Berlin Cheap Eats: Top 10 Under 5 Euros

berlin cheap eats

Chancellor Angela Merkel recently declared that Germany’s experiment with multiculturalism had “utterly failed.” Perhaps, but in our recent experience in Berlin, the city’s multicultural landscape made eating there a treasure.

During our time in Berlin we lived near Kottbusser Tor in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, smack in middle of what our visiting friends deemed “little Turkey.” Food was fresh, accessible, brimming with flavor and typically served by folks who took pride in their cuisine, interest in us as human beings, and great pleasure in serving up an experience.

So here’s our top ten cheap eats in Berlin. Many Turkish, some German, one Asian. Mind you, this list reflects not only what is inexpensive, but more importantly what is high-quality.

Our Favorite 10 Cheap Eats in Berlin

1. Gel Gör Inegöl Köfteci

Awesome Kofte Sandwich at Gel Gör in Kreuzberg, Berlin
A delicious köfte sandwich at Gel Gör, complete with rucola and fresh herbs on top.

Köfte usually means herbed minced lamb meatballs, but Gel Gör does it with a twist by using veal instead. And the result is astronomically good. They charcoal grill the meat just tender; the aroma and taste are both unforgettable. Next up, the bread: perfectly fresh, soft, then (blow my mind) dabbed and toasted on the charcoal grill. The whole thing is topped with salad greens, red onions, arugula (rucola) and mint.

Sauces are also standout: spicy red pepper sauce, garlic yogurt, and a yellow herb sauce. Go for all three. Have them top the whole thing with a dash of sumac and some red pepper flakes (for spice lovers) and your taste buds will go insane.

I’m told the proper way to down a Gel Gor köfte baguette is to drink it with ayran (drinkable Turkish yogurt). However, Gel Gor offers a formidable beer selection featuring prices only a few dimes over prices at a bottle shop.

Note: Gel Gor has a brother-location on Oranianstrasse called Doyuran. Unfortunately, the experience there can’t hold a hot charcoal to the one at the far superior Kottbusser Damm location. Not to mention, no golden herb sauce and a lackluster beer selection.

What to get: Köfte baguette (3.00€); even bigger köfte spezial (4.50€). Meatatarians take the plunge with the köfte plate.
Where to get it: Gel Gör Inegöl Köfteci, Kottbusser Damm 80, Kreuzberg / Neukölln Open 24 hours.

2. Tadim Lahmacun

Lahmacun (aka, Turkish Pizza) in the Kreuzberg Area of Berlin
Lahmacun (Turkish pizza) – fresh, good and cheap.

Lahmacun (Turkish pizza) at its best. A friend who visited likened lahmacun to the Turkish version of a burrito. But it’s much more than that. Lahmacun is a rolled, thin flatbread dough topped with an herbed ground meat and baked until crispy. Ask the guys to top it with salad (tomato, flat parsley, onion, lettuce), some hot or yogurt sauce and a bit of sumac, a squeeze of lemon; they roll it up a la burrito. You can also try it with döner meat inside, but we are fans of the lahmacun alone.

Call us purists. Turkish pizza purists.

What to get: Lahmacun (Turkish pizza) with salad (1.50€) or salad and sauce (1.70€).
Where to get it: Tadim Lahmacun, Adalbertstrasse 98, Kreuzberg.

3. Maroush

Delicious Falafel Sandwich from Maroush - Berlin, Germany
A Maroush Falafel Sandwich, Kreuzberg

Tasty, accessible Lebanese food. Excellent falafel sandwiches stuffed with freshly fried falafel balls, salad and a surprisingly hefty dose of tahini (sesame sauce). Chicken shawarma sandwiches are chock-full of chicken and feature a tuck of French fries. Sounds odd, but the combo works oh so well. The final touch on both sandwiches: the stuffed pita is “sealed” in a sandwich press.

Open late and usually packed. We ate here so often that we became shareholders when we departed Berlin.

What to get: Chicken shawarma or falafel sandwich (3.00€)
Where to get it: Maroush, Adalbertstrasse 98, Kreuzberg.

