Tag Archives: restaurants

Berlin restaurant recommendations

Berlin restaurant recommendations

Paul and I are frequently asked by friends planning a visit to Berlin where to go for a good meal. It took awhile, but now that we’ve been in Berlin for coming on two years, we have a growing list of favorite restaurants that we would recommend to others. Admittedly, these are somewhat biased towards Mitte, where we live and have tried more places than in other neighborhoods. (special apologies to my friends in Prenzlauer Berg, which is a great hood…we just don’t know many restaurants there yet).

Berlin neighborhoods

Guide to my letter codes next to the restaurant name/link:

$ economical, $$ moderate, $$$ pricey

B good for brunch, D Hip design, G good for groups/corporate events, NCC no credit cards accepted, ** one of our absolute favorites

1. Western part of the city/Charlottenburg:

Restaurant Grace: $$$ D

Our favorite high-end place with amazing food and attentive service in a stunning setting. Make a reservation well in advance, and arrive early to have a specialty drink in the very hip bar just in front of the restaurant. For a special end of meal birthday surprise, ask them in advance to prepare a dessert combo for the birthday person. Quite unforgettable.. Their tasting menu (entire table must participate) is exceptional and is also a great deal.

recommended: rock shrimp with cilantro and chili, lobster, cod

Neni Restaurant $$ D G

Fun middle Eastern cuisine in the super chic 25 Hours Hotel Bikini right at the Zoo. Indoor and outdoor seating, and afterwards you can walk across the hall to the cool Monkey Bar.

Nu: $ G

Tasty Thai and other Asian specialties in a lively setting adjacent to Savignyplatz. Note that most tables are gigantic squares with picnic benches, so couples will often end up in corners next to each other, but seated next to a stranger on the other side. The tables are great for a group of 8, though.

2. Schöneberg:

Sissi $$

Authentic Austrian food on Motzstrasse.  Some outdoor seating.

recommended: Pork Wiener Schnitzel, Sissi Torte cakes

Oh Panama $$$

An eclectic fusion of South American and Asian, from the same team behind Katz Orange. Outstanding food, great service, cool atmosphere.

recommended: Nahm Thok Beef “tacos”, Seabass ceviche, Beef tartare, Lamb.

3. Mitte/Gendarmenmarkt/Potsdamer Platz:

Bellboy $$$

This is primarily a speakeasy-type bar, more than a restaurant. But it’s worth a special trip. Original and interesting cocktails are served in unique glassware. The decor takes you back in time to another era, and the restrooms are a crazy experience that you just have to see to comprehend. They do have some (quite expensive) light food, but I wouldn’t try to make a dinner out of it. Come here for a cocktail or two before walking somewhere else nearby for the main meal.

Tim Raue $$$$

A 2 star Michelin-rated Asian restaurant from one of Berlin’s famous chefs, close to Checkpoint Charlie.  Incredible multi-course meals that make for a great date night or intimate group dinner. Caution: food runs a good 120 Euros+ per person, and drinks/wine are on top of that.

Brasserie Gendarmenmarkt $$$

One of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, offering a good combo of French and German food in an art-deco setting, with great service. Ample outdoor seating which offers a view of Gendarmenmarkt square.

recommended: Tarte Flambees (flatbreads), steaks, duck dishes.

Indian Club $$$

High-end Indian restaurant within the Adlon Hotel next to the Holocaust Memorial.

Weingruen $$ D G **

Our favorite neighborhood go-to place. A hidden gem in Mitte in a slightly odd location about half way between Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz. Nice decor, good service, great wine, interesting menu specializing in grilled meats and fish, and not too pricey.

recommended: salmon on a plank, grilled meat dishes

Gendarmerie Restaurant $$$ D G

A block off of Gendarmenmarkt, this one is especially good for larger groups or corporate dinners. The highlight is the gigantic main room of the restaurant with 15 foot ceilings and impressive artwork.

recommended: steaks

Entrecote $$ D

A classic French bistro a few blocks from Checkpoint Charlie.

Sal e Tabacchi $$

Italian tastiness a few blocks from Checkpoint Charlie. Slightly irritating though: the lighting is too bright and cold.

4. Mitte/Hackesche Markt:

Mani restaurant $$ D

Excellent Israeli cuisine with a twist in a stylish restaurant on Torstrasse, off of Hackesche Markt. Although in a hotel, you don’t get that ‘in a hotel’ vibe. Trendy design and a hot spot to see and be seen. Nice outdoor garden as well.

recommended: Chicken “Shimone Style”, Hamachi tartare

Crackers $$$$ D

Through an obscure gate, down a long corridor, through a back kitchen, you emerge into a cavernous yet refined and sophisticated dining space reminiscent of the dance clubs of old Berlin. In fact, the restaurant’s website brags about its ventilation system so perhaps it was a club in its former life. The food is delicious and artfully prepared. Their sister restaurant Cookies Cream upstairs has a vegetarian only menu and one Michelin star.

recommended: burrata, steaks, beef tartare

Ceconnis  $$

International Italian chain located in the SoHo house here in Berlin. Great starters and pasta, hip crowd.

Katz Orange $$$ D

A happening night out in a location full of character and charm. Cocktails are interesting and tasty and the food is excellently prepared, however the main courses are quite limited- often 2 meat items and one vegetarian. After eating here, walk down the block to the hip street level bar of the Amano Hotel for an after dinner drink.

recommended: the goose fat fries are worth the cholesterol splurge

Yo Soy $$

Spanish tapas in the heart of Hackesche Markt. Fun and economical, but gets loud and crowded on weekends.

