Meraklı Köfteci Hermannstraße 174

Greetings, Döner Fans! Dr Döner has been eating kebabs with reckless abandon this week; so far thankfully without ill effects. Today the surfeit of meat continued. One particular kebab establishment near Leinestraße had been catching my attention over the past few days. A big, red sign had been announcing the presence of the ‘Meşhur’ Meraklı Köfteci shop – meşhur meaning ‘famous’ and meraklı meaning ‘curious’. Though you’ll find that most kebab restaurants seem to think themselves famous. Anyway, my cravings drove me into the Köfteci’s meaty embrace and I ordered an Adana Kebap Ekmek Arası, or an Adana Kebab (minced lamb) in bread.

The famous Meraklı Köfteci shop. What do you mean you haven't heard of it??

The interior was sort of standard and plasticky, though the display beneath the counter looked very fresh with its assortment of meats and salads. Rather than your standard döner shop, this was a specialty kebab, köfte and soup establishment along the lines of Baba Sultan in Wedding (which incidentally also considers itself famous – rightly so!) Waiting at a table before the counter, I was kept entertained by a Turkish music channel on the main TV in the corner. Meanwhile, the Adana Kebab was cooked before my eyes and a fresh dollop of yoghurt was slopped into the bread, followed by some spicy sauce. Lettuce and red onion were sprinkled on, followed by a row of tomatoes carefully arranged on top, and garnished with a pinch of red sumac. It looked and smelled very promising.

The piles of mince and veg beneath the counter bathe in an appetising pink glow.

Handing over my 4,50 I took the kebab back to the flat and ate it. It was very good. The yoghurt and the spicy sauce mingled deliciously, each trying to overcome the other. The salad was fresh and the meat was finely spiced. All in all, its quality approached the heady heights of Baba Sultan standards, and its popularity was attested by the large number of customers dining at the tables outside on this warm August day. If you are ever on Hermannstraße, then Meraklı Köfteci comes highly recommended. Afiyet olsun!

The Adana Kebab. Very tasty!

Results

Service: 4/5 (good)

Atmosphere: 4/5 (popular and relaxed)

Price: 4/5 (good)

Taste: 5/5 (very nice)

To Recap: What Have We Learned?

“meşhur” [mesh-hoor] (famous)

“meraklı” [mer-ack-luh] (curious)

Photography by Dr. Döner

Star Gemüse Kebap Warthestraße

Guten Tag, Döner Fans! Dr Döner is back in Berlin, and all is well in the world once more. No longer must he choke down the shrivelled offerings of Amsterdam’s lacklustre Eetsalons! Even as I type this, my fingers are still moist from the inaugural kebab of this particular Berliner sojourn – my first decent, solid Berliner kebab in too long a time! Let me lay the scene. I had woken up in a comfortable apartment down a quiet street somewhere near Leinestraße in Neukölln – readers may remember it as the setting of a previous blog post. As lunch approached and duty called, I came in from the balcony and went out to hunt down the latest döner developments in the local area. It was not long before my eyes alighted on a lead. There, on a little island next to Hermannstraße, was the unmistakeable silhouette of a kebab hut. Yes indeed! It was a Gemüsedöner stand, and it had a picture of a chicken on it. I stepped onto its green plastic matting and prepared to place my order.

You can tell by the picture of the chicken that this is a place of quality

Perhaps I am overly full of myself. But it is always something of a disappointment when kebab sellers are not as pleased to see me as I am to see them. The man who was lurking inside Star Gemüse Kebap looked, as they say, as if he had just licked piss off a nettle. He spent several agonising moments slopping spicy sauce from a bucket into a serving receptacle before deigning to acknowledge my presence. He did not speak. He took my order with a look. My dürüm was prepared in silence. He spoke only to ask me what sauces I wanted (garlic and spicy). He could not have looked more bored if he tried. Maybe he did not enjoy his job. Perhaps someone had fouled on his doorstep this morning, or stolen his favourite mug. In any case, we did not share that special bond that sometimes exists between kebab-maker and kebab-eater. He handed over my dürüm. I paid my 3,30 Euros, and departed.

"Look at the size of that thing!" The kebab dwarfs the plate.

I got back to the flat, went onto the balcony, and my disappointment was instantly dispelled as I bit into my dürüm. The kebab-seller’s bored outer appearance had clearly been a skilful mask used to disguise the love with which he had crafted that kebab. It was a delicious meal – the chicken meat was succulent, the spicy and garlic sauce complemented it beautifully, and the salad was fresh. A sprinkling of feta and a squirt of lemon gave it a special zing. As I wolfed it down, I forgave the kebab-seller for his questionable service – there is no need to be a people-person when one is creating such high standards of art, Döner Fans! The moment was perfect as I sat munching on the balcony, marred only by someone hawking noisily in the street below. I reclined upon the balcony-chair. The first kebab of the Berlin tour had been devoured. Dr Döner was back in the game!

The tinfoil is unfurled to reveal the meaty interior

Results

Service: 2/5 (sour)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (fine)

Price: 4/5 (good)

Taste: 4/5 (very tasty)

Photographs by Dr. Döner

Imbiss Balli, U-Bhf Leinestraße

Balli kebab. A gorgeous sight.

