Remember when everyone thought it was cool to describe food as “like crack”? There was “crack pie” and “crack sauce” and “crack granola” and it was all fun and games until some killjoys pointed out that, oops, the drug in reference had actually caused unspeakable devastation within low-income, mostly Black communities in the US, and the reason why wealthy, mostly white chefs and critics found the term so hilarious was because they had no experience with that devastation and assumed the same of their customers and readers. Think about it – it’s not like anyone was going around selling “fentanyl pie”.
These days, the word “crack” has been stricken from the responsible food writer’s vocabulary, as has “addictive”, which I have to admit leaves me in a bit of a pickle. I don’t want to trivialize addiction, especially after sharing an apartment building with an Übergangswohnheim and seeing the very-unfun consequences of regular drug use. But what else to call a dish whose primary characteristic is that it’s very hard to stop eating it, even long after you’ve gotten full, even if you’re not sure why?
This, for example, describes the mochi-mochi fries at the unfortunately named Crackbuns, a Japanese-inflected fast food stand opened last December right near the start of hard lockdown. Run by the same Israeli-American-Japanese family as House of Small Wonder and Zenkichi, and connected to Night Kitchen and new pizzeria Magic John’s (all very hyped, all very good), its main focus is sliders, the bite-sized miniature burgers first popularized by US chain White Castle. Which came first, this concept or the location at the corner of Kleine Hamburger Straße? The world may never know.
The breakout offering is those fries, which are truly unlike any other in Berlin.
The sliders are served in pairs on fluffy yet sturdy homemade milk buns, filled with grilled organic beef, karaage-style fried chicken, breaded shrimp croquettes, or vegetarian mushroom and bean patties. They’re indeed worth your attention. But Crackbuns’ breakout offering is those fries, which are truly unlike any other in Berlin. Instead of the usual sticks or wedges, you get a boxful of cartoonishly oversized potato tubes, about the length of a hand and the width of a finger, with a creamy interior and a rice flour coating that’s audibly crisp yet mysteriously pliable. There isn’t enough sauce (there’s never enough sauce) but even I, a person whose ideal fry serving size is two or three stolen off someone else’s plate, wolfed down the entire order that came with my combo meal, barely pausing to take bites of my sliders. If that isn’t – eh, habit-forming? Moreish? – then I don’t know what is.
So fixated was I on the fries that I forgot to save room for dessert, meaning I’ll have to return to try the French Toast: those same pillow-soft buns given a sweet makeover, filled with fruity custard or chocolate ganache and topped with powdered sugar. I’m sure it’s great. Still wish they’d reconsider the name, though.
Crackbuns, Auguststr. 63, Mitte, daily 12-22:30, takeaway onsite or delivery via Wolt