The pink neon sign with a pig’s face on Karl-Marx-Straße is misleading: is this a butcher or a street food place serving pulled pork? The word “vegan” is invisible from the outside, and is found just once in tiny letters on the menu above the counter. Dandy Diner – weirdly, an offshoot of men’s fashion blog Dandy Diary – opened last April with a widely ridiculed hipster PR stunt gone wrong, their offer of free food on social media resulting in a veritable mob of thousands gathering outside. Nestled amidst Spätis and kebab shops, the cruelty-free burger joint attracts far fewer fans today. Around 7pm on a recent Monday, only six or seven seats were filled. The interior is more pleasant than the exterior lets on. Vintage Tribe Called Quest is playing loud; a mellow pink light envelops a massive communal cast-concrete table.
The menu is simple, like a well-designed app: on the left, vegan burgers, on the right, vegan sandwiches. Our order came within a few minutes, and the Asian burger (marinated tofu, kimchi, daikon radish, crunchy nori and wakame topped with teriyaki sauce, €5.50) was a spicy bundle of flavour. The Italian one, though (shiitake-red bean patty with vegan cheese and aubergine sauce, €5.50) was formless, mushy and – sorry Dandy – a little boring.
As for the sandwiches, served on hip chia-seed toast, they punch above their weight: small but dense. The avocado (€4.50) is just avo, chilli and radish on crunchy bread, a people-pleasing no-brainer. But the virtuoso of the night, which has sadly since been discontinued, was the pork-free “pulled mushroom” (€6.50): marinated, shredded ‘shroom topped with coleslaw, baby spinach and chipotle mayo. This was vegan food at its best, and we can only hope its replacement on the menu, “Berlin’s first vegan ceviche sandwich”, lives up to the same standard. Pile on a portion of decent fries (€2) and/or the excellent slaw made with egg-free mayo (€2.50), and your tummy will be perfectly happy going home without their chia pudding (€3).
One significant criticism: Dandy’s claim is to be animal-free, not environmentally friendly. But still, does a vegan dinner have to generate so much waste? A tray full of burger boxes, sandwich paper and chip bags doesn’t really gel with the high eco-ethical standards set by veganism, does it? Dandy, you should work on that.