What’s this? Dr Döner has been back to Berlin again? Is he not burnt-out by this high-octane lifestyle? Well, Döner Fans, the fast lane is where Dr Döner can be found, and so it was that with nary a care I boarded the Deutsche Bahn Intercity on a wet morning in Amsterdam and shot over to Berlin in a matter of stress-free hours. Or at least, that was the plan. Life, as you may know, is nothing if not consistent, and the so-called direct train turned into four trains, and a two-hour delay. What! This isn’t the glamorous jet-setting life of Europe’s most in-demand kebab reviewer! Perhaps not. But all things have an upside if you look really hard at them, and I suppose these detours gave me a chance to hang out for a bit in the transport hub that is Bad Bentheim, and use the high-tech toilets at Deventer train station, which I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to enjoy. Never heard of these places? Neither had I! And so, with furious strokes of my pen, I filled out another Deutsche Bahn Fahrgastrechte-Formular to claim my measly compensation.

Ja ja, Deutsche Bahn...

But enough of my petty grumbling! That, surely, is not what you tuned in for. Let me begin my tale on the evening of Saturday 25th April, when I finally disembarked in the warm evening glow of Berlin Hauptbahnhof station. My ultimate destination? U-Bhf Leinestraße, in the vicinity of which lay a housewarming party with my name on it. For who, Döner Fans, who would not wish for their humble home to be festively broken in by none other than Dr Döner himself? It is a rare honour indeed. In any case, the way there was long, and while changing trains at Alexanderplatz, I stopped for twenty minutes in the underpass to visit an old friend. Yes, you may remember the inaugural kebab of this very blog, almost three years ago. From that same vendor I purchased a splendid döner, and munched it with gusto at one of the high tables nearby, watching the flow of human traffic as the Berliners went about their Saturday evening business. It was a fine kebab, a delightful kebab. A definite 5/5 for taste on this occasion. However, that is not the kebab I wish to tell you about, Döner Fans. No, let us move on…

Blast from the past. How youthful we all once were...

I shall skip the details of the housewarming party. Suffice to say, the flat was well and truly ‘eingeweiht’. Anyway, once the fumes had cleared the next day, myself and one of the other survivors felt in need of sustenance, and so we took ourselves out into the mean streets of Neukölln in search of kebab. The owner of the newly-christened flat (in whose company I found myself) suggested trying Balli, the döner snack place right next to Leinestraße U-Bahn station, so there the two of us went. It was a grey, muggy day as we approached the counter, and the two gentlemen inside the hut seemed vaguely annoyed at having been disturbed. They slapped closed their magazines and leant out over the counter to take our orders.

All the best kebab shops have their own bus stop.

I placed my classic order, namely a döner with garlic and chilli sauce, and all the salad apart from the red cabbage. It was duly slapped up and handed over. There was no banter, no cheery wink. It was a business transaction, pure and simple. The two of us then went back to the flat and ate our kebabs on the balcony overlooking the street, where the lingering odours of the party were less pungent. All in all, it was quite a pleasant kebab, and the fresh air and leafy surroundings made it all the better. The meat was not the juiciest, but it was a solid standard döner, such as one might demand and expect from a place like Balli. The veg was fresh, and the bread was soft on the inside, and crusty on the outside. It was a marked improvement on Amsterdam’s Eetsalon De Mol.

A tasty döner from Balli, consumed on a leafy Neukölln balcony.

The rest of my visit proceeded in a similarly pleasant vein. Over the following two evenings I took the time to revisit some old classics in my favourite Berlin hotspots, making sure to eat the Mercimek soup at Wedding’s Dedecan restaurant. I was pleased to see the same grumpy gent working there as before, casting his cynical gaze over the bustle of Luxemburger Straße from behind his döner-hatch. He had the grim, set jaw of a man who had seen the troubles of the world, who would never smile in your face, but who would volunteer tirelessly and uncomplainingly at a soup-kitchen by night, while working overtime at the kebab shop to support his family. His look of contempt as he made me my Mercimek Çorbası belied his heart of gold.

Results for Balli

Service: 3/5 (unenthused)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (standard)

Price: 3/5 (standard)

Taste: 4/5 (tasty)

Post Scriptum. Alas, all good things come to an end. As I mooched around at Hauptbahnhof two days later, waiting for my train home to Amsterdam, I was to be the victim of a final parting shot from Deutsche Bahn. I will refrain from too much detail, but I went to visit the facilities at the grand-sounding ‘WC-Center’, where I was charged a 1 EURO fee for the privilege. A whole Euro! But all was not as it seemed. Upon ramming my filthiest Euro with bad grace into the machine, I was rewarded with a 50 cent coupon, redeemable upon my next visit. Thank you, Deutsche Bahn! Now I have a reason to come back and visit the WC-Center again. Rest assured, I will make it worth my while.

The WC voucher. Showing the exact date and time of the visit, presumably so that one can reminisce.

Photographs courtesy of Dr Döner and Mr B. Lawson.