Dinner at Lucky Leek in Prenzlauer Berg.
Whether you’re animal-free for life or just looking to dip your toes into the lifestyle, there’s no better place to be a vegan right now than Berlin. The German capital is home to more than 50 restaurants and cafes dedicated to all-vegan cuisine – up from 28 just two years ago! And by now your options range far beyond salads and tofu burgers. Here’s 24 hours in the world’s vegan capital.
Breakfast in Treptow
Black Sheep Café (don’t worry, it’s practically still Kreuzberg!) currently serves some of the best coffee in Berlin, which is still rare for a vegan café. Flat (soy milk) whites and Americanos are made with beans from local The Barn and Passenger Espresso (€2.30-3). Make it breakfast by ordering a toasted bagel from Fine Bagels with veggies and tempeh (€5-5.50). You can wash it down with a homemade smoothie or fresh juice, and leave with a jar of home-fermented kimchi, sauerkraut or kombucha. The lunch crowd is catered to with daily warm dishes like macaroni and pumpkin with mushroom “bacon”, or spanakopita with salad.
Alternatively, start your day at Pêle-Mêle, which offers sweet and savoury breakfasts, and even an English breakfast plate (€3.90-12.50) – all organic – as well as a sandwiches like wholegrain with smoked tofu, peanut butter, veggies and chutney. On weekends, take your pick from a plethora of vegan brunches across town, like the all-you-can-eat Saturday and Sunday buffets at Viasko and Kopps. The former presents big platters filled with hearty dishes like artichoke or chickpea salad, soy schnitzel, scrambled tofu and pancakes; the latter has a daintier touch with tofu yoghurt, fruit salad, marinated vegetables, hummus and Kaiserschmarrn.
Laauma. Photo by Erica Löfman
Shopping and lunch in Friedrichshain
Cross the Elsenbrücke bridge and head toward Friedrichshain, where a few vegan specialities are nestled together. First, an ethical shopping break: at the bright Loveco shop, everything, from the stylish and affordable clothes to the cute bags made of recycled plastic bottles or cork, is organic, fair and vegan. In addition to simple, stylish and affordable clothes by established brands like Armedangels and German newcomers like Jan ’n June, you’ll also find hard-to-come-by fair-trade underwear and a nice little selection of bags made of leather-like recycled plastic bottles or cork.
A couple of doors down is Laauma, a bistro-café with a hip shack aesthetic: raw wood, colourful artwork and a glittering gold ceiling. The all-day menu changes monthly, but you’ll always find a seasonal soup like gazpacho and a quiche like leek or potato, and something gluten-free. For bigger appetites, there are inventive and delicious burgers served on a spelt bun (pulled sweet potato with aubergine in beer batter, cucumber, BBQ sauce and almond mayo, for example). Don’t miss out on their homemade chocolate and almond cookies, made with margarine and just a whisper of salt (€2.50).
Vegan donuts at Brammibal's on Maybachufer. Photo by Erica Löfman
Donuts and wine in Neukölln
Berlin’s vegan sensation of the year is worth a detour all the way to northern Neukölln. Brammibal’s Donuts started small at various markets across the city last year and opened Europe’s first vegan donut shop at the end of May this year. In addition to their homemade, opulent vegan donuts (try the maple with smoked-coconut “bacon”, €2.50), they serve giant savoury bagels (also from Fine Bagels) with fillings like smoked tofu with apple-tamarind chutney or BBQ tempeh with grilled portobello and walnut-rocket pesto (€5).
Head deeper into Neukölln for a glass of wine at Alaska, a cosy vegan tapas bar owned by four Spaniards that takes its name from the famous Spanish-Mexican 1980s punk singer. If you’re not afraid of ruining your appetite, try one of their clever takes on tapa classics, like patatas bravas with homemade soy and rice-milk aioli.
A lucky dinner in Prenzlauer Berg
When it comes to dinner, you're spoilt for choice. There are classic fast-food favourites like seitan-döner joint Vöner or Kreuzberg’s legendary Yellow Sunshine burgers. Vegan Vietnamese places like Soy in Mitte and Quy Nguyen in Kreuzberg have brought new flavours to the table, while health-oriented restaurants like Rawtastic cater to the clean-eating crowd. But for something special, you can’t beat chef Josita Hartanto’s sophisticated take on vegan cuisine at Lucky Leek. It’s been around since the vegan wave hit Berlin in 2011, is listed in the Michelin Guide and factors heavily in the 2015 Saveur article that named Berlin the world’s vegetarian capital. The food is stylish and playful; the service considerate (and well-groomed). Seasonal vegetables play the lead while ingredients like jackfruit, seitan or pistachios make guest appearances. Order a three- or five-course set menu (€33-55), or, if it’s not Friday or Saturday, pick and choose from individual dishes. If you’re feeling adventurous, swap dessert for an artisanal (nut-based) cheese platter! Just remember to reserve a table.
Chaostheorie. Photo by Erica Löfman
Cocktails and clubbing
While in Prenzlauer Berg, you have to visit Berlin’s first vegan bar, the rainbow and unicorn-festooned Chaostheorie, which moved to a bigger space this past spring. Here, the drinks aren’t made with milk or egg, the Ayinger tap beer is free of gelatin or animal-based glycerin and the few house wines aren’t filtered with bone marrow, shellfish or egg whites. Go straight for the fun and fruity cocktails, like house concoction “Pussy”, a mix of mango, lime, mint, elderflower, brown sugar, Licor 43 and your choice of either whisky, gin, vodka or rum (€7.50).
A warm summer night should continue to Friedrichshain’s Wilder Hase biergarten, a bohemian, overgrown garden facing Berghain’s solemn façade. The bar-mobile sells a simple and guaranteed animal-free selection of long drinks, beer, wine and soft drinks. You can amuse yourself by playing table tennis, or sneak over to neighbouring club Nirgendwo to sit at the cosy campfire.