Photo by Viktor Richardsson
“Come with me and I’ll show you how to fly” is printed on the wall. It’s one of several uplifting quotes from the 1994 Paul Auster novel Mr. Vertigo printed in English on the walls of this spacious Chauseestraße lunch spot. “That book gives you the feeling nothing is impossible...” says affable, effervescent owner and cook Tarek Al Hussein.
In Mitte, sometimes finding a good, quick, warm and affordable lunch does feel impossible. One is faced with boutique quiche, tiny pretentious sandwiches, smoothies and plastic tubs of quinoa or else trendy Vietnamese with lantern-overkill interior design, boring tofu and dodgy meat. It’s all quite pricey, tourist-dense, tedious and repetitive. By contrast, Mr. Vertigo offers one of the least pretentious, most satisfying working person’s weekday lunches around. Beyond the decent DIY paninis/bagels/wraps (from €3.50-4.50), jacket potatoes (€5.50; choose from loads of fillings) and homemade soups (€3.90), the real deal here is the lunch plate (small €5.90, large €6.90), which includes up to four warm dishes and something from the cold case – as much as fits on a plate if you like. Hot dishes tend towards the Mediterranean-Balkan-Middle Eastern and vary daily: everything from veggie-pumpkin lasagne to stuffed capsicum to roast chicken and sides of fennel or carrots. A Friday lunch featured meatballs, ratatouille, penne gorgonzola with spinach, and warm bulgur. Deli case extras include hummus, stuffed grape leaves, couscous, potato or spinach salad, the list goes on... it’s all delectable. And fast!
Great food aside, what really makes Mr. Vertigo stand out from the crowd is the ever-present Al Hussein, who’s put all his heart and passion into his café. Every day, he cooks everything from scratch – and can always be found grinning, chatting and charming the socks off of regular customers in both German and extremely fluent English. What we haven’t mentioned: Al Hussein does catering and serves a pretty wicked full English breakfast!