When most people travel to Germany, they want to try beer, pretzels, schnitzel, and sausages. While you can find these things in the country’s capital, you’re better off exploring international food in Berlin, a city that has been attracting people from all over the world for many decades.
After World War II, Germany needed workers to rebuild and sought help from outside its borders. The West attracted people from Turkey, while the Soviet-controlled East attracted people from Vietnam. The ways these two groups added to the cultural landscape can easily be seen in Berlin. Even today, decades after the Berlin Wall came down, you can still find more Turkish descendants on the western side of the city and more Vietnamese descendants on the eastern side.
This of course means lots of tasty Turkish and Vietnamese food! But with people from almost every country in the world calling Berlin home, you’ll also find great cuisine from almost any country in the world. I’ve recently made it my mission to try at least one restaurant in Berlin for every country in the world, and here’s some of what I’ve found so far.
Best international food in Berlin
Thai food in Berlin
You’ll find plenty of Thai restaurants around Berlin, but the most unique place to go is Thai Park. The official name of the park is Preußenpark. Over the past few decades, Thai families have gathered here on weekends to have picnics with their friends and families, and it has become known as Thai Park. Somehow it evolved into an unofficial market where people buy cheap and tasty Thai food cooked right in front of them.
It’s best to look for stalls where you actually see the vendors cooking. Order your dish and watch it being prepared, but avoid the stalls where food is already made and sitting out. There are also stalls selling drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The market mostly takes place on the weekends when the weather is good.
If you go
- Take the U2, U3, or U7 to Fehrbellinerplatz.
- Follow the path through the park until you start smelling the food and seeing tons of umbrellas and people with picnic blankets.
Turkish food in Berlin
Mostly what you’ll see around Berlin are restaurants selling doner, and most are mediocre but tasty enough for the price. If you want truly good Turkish food, you have to dig a little deeper. One of my favorite places is a tiny little restaurant in the Kreuzberg neighborhood called Bal Köfteci. They only have a few tables, but it’s worth it.
One of Bal’s specialties is kofte, which are little seasoned meat patties, and my personal favorite. But I also enjoy the simplicity of the restaurant. I love that such a small place can thrive, and that they’re family-run.
If you go
- Take the U8 to Schönleinstrasse.
- Find Bal at Kottbusser Damm 101.
- Bonus: Go for lunch on a Tuesday or Friday, and either before or after you eat go check out the outdoor Turkish market a block over on Maybachufer.
Vietnamese food in Berlin
Directing you to the best Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin is tough. There are so many Vietnamese restaurants that there’s a spot near where I live with four within 50 meters!
One of my favorites is called Hoai Nam in Kreuzberg. Like with Bal, the simplicity results in really good food. Hoai Nam is primarily a soup restaurant, so they serve good Pho as well as a handful of other soups. Their menu also includes a few other things like spring rolls and salads, and they have three daily specials that are often rice-based dishes. It’s a small menu, but the food has big flavor.
If you go
- Take the U1 to Görlitzer Bahnhof.
- Find Hoai Nam at Skalitzer Strasse 103.
- Bonus: For another interesting experience a little outside the center of Berlin, check out the Dong Xuan Center at Herzbergstrasse 128-139 in Lichtenberg. It’s a big complex of warehouses that sell mostly Vietnamese food supplies and other items. You’ll also find a few restaurants there worth trying.
Other interesting international food in Berlin
If there’s a specific type of cuisine you’re interested in, you can probably find it in Berlin. Aside from plenty of Turkish, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants, there are lot of others to sink your teeth into.
International food in Berlin: Korean
I’ve tried several different Korean restaurants in Berlin, and one that I quite like is called Angry Chicken at Oranienstr 16. It’s decorated in bright neon colors and offers fried chicken at various spice levels. Their bibimbap also has a nice kick to it.
International food in Berlin: Laotian
Hangmee, at Boxhagener Str. 108, technically serves food from Laos and northern Thailand. The portions are small, almost tapas style, which means you can try several different things and share. This has become one of my favorite restaurants in Berlin because the flavors are so interesting.
International food in Berlin: Mexican
This is my all-time favorite cuisine, so I’m still on the hunt for a Mexican restaurant in Berlin to call the best. Serious contenders include Santa Maria, at Oranienstr 170, for classic tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, and Santa Cantina, at Simon-Dach-Str 22, for a few interesting twists on the classics.
How to find a good international restaurant in Berlin
It’s impossible to know for sure without trying the food, but there are a few things to look out for that will help you find a good restaurant.
- Simple is better. Look for small to medium sized menus, and skip the places with mile-long menus. Restaurants that specialize in a handful of dishes will generally make them really well.
- Skip restaurants that serve several different types of cuisine. For some reason, lots of Asian restaurants think they need to serve sushi, and I often see Vietnamese (and Thai) restaurants with sushi on their menus. I also know of a restaurant that serves both Italian and Mexican food…that can’t be good. These restaurants are trying to be too many things and usually don’t make any one dish really well.
- Go to restaurants where the food, not their happy hour, is the focus. Plenty of restaurants advertise their cheap cocktails and all night happy hour specials on big chalkboards on the sidewalk, but in general their food is mediocre.
- Avoid restaurants that are too close to the major tourist attractions. As in most cities, there’s a high chance food near touristy locales will be overpriced and unremarkable. With the extensive public transportation network, it’s easy enough to get to better food after your sightseeing.
Have you had any international food in Berlin?
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