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Vegan brunch: Not just for vegans

All you Wurst-Brot-Käse-Müsli Frühstück fans look away now – we shelve the traditional German breakfast and examine Berlin's somewhat abundant vegan options.

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Photo by Kaitlyn Dugan

If you’re a vegan living in Berlin, you’re probably aware of the €2 tamiya (falafel in pita with peanut sauce) at the Sudanese Imbiss Nil on Oppelner Straße and the veggie burger at vegetarian diner Yellow Sunshine near Görlitzer Park (not to mention their tasty vanilla rice Eis). But what about ‘the most important meal of the day’, i.e brunch?

Whether you’re more in the mood for quaint epicurean delights served on white china, or for gritty-cool with a side of social justice, the following vegan-friendly brunch spots should give you a reason to get out of bed this weekend.

When life gives you lemons – make lemon curd. Or lemon bars. Or lemon meringue pie. After all, you can get lemonade anywhere. For Diana Durdic and Tasha Arana, the young duo behind Sing Blackbird, a new café/vintage shop in Neukölln, originality is a fundamental business strategy – and vegan food, a niche-market. As Tasha points out, there are a million cafés in this city, and more and more second hand boutiques – but Sing Blackbird, both at once, is distinctive. Tasha, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, brings the style expertise; while Diana, a business-savvy engineer with a sweet tooth, brings the cookbooks.

The principle “originality sells” also played a role in Sing Blackbird’s décor. Diana explains, “we thought about the unfinished, exposed-pipes look, but that’s everywhere.” So they went with arty birch treepatterned wallpaper, wildflower bouquets and white doilies and hung a collection of decorated porcelain on the wall. Then they set their iPod playlist to indiepop. The Denglisch-speaking crowd willing to sit elbow-to-elbow was soon to follow.

Though neither Diana nor Tasha are vegan, they know that a lot of Berliners are. So they decided to offer a vegan breakfast menu, in a neighborhood where meatless options are scarce. The unanticipated popularity of the “Bunny Breakfast”, “Hungry Karl” and “Mess Bowl” among the non-vegan breakfasters convinced the girls to make the menu exclusively vegan.

“You can get your traditional Wurst-Brot-Käse-Müsli Frühstück just about anywhere,” says Diana, adding, “I guess it’s good too, every once in a while, not to eat any meat or dairy,” suggesting that in Berlin, ‘vegan food’ no longer means the same as ‘food for vegans’.

At Sing Blackbird, it’s actually quite a bit more than ‘good’. The Bunny Breakfast (€9 or two for €17) is big enough to feed all of Watership Down. The platter comes with a (perfect) tofu scramble (photo, top), roasted potatoes, seasonal tapenade, chunky guacamole and slices of fresh fruit, not to mention two pancakes – with sweet toppings that vary from week to week – which are so big, they come on their own plate.

At Café Morgenrot on Kastanienallee, the veggie brunch is served up in your conventional unconventional anarchist-collective setting: a black-clad staff with tats and ‘tudes, décor that resembles a worn pair of Chuck Taylors and a sliding price scale.

From dusty vases at each table, faded daisies proclaim, “Come on, it’s December – whadaya expect?!” and the chandelier in the middle of the ceiling has two dead bulbs. Yet the café’s effortless shabbiness feels comfy and somehow even… pretty.

While the collective nurses its collective hangover, the café’s midday ambience remains chill. Dread heads, backpackers and pamphleteers mull around refilling their plates to a soft-jazz soundtrack. The table tops and walls of the Klo are incrusted with slogans like “Alles Scheiße!”, “Shit & Piss!” and “Solidarity with [insert movement here]!” – hopefully not the most representative evidence of the café’s second identity as a forum for cultural and political discussion. The café serves as a regular meeting place for groups like Berlin’s Anarchist Federation and a local queer feminist knitting circle.

Although the staff usually can’t be bothered with details like changing light bulbs, greeting customers or tending to flowers, this negligence does not extend to the buffet, which costs €5-9. The selection is colorful, original and vast, and new platters emerge by the minute from the buzzing kitchen.

To break your fast sweetly: there’s fresh fruit, jams, and Greek semolina pudding. The vegan chocolate coconut spread is a real highlight. Savory offerings include red beet salad, wasabi pea spread (another winner), several varieties of hummus and a tofu scramble that’s a little heavy on the soy sauce – but vegans aren’t worried about blood pressure anyway, right?

SING BLACKBIRD | Brunch: Sat-Sun 10:30-15

CAFE MORGENROT | Brunch: Fri-Sun 11-1