A few metres from Görlitzer Park exists a pancake from another dimension. Probably the fattest pancake in Berlin: North American style, voluminous, buttermilky, not too floury, slightly sour – and when dappled with some Canadian maple syrup, dribbled with homemade vegan soy-almond milk froth and savoured with a little organic fruit, highly satisfying by any measure. Its home is Atlas Pancakes – a relaxed refuge of all-day brunch.
The culinary mind at Atlas is Andrew, a San Jose native who abandoned California for Kreuzberg in 1999 to mix it up in the Berlin hip hop scene as a producer, DJ and musical director for the likes of infamous Berlin rapper Sido and, most recently, the Voice of Germany casting show.
Last spring his close friend Ceyda, a marketing and fashion consultant, saw that a space was available in the same building as a hip hop recording studio on Forster Straße and prodded Andrew to rent the space with her. Ceyda, a dainty Bavarian with Kurdish-Turkish roots, knew the man’s talents extended beyond the turntables to the stove and insisted he develop a pancake-centric brunch menu. Meanwhile, she brought her charm and extensive network in the worlds of fashion and culture to the project.
The name of this “new American restaurant” comes from Andrew’s family’s liquor store in California, while its logo was inspired by the beautiful, gigantic Atlas moth hanging in a frame behind the bar. The place is the duo’s personal playground: eatery, gallery, music venue, meeting point for various groups and scenes – like a Wednesday night street art sketching circle, or “mothers’ cooking nights” (owners and patrons’ mums take over the kitchen for a jolly, homey dinner!).
Which brings us back to the food, served Wednesdays to Sundays from noon to 6pm. Considering their quality, these pancakes are a good deal: three of the buttermilk – or vegan! – variety go for €6, or two with chocolate chips for a fiver.
There are also egg plates (€6) with organic eggs, perfectly poached and served on toast drenched in an excellent hollandaise with a side of well-spiced stir-fried veg, or scrambled with home fries. Or else in the form of a scrambled egg sandwich.
Unexpected was the Korean twist. Andrew’s mum is Korean and surely a great cook – enough to inspire her son’s culinary imagination in the form of ‘crispy tofu’, thin slices of tofu fried on the griddle with a soy sauce finish and served in a sandwich (with arugula, tomatoes and mango sauce) or as part of a larger combo. It’s tofu as you’ve never tasted it before in Berlin.
Customers with the hefty hangover munchies should go whole hog with either an Atlas Combo (three pancakes, crispy tofu, home fries, veg, fruit) or the slightly different Egg Combo (both €9 and big enough to stave off hunger all day). For a lighter lunch snack, go for one of the sandwiches – crispy tofu, scrambled egg, grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly for the homesick US expat – or a delicious spicy cucumber salad (also Korean-style).
So far, Atlas seems refreshingly far-removed from the self-conscious foodie scene of vanity supper clubs and righteous “third wave” coffee shops that seem to be invading the city. The kind, friendly folks at Atlas just put a lot of heart and talent into their venture… and you can taste it.