Past those giant golden Foo Lions on the sidewalk of Schönhauser Allee, you never know what kind of night you’re in for. If you meet Wally Potts, the founder and co-owner of White Trash Fast Food – a bar/restaurant/show venue quite unlike any other – you’ll begin to understand why.
A Los Angeleno who’s lived in Berlin for 20 years, he has a softer voice than you would expect from a man with such a large frame and imposing gaze – not to mention that tattoo on his arm. It says ‘White Trash Fast Food GmbH’: “Like my partner Wolfgang says, don’t trust anybody without a tattoo,” he says with a laugh. Of course, there’s a tattoo parlor within White Trash’s 1000 square metres; like the emphasis on live bands, it harks back to Potts’ early rebellious days. He started out cooking for Berliners from Volksküche; this, and his first easy-going establishments, inspired White Trash’s eccentric mix of nosh/rock/anything-else-under-the-sun. But Potts says the whole thing happened by accident. “I never in my life wanted to have a restaurant. That was the last thing I could imagine doing. I studied art.” It shows, with the club/restaurant’s strange, ‘anything goes’ décor: a mix of pictures, statues, fish tanks and stickers – even a framed copy of Tempelhof’s imaginary Berg. “You have to make culture ornamental, cause otherwise, it’s a grey world.”
With DJs and bands upstairs and down in the cave-like basement – close to 400 live acts were booked last year – Potts doesn’t just think of White Trash as just a place to eat. “It’s a shit job making food every day, but for me it was a necessary evil. I see it as a means to an end: it’s just a mechanism to make the place a social centre.” Though the combination can be unconventional – “I think as long as you’re not blowing their head off with it, people can listen to Slayer and eat” – Potts thinks that together, these seemingly random elements embody a particular aesthetic. “Whatever you’re cooking, it has to be honest in the material, the environment, the atmosphere. I think my burger tastes different when you’re listening to hard rock.” But where does White Trash fit in Berlin’s culinary scene? Potts sits back and thinks for a moment, then answers: “The highest quality food with the lowest possible expectations.”