Tag Archives: restaurants

Berlin restaurant recommendations

Berlin restaurant recommendations

We 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

1. Western part of the city/Charlottenburg:

Balthazar: $$$

Excellent if somewhat basic food, plus nice service in a classy location on the Western part of Ku’damm, a few blocks west of some of the city’s highest-end shopping. Some outdoor seating.

recommended: Ceaesar salad, lobster soup, surf and turf (lobster plus filet)

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.

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

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.

Grosz: $$ B

Located in a beautiful, historic building right on one of the most exclusive blocks of Ku’damm, this is a weekend brunch favorite but also has a full lunch and dinner menu. A stand-up area near the front provides classic charm if you just want to grab a quick breakfast pastry and coffee rather than a sit-down meal.

recommended: Gruyere omelet, pastrami sandwich, fresh-squeezed juices

Keno: $$ B

Nice neighborhood restaurant with an economical and excellent weekend brunch buffet, a block off of Ku’damm near Olivaerplatz.

2. Schöneberg:

More $ B

A ‘see and be seen’ scene on Motzstrasse, one of the main gay streets in Schöneberg. This is sort of like the old Food Bar in New York. Friendly, English-speaking staff and always lots of international tourists who are keen to socialize. Extensive outdoor seating.

recommended: Wiener Schnitzel, Chicken Tandoori

Sissi $$ NCC

Just down the street from More and also on Motzstrasse.  A small Austrian restaurant with excellent food and friendly staff. Some outdoor seating.

recommended: Wiener Schnitzel, Sissi Torte cakes

 

3. Mitte/Gendarmenmarkt/Potsdamer platz:

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.

Malatesta $$

Solid, authentic Italian with nice views of Gendarmenmarkt. Friendly, multi-lingual staff. Bonus: across the street from the famous chocolatiere Fassbender and Rausch, where you should head for a sweet dessert.

recommended: spicy pasta with shrimp

Mesa Restaurant (Hyatt Hotel) $$

Interesting German food served in small-plate/tapas style, at the Hyatt Potsdamer Platz. It doesn’t overly feel like you’re in a hotel, so don’t let the location scare you away.

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.

Weingruen $$ D

A hidden gem in Mitte in a slightly odd location about half way between Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz. Nice decor, good service, 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 $$

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 Hotel restaurant $$ D

A smallish but stylish restaurant on Torstrasse, off of Hackesche Markt. Although in a hotel, you don’t get that ‘in a hotel’ vibe. Interesting menu consisting both of shareable small plates and main course items. Note that the layout of the restaurant doesn’t lend itself well to having several tables together for a larger group.

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 and Melzer $

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. Bonus: you can pay at the table using your PayPal app.

recommended: pulled pork sandwich, fresh salads

Elsewhere but worth the cab ride:

Long March Canteen $$ G

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: hot ribs, Peking duck, meat dumplings

Volt $$$ 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.

recommended: goat cheese salad, rack of lamb

Ø Berlin $$ B D

In the heart of Kreuzberg, this one is good for an inexpensive dinner or a casual brunch. It’s in a very cool converted building with lots of character. Afterwards you can stroll the adjacent Viktoriapark or check out some of the nearby shopping streets of the neighborhood.

recommended: burgers, salads

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.