As the fight over the impending expansion of the Hermannplatz Karstadt heats up, Stavros Katsivas and Simon Avgenikos find themselves literally in the middle of it. The hip-looking café in the department store’s courtyard was originally put there by billionaire landlord Signa as part of a campaign to warm gentrification-averse locals up to its construction plans.
By the time Katsivas and Avgenikos took over last April, though, Signa had given up the Sisyphean undertaking of pacifying Kreuzkölln lefties and was busy getting cosy with the Senat. And so the owners of Pala would very much like you to know that “we are not puppets,” as Katsivas puts it. They’re just a couple of buddies from Rhodes who spent years hopping around the Berlin gastro scene before seizing this opportunity to run a place of their own.
Frappés meet flat whites and sourdough meets simit in a seamless blend of Greek and Berlin brunch tradition.
And we can’t deny it’s an appealing one. With its ramshackle outdoor garden, sunny rooftop terrace and retail-adjacent location, Pala recalls Klunkerkranich but with better food and cheaper drinks. On the menu, frappés meet flat whites and sourdough meets simit in a seamless blend of Greek and Berlin brunch tradition.
The duo put a light, modern spin on family recipes like briam (slow-cooked vegetable stew), gemista (stuffed tomatoes and bell peppers) and roasted aubergine, here placed on a bed of Greek yoghurt and showered in pico de gallo, tahini and pine nuts in a dish that lives up to its good looks. Everything’s under €10 and vegetarian, unless you opt for a side of bacon – though for our money, the golden-yolked boiled egg makes for a more valuable add-on.
Be there for the café’s one-year anniversary and terrace opening this month, and stay tuned for DJ sets, concerts and stand-up comedy nights, attended by the usual international set and a few curious Karstadt shoppers. Just make sure to go soon; who knows what Pala’s future holds once Signa’s cranes swoop in?
Pala, Parkhaus Innenhof, Hasenheide 4-5, Kreuzberg, Mon-Sat 10-18
Lunch: Ouzeri Angeliki
This is something of a hidden gem, unless you happen to be both Greek and religious. In that case, you might remember Angeliki “Aggela” Fafouti from the canteen at the Hellenische Gemeinde, the community centre next to the Greek Orthodox church in Steglitz. She landed there six years ago after moving to Berlin from her home island of Euboea, and quickly gained repute for her warm hospitality and honest cooking alike. When the owner of the low-key tavern Babis’ Ouzeri retired towards the end of 2021, she took his place – and her fans followed.
The sidewalks of Charlottenburg are a long way from the Greek isles, but the restaurant’s sprightly blue interior and nautical décor help shorten the distance. So does the off-menu seafood pikilia, which we ordered near-accidentally by pointing to a picture we’d seen in the Google reviews. The contents and price of this oceanic platter vary by day and party size; ours had fried sardines, anchovies, mussels, shrimp, cornmeal-crusted calamari and octopus, more than enough for two at just €22.
Throw in a plate of cold meze and a glass of Mythos beer, retsina or ouzo – it’s in the name, after all – for that true holiday feeling. Or make like a homesick regular and go for spot-on rustic specialties like moussaka and the stuffed aubergine dish imam bayildi. To sample as many of those as possible, reserve a spot at Angeliki’s already-legendary €15 Sunday brunch, a Zeus-sized buffet of oven-baked dishes, spreads, salads and desserts.
Ouzeri Angeliki, Droysenstr. 5, Charlottenburg, Mon-Sat 12-22, Sun 10-15
Dinner: Taverne Platia
The Big-Ass Restaurant went out of style a while ago, whether as a consequence of corona or our cultural obsession with intimate, bespoke experiences. But there’s still something to be said for grandiose locales like Taverne Platia, where the buzzing energy and gorgeous warehouse setting (part of the Bricks-Höfe, an old post office turned shiny mixed-use complex) play as much of a role in your evening as the perfectly grilled calamari.
The tzatziki, usually little more than a garnish, is so decadently creamy it deserves its own spotlight.
Every night of the week, Platia’s 150 seats fill up with eager diners, Greek or otherwise, many of whom remember owner Athanasios Gortsas from his years at Ousia in Wilmersdorf (now run solely by his brother Nikolaos). Sharing is the correct strategy here, whether it’s a super-sized spread of hot and cold meze, a plate of lamb chops or a side of patates tiganites, cheese-topped fried potato discs.
Prices are higher than at your average taverna – you could easily spend over €40/person before tackling the ouzo list – but you’re getting some serious quality in return. The tzatziki, usually little more than a garnish, is so decadently creamy it deserves its own spotlight; the fried zucchini balls (kolokithokeftedes) so light and airy it takes you a while to realise they’re basically a cheese delivery vehicle. Grilled dishes, from the lamb to the meat patties to that butter-soft baby squid, land on table after table, each exactly as juicy and smoky as the last.
As the weather warms up, patrons migrate from the high-ceilinged, brick-walled interior to the patio (kitted out for now with that rarest of Berlin restaurant amenities, heat lamps). By summer, the restaurant will have completely filled the courtyard, thus turning the entire Bricks-Höfe into a Greek village square – the word for which, appropriately enough, is platia.
Taverne Platia, Hauptstr. 27, Schöneberg, Tue-Sun 17-24