Neontoaster. Photo by Nicole Abramowski
Animal-free eating in Moabit, Tegel and Lichterfelde? It’s possible! Yes, as the vegan lifestyle seeps into the mainstream, Berlin’s Öko-trendsters are gradually gentrifying their way out of their comfort zones. Vegan blogger Nicole Abramowski spotlights her best finds from the outer reaches: new, secret or hidden in plain sight. And with Europe's biggest vegan summer fest now on at Alexanderplatz (Aug 28-30), it's nice to know you don't have to venture into the circus to get your soy fix.
In early 2014, Barbara and Alessandro moved from Milan to Berlin to give Wedding the organic vegetarian Italian bistro it didn’t know it needed. Opened in December and decked out with carefully chosen funky, retro furniture, Neontoaster offers organic, vegan wines, excellent espresso and even a tiny two-person cinema alongside its simple, meat-free Italian dishes, which include plentiful vegan options marked with a star. Your vegetarian and carnivore friends will delight at the cheese selection (sourced directly from Italian farmers), but you’ll be perfectly content with the Celeriac Parmigiana with smoked tofu (€8.60) served in a well-spiced tomato sauce with a side of roasted potatoes and a green salad. Also on the menu is a vegan Russian potato-carrot salad (€2.90), a pasta and bean soup (€5.40) and a vegan chocolate pudding with Goji berries (€3.20). Chat with friends over a glass of decent Italian wine (€2.90-4) or sidle up with your laptop and sip that godly espresso (€1.30) while eavesdropping on travellers and locals discussing life and politics in various languages. Vegan brunch every other Sunday (€12.90)!
Near Leopoldplatz, you’ll find Sri-Lankan restaurant Naveena Path with a huge selection of labelled vegan dishes. There are soy lassis, a raved-about Sunday vegan brunch buffet (€10) and a fantastic lentil soup, with a perfect balance of savoury and tangy. You can order many Indian standards like channa masala, samosas and so on in vegan form here too, but live a little and try the Banana Dal with Spinach (€8), actually made with plantains, bringing together an unexpectedly delicious combination of flavors. A main course will set you back about €7-8.
The island district of Moabit’s growing number of eco-MILFs (watch out, Prenzlauer Berg!) have a new place to shop: blue-tiled vegan grocery and café Valladares Feinkost. What sets this store apart is its selection, and owner Karina Fromme Valladares’ special passion for coffee (including locally roasted Moabiter Bohne) and baked goods. The store exudes a slightly Mediterranean flair, with a nice wine and oil selection in the back and fresh olives, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted eggplant in the cooler up front, along with sandwiches and cakes. While there are some faux meats from Wheaty (€3-5), vegan cheeses from Violife (€3.25), and some seriously giant blocks of tofu, they also stock quirky jams, including a green tomato marmalade and a chocolate-olive tapenade, gluten-free breads and interesting pastas like red lentil fusilli from Lazzaretti, wild garlic Spätzle and a selection of tagliatelle from Donath-Mühle, including wheatgrass and pumpkin seed varieties. Buy ingredients for dinner, then stick around for a snack: cupcakes from Lujuria Vegana in Barcelona are piled high with hazelnut mousse and nougat and filled with cocoa cream (€3.50). Opened just last summer, they’re already planning an expansion.
Need something to tide you over during a flight delay at Tegel? Picking up a vegan visitor who’s absolutely starving? Attached to the Best Western Hotel am Borsigturm and across from a medium-sized mall, German restaurant Borsig B – attracting mostly a business-attired crowd – caters to vegans and vegetarians surprisingly well. Ask for the semi-secret “allergy” menu and you’ll get a plethora of labelled vegan options that also lists allergens like gluten, soy, nuts and sulfites. Try the Flammkuchen Tofu, a take on the Alsatian pizza with mixed vegetables, tofu and pesto replacing the usual cream (€9). Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, the tofu on top is no half-hearted substitute. There are also a few vegan soups (€5) and two vegan wraps (€9-12). Or try the Bratreis Raz el-Hanout, fried rice with figs, vegetables and ginger with mint-soya-yoghurt sauce and salad (€8.50).
High-end Westside vegan eatery La Mano Verde’s all well and good, but sometimes you just want a meat-free sausage and some good beer. For that, there’s Vaust Braugaststätte near Savignyplatz. The two owners – passionate master brewer Wolfgang Grabolle and restaurateur Jasmin Marks – opted to offer an all-vegan menu. They always offer some meat-free takes on traditionally fleshy German dishes, including a currywurst made from seitan (€5.90). At the moment they’re offering dishes such as mock duck (also seitan) in a chicoree-orange sauce with potato and purslane puree (€12.50) and ravioli filled with beetroot, tofu and mint with a walnut-sage butter and Swiss chard (€14.50). Wash it all down with one of their house-made brews.
Berlin’s deep southwest has been quietly harbouring a vegan-friendly secret for over 10 years now. Madya Lieb, a cook and pastry chef with training in herbal medicine, opened her bright, vegetarian, 100-percent organic Café Rosenduft in 2004 right next to the Lichterfelde-Ost station. Vegan options include two types of spelt croissants from Demeter Bäckerei, a German-style breakfast with bread, different vegan spreads and jam (€5-6), two labelled daily soups (€5-7) and several cakes (€2.60-3.10). For your sweet tooth, try a slice of vegan chocolate banana cake (€3.10), with moist banana chunks inside, topped with mini chocolate chips and a thick layer of powdered sugar. Best for long chats with friends over Kaffee und Kuchen while spying on the locals, a decidedly non-hipster crowd.