Pantry (actually a bit away from Hackesche Markt) $$ D NCC

Very good continental European food in a hip setting. They don’t take credit cards, though, so bring cash.

recommended: spicy beef salad

Mogg $ NCC

A cozy little sandwich and salad shop on an interesting street near Hackesche Markt. Great for a mid-day snack while enjoying this area of the city.

recommended: pulled pork sandwich, pastrami reuben (pricey at 17 Euros, but worth it), fresh salads

5. Kreuzberg/ elsewhere

Long March Canteen  $$ G **

This is one of our absolute favorites. Chinese dim sum at its best. Fantastic dumplings and small plates that are great for sharing. Note: most tables are communal with picnic-style benches.

recommended: cold spicy chicken, eggplant in “indescribable” sauce, meat/pork dumplings

Volt (in Kreuzberg) $$$ D

A gastro-experience in an old converted power substation (hence the name). Has both fixed priced menus and a la carte items. Good for a date night or special occasion.

Sage $$ G D

A bit out of the way but in a beautiful old warehouse that’s been converted to a large restaurant. Varied combo of everything from meats and high-end veggie items to basic pizzas (although I’ve heard mixed reviews on the pizzas). Very good for groups. In the summer there’s an outdoor beach bar area on the Spree where you can sit in a lounge chair and enjoy a drink as the boats go by. However note that service can be very spotty especially when they’re crowded.

recommended: goat cheese salad, rack of lamb

La Bionda $$

Our favorite Italian in the Mehringdamm area. Very casual with great pastas and pizzas. Afterwards you can stroll the adjacent Viktoriapark or check out some of the nearby shopping streets of the neighborhood.

recommended: Pizza Ndjuga, Caponata

Ristorante Amano $$

Slightly higher-end Italian in the Friedrichshein area. Lots of outdoor seating.

Restaurant websites: Put daily specials on the homepage

I’ve written before about restaurant websites and how so many of them sacrifice clear and easy-to-find information for unnecessary, bloated design and animation.

Here’s a crazy thought: rather than bog down restaurant websites with unwanted animation and music, how about putting some actual topical info on the homepage, like “today’s specials.”  That would provide a solid reason for customers to check the site (thus creating an advantage vs. menu scraper sites) and might even stimulate incremental visits that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

It doesn’t even have to be in HTML. Just carve out a fixed portion of real estate on the homepage, spend 5 minutes each day taking a photo of a handwritten specials page or chalkboard, and use a cheap content management system to publish.

That’s timely, has character, and probably most importantly gives potential customers information of real value and a reason to visit the site. Oh, and it doesn’t beep, blink, spin or flash. Amen.

The sordid love affair between restaurant websites and flash: would you two kids knock it off, already?

Agencies all over the world must be making a fortune designing overly fancy websites for restaurants, and I wish they’d knock it off.

I’ve never been in the restaurant business.  I also don’t know much about it, other than to have an appreciation for how difficult it must be: demanding hours, fickle customers, staffing challenges, perishable inventory, health inspections.  Given all those other challenges, you’d think that restaurants would want to do whatever they could to help visitors to their website quickly and painlessly find what they need to be convinced to make a booking. But this is so often just not the case, and is a reason restaurants are accelerating site disintermediation to places like MenuPages and OpenTable.

Despite not having worked directly in this business, I’m going to go on a crazy limb and predict what 95% of restaurant website visitors are looking for, probably even in this order:

1) the restaurant’s current menu
2) contact & general information: phone, location, hours of operation
3) a few photos to get a sense of the interior vibe and design of the place

Instead of making some or all of the above available front and center on the homepage, I’ve seen way too many restaurant websites with the following sequence of events:

1) a ‘loading’ bar as some huge animation sequence is served. Mind you, this is on fast broadband connections. I can only imagine what it must be like when connecting at slower speeds (and yes, plenty of people still do)
2) music begins
3) some big story appears about the chef’s philosophy and inspiration for the establishment
4) menus are 3 clicks deep and require a pdf download

The pdf thing alone is going to alienate a lot of customers. (they either won’t download the menu or won’t find it after they do)

Check out these sample offenders.  (it took me about 2 minutes to put together this list on the fly).  Keep in mind that these are all restaurants I actually like.  I’m just frustrated with their websites: Almond, Spice, Tao,Paris Commune, Singe Vert.  Here are some more examples from Matthew Stibbe, who shares my frustration.

On the other hand, Crispo, one of my neighborhood favorites, does it very well: a blazing-fast homepage that conveys basic information & the core of the restaurant’s vibe, on-screen menus a click away, and photo galleries and virtual tours on a separate tab.

Crispo's homepage is clean, fast, and helpful

Crispo's homepage is clean, fast, and helpful

There are a lot of compelling situations when fancy animation on the web adds value: virtual real estate tours, high end hotels, showcasing the interior of a car, demonstrating a complicated software product, maybe showing off a cruise line.  But the homepage of a restaurant site is not the right place & not the right time.  If restaurants feel their interiors are absolutely so compelling that they deserve an animated tour, put it one click deep on another page.

Back to one point: should restaurants really care if their potential customers prefer to turn to MenuPages or OpenTable rather than the restaurant’s own site?  Yes.  MenuPages, while incredibly helpful from a menu perspective, doesn’t convey the other elements & atmosphere of the restaurant that help define it as an experience.  (and yes, those elements CAN be expressed without resorting to flash on the homepage).  And OpenTable (which I absolutely love) is great for customers, but may end up costing the restaurant for a reservation that would have been free had the customer called the restaurant after visiting the restaurant’s own site.

For all the many restaurants out there that I love, please: keep your websites fast, straightforward, helpful, and free of homepage animation. By doing so you can save on agency fees, give your customers what they want, and avoid driving customers to 3rd party sites that either don’t convey your full brand experience or make you pay for bookings.