to Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab on Mehringdamm. Queue up and enjoy the thrill of the anticipation. Do it so you can say that you’ve been there, to prove that you’ve had the ‘authentic’ Berliner experience. Eat it, and enjoy, but do not expect to feel the earth move beneath you. And, perhaps most importantly, remember to take a tactical whizz first.

Results

Service: 3/5 (fast and efficient but not friendly)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (throbbing anticipation and an equally throbbing bladder)

Price: 2/5 (pricey for Berlin)

Taste: 4/5 (very tasty)

Photographs taken by Dr. Döner

Berlin Kebab Update – Kottbusser Tor

Greetings, Döner Fans. This is not really a proper post, just a quick update. As some of you may know, Dr Döner is on another one of his regular junkets to Berlin, just to keep an eye on things and check that kebab standards haven’t slipped. It was with a throb of glee that I alighted today at Kottbusser Tor – that well-known Mecca of meaty goodness. I made for Efi’s Deli. But alas! Alack! For Efi’s Deli is no more. It has been replaced by something called a “BurgerMeister”. And yet, importuned but unperturbed, I walked a mere five paces further and came to a welcome old favourite: Mısır Çarşısı.

And there I ordered a dürüm and an ayran. And both of them were delicious. Thus, whereas before you would have had the choice between that and Efi’s Deli, now I able to recommend only Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Market in English). To sum up, my brief survey of Kottbusser Tor’s kebab situation is as follows: Mısır is good, Efi’s is gone, Kottiwood is still naff. That’s all for now, Döner Fans!

Efi’s Deli Kottbusser Tor

Hello Döner Fans. As we all know, company parties are an opportunity to break down social barriers and swim out into the open waters of the ill-thought-out remark and the ill-advised lock-in. Often they are events on which one reflects with a mixture of horror and confusion. A few months ago, Dr Döner found himself attending just such an event. It was a warm April night. Things had been going well at the party, although the buffet had been eaten up and tummies were a-rumbling. Requests for more food were being voiced. It seemed that if sustenance was not forthcoming then the night would soon be taking a downward turn. But it was then that one colleague reported seeing a newly-opened kebab joint just up at Kottbusser Tor! As döner aficionados it behoved us to sample its wares. Leaving the battered remains of our company premises behind us, we set off for… Efi’s Deli!

Efi's Deli, viewed from the bike rack

Efi’s Deli is conveniently located right next to Kaisers at Skalitzer Straße 136, allowing swift access when disembarking the U-Bahn in urgent need of a kebab. You might ask yourself why the authorities approved the opening of Efi’s Deli at that precise location. Kottbusser Tor needs another kebab joint like you or I need a third nipple. Anyway, we were in no mood to quibble and couldn’t resist the brand new neon sign nor the generous opening discount of 2,50€ a döner. We gladly huddled inside and placed our orders, and I myself asked for a döner. The staff seemed to be employing some new-fangled ordering system involving numbers and tickets, much like you will find at the Bürgeramt, though they were much friendlier than the people you will usually find inhabiting the Bürgeramt. We sat down to enjoy our meals.

Red onion is always a sign of a classy kebab

A nice thing about Efi’s Deli is the freshness of their salad: I was delighted at the crispness of the cucumber and romaine lettuce that straddled my kebab meat. The sauces too were juicy and flavoursome and the meat was tender on the tongue. With a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, it was truly a fine meal. The interior of the restaurant was somewhat bare but very clean and had a sort of concrete charm about it, which is nicer than the sticky plastic vibe that you get in some döner shops. The seating was comfortable, and with the generous opening prices, I would say it was well worth a visit. Well done, Efi! Dr Döner will be back!

The dregs of the company party, placing their orders

Results

Service: 4/5 (friendly)

Atmosphere: 4/5 (quite pleasant for sitting)

Price: 5/5 (cheap opening offer, though this will not last)

Taste: 4/5 (very nice)

Photography courtesy of Ms. S. Clarke