4. Knofi

Freshly Made Gözleme at Knofi  - Berlin, Germany
Gossies (Turkish crepes a la Knofi) with fabulous selection of sauces.

Gözleme generally refers to spinach and cheese or meat-stuffed Turkish crepes. But Knofi takes it up a notch with their gössies, Turkish-Mediterranean crepes rolled thin and stuffed with a spinach or ground meat-vegetable filling and cooked atop a circular iron.

It should be a crime to serve something so delicately crepe-like and tasty for so little money. The real secret, however, are the sauces Knofi sides with its gössies. Tatziki, hummus paste, and an otherworldly adjika-like, not-so-spicy chili walnut sauce. Our only regret: not eating here more often.

The cafe is labeled as an “art cafe” and features a segment of clientele trying very hard to fit that profile.

What to get: Gössies (3.80€), vegetarian or meat.
Where to get it: Knofi, Bergmannstrasse 98, Kreuzberg. Phone: 030 6945807. Note that Knofi has a deli location on Oranianstrasse which carries beautiful deli items and spreads, but not gössies.

5. Tekbir Döner

Shaving Away the Döner Meat - Berlin, Germany
The real veal döner

Like all good things, by word of mouth, friend of a friend. A tip from an Indian guy in the neighborhood who had himself been tipped off by a Turkish neighbor. This is how all great döner scavenger hunts begin.

Although the meat on the spindle may look sketchy: rougher, darker than other döner huts, don’t fear. Tekbir’s meat spindle is stacked with cut veal instead of processed or pressed lamb döner meat. As a result, the texture is very much real meat, like cut steak in a steak-and-cheese. And the taste is the stuff of beautiful, sweet mystery. Maybe some allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg. In any case, it’s elegant. The yogurt sauce is tart, as if it’s straight ayran, rather than sweetened yogurt or mayonnaise you might find lurking elsewhere.

The whole package is rolled in a Turkish style lavash-like flatbread called a durum.

Best of all, Tekbir is the real deal, real neighborhood, and everyone working and eating there is extraordinarily friendly. They served us free Turkish tea during each visit. It doesn’t get much better than that.

What to get: Durum döner, 3.50€.
Where to get it: Tekbir Döner, Skalitzer Straße 23, Kreuzberg

6. Hasir Restaurant

The godfather and supposed birthplace of the döner sandwich (1971). Hasir is also the place where Anthony Bourdain ate when he came to Berlin. So does Hasir live up to the hype?

While we wouldn’t count Hasir durum döner the best in Berlin, it is good. The key is the meat, possibly some of the best standard lamb doner around: nicely flavored, cut by hand, thin slices. Our only beef with Hasir is that their sauces tend to be a bit on the sweet side, particularly the funky hot sauce. Also, Hasir suffers a bit under the volume of tourist traffic, so expect occasionally brusque, yet slow service.

What to get: Durum döner (3€) to go. If you sit down, share a döner plate and some fried artichoke hearts stuffed with cheese (4.50€) or kunefe (4.50€) for dessert.
Where to get it: Hasir Restaurant, Adalbertstraße 12, Kreuzberg (note: Hasir has several restaurants around town, but this is the original.)

7. Doyum Grillhaus

Kebab Grillmaster in Berlin - Germany
Fresh kebabs on the grill at Doyum Grilhaus.

It’s always a good sign when a Turkish restaurant is packed with Turkish people round-the-clock. The döner meat (lamb) is spot on, piled plentifully and topped with lots of fresh salad. Great sauce with a roasted chili taste. The adana kebab (pictured above) looked pretty nice, too. Next time.

What to get: Durum döner (3.50€).
Where to get it: Doyum Grillhaus, Admiralstraße 37-38, Kreuzberg

8. Hamy

Red Curry at a Vietnamese Restaurant in Kreuzberg, Germany
Hamy Thai-Vietnamese fusion

Supposedly Vietnamese, but when a place is serving red curry, I’d say it’s Thai. Let’s split the difference and call it Southeast Asian fusion or Berlin’s version of Vietnamese meets Thai meets cole slaw. Red curry is tasty, features enough spice (as in, they didn’t cheap out on the curry paste). And the fresh vegetables and nuts on top are a nice touch.

