Photo by Anna Agliardi
With gourmet patties already old news in Berlin, it’s time to embrace the alternaburger. Here are five worth noting.
Photos by: Anna Agliardi, Jane Silver, Erica Löfman, Shiso Burger, Anna Agliardi
CHICKEN BURGER: Time was that chicken burgers were a half-assed, flavourless substitute for the real thing. Thanks to a pair of enterprising Australians bent on not-so-faithfully recreating Portuguese piri-piri chicken in Berlin, that time is over. Thick strips of minimally breaded chicken breast, cheese, homemade mayo, piri sauce (with a chilli-garlic kick) and lettuce, well-contained by a hefty sesame seed bun from Schiller Burger... this is satisfying stuff, and a real bang for your buck at €5 (€3 on Mondays!). There’s also a bacon-topped steak sandwich and a tofu option, but if you’ve got nothing against chicken, you’re best sticking with the basics.
2Flughafenstraße 46, 12053 Berlin
CHILI BURGER: Part neighbourhood burger joint, part chilli shop, Hannes Gronenberg’s labour of love opened in July to a mostly indifferent Neukölln. But spice fiends shouldn’t pass up his Chili Burger, a beef or red lentil patty topped with sliced fresh peppers: either mild-ish jalapeño (€4.00), hotter Thai chilli (€4.50) or half a habanero (the “Teufelchen”, €5.00). The pillowy, slightly sweet milk bun, from Treptow’s organic Endorphina bakery, balances the burn; even the “little devil” won’t make you too uncomfortable. It does add up, so skip the chilli-dusted sweet potato fries (€3.50 and not crispy enough anyway) and opt for Becks over the Cave Creek chilli-infused beer if you can’t take the heat.
"DE LA SAUCE" BAO BURGER: Mitte Vietnamese hotspot District Mot’s got the looks down pat – its dizzyingly colourful interior even boasts a fabricated Saigon food cart. Its fusion-y burger, added to the menu this year after a run of victories at hipster street-food showdown Burgers & Hip Hop, provides substance to match the style: a well-grilled beef patty, glazed with fish sauce, nestled in a fluffy steamed bun and topped banh mi-style with homemade mayo, coriander and crunchy pickled vegetables. The veggie counterpart features marinated tofu in a rather overwhelming (potentially slightly sickening) peanut sauce. The menu says they’re topped with mango; depending on your luck, you’ll find mango, pineapple or... nothing. Both are smallish for €6, so try something else from Mot’s hit-and-miss menu; keep on the fusion tip with tempura’d sweet potato ‘fries’ (actually rounds, €3.50) or expand your palette with an order of fried silkworms (€5).
SHISO BURGER: Cramped and permanently packed, Shiso Burger goes for a non-specific ‘Asian’ touch, serving mini-burgers and fries in bamboo steamer baskets. The ‘burgers’ are pretty much anything warm (tofu to fish to patties) sandwiched in squishy steamed buns. Hamburgers (€4.20) and cheeseburgers (€4.60) come as tiny discs of rather plastic-y beef (they call it Angus, but it’s hard to taste it) with bland seasoning. The ‘marinated’ (think processed) tuna of the “Shiso burger” is so dry, overcooked and spiceless despite the advertised chilli mayo and teriyaki sauce that you’ll feel like asking for your money back. Up for something moister? The Veggie (€4.50) – deep-fried tofu topped with melted cheddar, and some imperceptible grilled aubergine and fried red onions in the midst – is all grease! Fries come in three variations: potato (€2.20), sweet potato (€3.50), or skewered “twisted potato“ chips (€2.60). Adequately crisp, they’re a saving grace... and a needed complement to the kid-sized burgers.
5Eisenbahnstraße 42, 10997 Berlin
RAMENBURGER: The ramenburger became an insta-meme when it appeared in New York last year, going from stoner fantasy (dude, what if there was a burger with, like, noodles for buns?) to reality. It’s taken cabbage fermenter turned street food slinger Lauren Lee, aka Fräulein Kimchi, months to figure out how to duplicate the delicate ramen ‘buns’ here in Berlin. She fries them up at the last minute so they’ll keep their shape and stay crispy, then piles on beef (€8) or tofu (€7) patty, cheese, red cabbage, rocket and, of course, her homemade kimchi. The resulting flavour and textural overload is well worth the mess you’ll have on your hands afterward.