How Berlin Is Reinventing Its Food, Dining & Urban Culture

OpenTable is a proud sponsor of the second annual Berlin Food Week, which kicks off today and brings together dozens of restaurants from colorful and diverse neighborhoods around the city to highlight local gastronomy. To celebrate, we’re spotlighting trends in one of the best new metros for dining.

From reunification to forward-thinking creative culture, it’s an age of reimagination in Berlin. The food scene in the German capital epitomizes this new wave of urban culture — thoroughly unique and unlike any other in Europe. With a mix of old and new, tradition and innovation, and humble and fine dining, there are a myriad of ways to dine in Berlin.

Here’s a snapshot of how the Berlin food scene is evolving, inspiring, and creating experiences that are entirely unique.

Food

Berlin diners and restaurants alike have embraced the farm-to-table ethos, with menus boasting products from local artisans and growers. The sense of community is strong, uniting neighborhoods around markets and tables.

No longer is German food all brats and beer. In fact, Berlin is among the most popular destinations for vegan cuisine in Europe. A prominent alternative scene has long engaged with ethical issues around food and culture, bringing vegan and vegetarian lifestyles into the mainstream while opposing conventional meat producing processes in GermanyKopps Bar & Restaurant specializes in healthy, seasonal dishes made with fresh local herbs and vegetables — all completely vegan. 

At the same time, what’s old is new again: chefs and restaurateurs are finding ways to celebrate and reinvent traditional German foods. Take Fraulein Fiona, for example — the “modern German” restaurant serves rustic dishes like sausages and sauerkraut with a highly seasonal, ingredient-driven approach.

Drinks

Predictably, Berlin’s beer game is strong. Outdoor biergartens are abundant, and locals and tourists love sampling craft brews from local producers, a trend that’s been adopted from the U.S. Loretta am Wannsee is a Berlin institution, offering an extensive list and a gorgeous view of the Wannsee River. 

Despite being the nation that is best known for its beer, Germany has been slow to innovate and adapt, which has to do with the German “Reinheitsgebot” – a law that dictates how beer should be brewed, brought into effect in the Middle Ages. Back then, it ensured that breweries weren’t mixing unusual ingredients into the beer, and it made Germany the beer-drinking nation that it is. The downside of this law, which still exists today, is that it’s very restrictive. For example, craft brewers are not allowed to call their honey-infused brews “beer” because they have added honey, which does not comply with the German Reinheitsgebot. Micro-breweries are finding ways around the law by calling their beer “craft.”

Trendy wine bars on the rise, too; many of them specialize in German varietals, like Mitte’s Cordobar. And then there’s the nightlife. Dive bars and underground nightclubs stay open late, and clubbing and dancing are popular pasttimes across the city. Take the Berghain club — it’s world famous, situated inside an abandoned power plant, and sometimes called the best club in the world.

Places & Spaces

Berlin represents a diverse circle of eclectic neighborhoods, each with a unique identity. Charismatic, sophisticated Charlottenburg sits in the center of the city, while East Berlin’s Friedrichshain is home to hipper crowds. Kreuzberg is a night-owl’s paradise, and Potsdamer Platz is the futuristic heart of commerce. Mitte, at Berlin’s core, is where former West and East Berlin converged and his given rise to a new age of culture and fashion.

Art and architecture are more provocative than ever. Restaurants are opening in historic buildings with funky vintage charm. Sage, in Kreuzberg, is an artful urban restaurant located on the banks of the river Spree in a refurbished industrial brick-lined building. Throughout Berlin Food Week events such as food halls and pop-up restaurants will be held in an old utility plant — an edgy space for exhibitions.

Influences

Berlin is the third largest city in the world, after New York and London, and it’s also Europe’s youngest capital city. In 2014, almost 12 million visitors came from around the world to experience the city’s culture. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the world and one of the most popular destinations in Europe.

Today, experiences in Berlin reflect that growth and the new influences implicit in the reinvention of the city. In addition to classic German fare, locals and visitors enjoy Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods, as well as specialties from Scandinavia and Asia. The Nordic impact is strong at restaurants such as Nobelhart & Schmutzig, which focuses on preserving and showcases ingredients from the Baltic Sea. Martha’s in Schöneberg serves a gutsy menu combining traditional German with Asian and Mediterranean flavors, while the trendy Asian burgers at Bun Bao are turning the dining scene on its head. All around, multiculturalism is thriving. 

Photos courtesy of Berlin Food Week.