A big thanks goes to our taxi adventure with Layne (aka, Taxi Gourmet) and TaxiBerlin for introducing us to this place.

What to get: Chicken red curry lunch special (4.50€).
Where to get it: Hamy, Hasenheide 10, Kreuzberg

9a. Rogacki

Light Lunch of Blutwurst and Leiberwurst - Berlin, Germany
Rogacki leberwurst and blutwurst

The vastness and deli-liciousness of this place makes it worth a stop just to look and poke around. But to eat, try the huge hunks of whitefish, the sauerkraut or dive in for the wurst lunch special. “This is the food of freaks,” we were told by a Berliner eating lunch at the next table over. After some explanation, it became clearer: what we were eating – blutwurst (blood sausage) and leberwurst (liver sausage) is only eaten nowadays by enthusiasts. And freak tourists like us.

What to get: Blutwurst and leberwurst with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut lunch special (4.50€). Break the budget and get a glass of white wine to cut the meat.
Where to get it: Rogacki, Wilmersdorfer Straße 145 Charlottenburg

9b. Käse König

Audrey and I are split on whether Käse König or Rogacki has the best blood sausage. I like the dog food-looking pile at Käse König because of that sweet little something like star anise or allspice inside. Or maybe I was just expecting it to taste like dog food and was pleasantly surprised.

The staff are very friendly as well. Worth an order, if only for the nostalgia value.

Where to get it: Käse König, Panoramastrasse 1, Mitte

Note: Another round of thanks to Taxi Gourmet for introducing us to both of these places.

10. Requisite Currywurst

Do I think currywurst is the highest quality food going in Berlin? Um, no. But I know it’s in the hearts and on the minds of just about everyone visiting. So, here’s my take.

Currywurst at Curry 36 - Berlin, Germany
Currywurst at Curry 36 in Kreuzberg.

The “best currywurst” argument is a storm in a teacup, but if sausage served with a dusting of curry powder and ketchup sounds like your thing, then it’s time for currywurst. In truth and fairness, my best memories of currywurst date back to the early 2000s and in particular, a rain-soaked R.E.M. concert in 2004. But those days — and eating currywurst at every stop from Zoologischer Garten to Nollendorfplatz — are long since over.

These days, the “best currywurst” battle rages between two places: Curry 36 and Konnopke Imbiss. Although I favor Curry 36′s marginal generosity with their curry powder and their fries (with a dusting of red pepper powder), I appreciate the less firm sausage link from Konnopke Imbiss.

But like I said above: storm in a teacup.

What to get: At Curry 36: two currywurst and French fries (4.50€). At Konnopke Imbiss: currywurst and French fries (4.00€).
Where to get it: Curry 36, Mehringdamm 36, Kreuzberg. (If you are a group and want to smorgasbord it, get a gemüse kebab from Mustafa — it should probably be on this list — just down the street.). Konnopke Imbiss, Schönhauser Allee 44A, Prenzlauer Berg.

Honorable Mention: Türkenmarkt at Maybachufer

It’s no wonder that food in Berlin is so good, fresh and tasty. The produce coursing through all its markets is impressive. For a glimpse and taste, check out the Turkish outdoor market (Türkenmarkt) along Maybachufer and the canal in Kreuzberg. It’s open Tuesday and Friday afternoons from 12:00-6:30.

Just about everything is sold here, even open-air haircuts. In the food department: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, spices, olives, nuts, cheese and an array of Turkish breads. And for a walk-away comfort food snack, try the gözleme from Chez Su (right side, on the way towards Neukolln) for 1.75€.

The Best of Berlin Food in Photos

If you don’t have a high-speed connection or you would like to read the captions, you can view our Berlin food photo essay.

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Comments

  1. says

    I just got back from a trip to Berlin and this list would have been invaluable. Next time I’m going to stay in Kreuzberg and try a few of these places.

  2. says

    Awesome, 1-7 look exactly like the kind of grub you get in Dalston/Stoke Newington, where i’m currently living in London. I eat Gözleme quite a lot and to be honest, never knew what it was called, so thanks! Lahmacun’s are usually about the same price here and I think with all the salad etc I think they’re the biggest bargain of all the cheap eats, plus quite healthy. Shame we don’t get the Currywurst here though :-(

  3. Jackie says

    For those of you currently in Berlin — I am such a lover of the real Doner.
    I lived in the “American” secctor around Clay Allee. There were Doner imbisses practically on every corner. First the bread was not a pita, it was a duram. It was long enough to roll up all the yummy ingredients, which were lettuce, tomatoes, red cabbage, maybe onions but can’t recall. and thin, crispy lamb shaved from the spit. It was then covered very generously with garlic-yogurt sauce which is “medium” in consistency but very, very garlicky which I love. Then they wrapped all this in a long roll of duram and folded over only on one end. The other end was left open for that first wonderful bite. The whole thing was wrapped in tin foil so you could continue walking with your doner. I got a doner and hopped a train to Frankfurt and everyone who passed by me mentioned I must have doner on board due to the garlic smell. (They were just envious)) I’ve give anything to find those same ingredients here in the USA.

  4. says

    @Andrea: Kreuzberg — it’s a different world than most of the other neighborhoods that visitors tend to frequent in Berlin. We highly recommend it.

    @Julia & Barry: Having first visited Berlin about nine years ago, we can attest that a lot has changed. As regards Kreuzberg, it’s apparently seen quite a bit of change over the last two years or so.

    @Michael: It was tasty, meat and all. Having said that, as cities go, Berlin is an easy place to be a vegetarian. Access to salad, grilled vegetables, crepes, awesome bread, vegetarian spreads, falafels and all manner of vegetarian Asian food, Berlin is easy street.

    @Sarah: Indeed, it was. And this is only the beginning. We had to cut and pare this list back from 25.

    @Ryan: We agree, lahmacun is possibly the best value of all. Lahmacun is also the sort of thing to eat if you are not looking for a huge portion.

    Glad we could be of service on the term gözleme. Very tasty comfort food.

    Currywurst? Find yourself a good bratwurst sausage and get your hands on some curry powder (should be easy where you are) and ketchup.

    @Pam: Middle Eastern food does to be pretty inexpensive. Mexican food, not so sure. For what you get, it can get expensive…maybe it’s the beans and avocado.

    @Jackie: Thanks so much for your comment and your description of a durum doner.

    There’s a whole discussion regarding the elements of doner (and whether it’s served in a flatbread wedge or a thin durum roll). We tend to prefer the durum you described.

    We too prefer the tangy garlic sauce as opposed to the sweeter, mayo-like sauces showing up.

    Good luck with your search for a genuine durum doner in the USA.

    @Penny: And when you do, you’ll have a handy list of awesome, cheap food in Berlin!

  5. says

    Never had lahmajo/lahmajun with salad rolled up in it before – sounds great, will have to try it next time I’m in the near East

  6. Casey says

    Please, please do the post on top bakeries, breakfast and brunch! Would love to see your take on the best grainy German bread, geback, kuchen and whatever it is that Germans eat for brunch.

  7. Jackie says

    Thanks for your comments. I have another challenge. There is a very short video on YouTube entitled Turkish food, Doner Kabab It starts by showing the sign over the front door on this little shop in Rome, Italy but it only advertising. No shop name given. Viewing this, it made me think this was exactly the doner I got in Berlin. I would love for an English speaker who lives in Rome and is familiar with the shops to go by there and make inquiries about the ingredients. What meat is used on the spit? Was it all lamb or do they use beef between the lamb on the spit? Find out what the bread wrap is? Is it purchased or made in the shop? What is in their yogurt-garlic sauce with the right proprtion. I might not be able to return to Berlin but if I can import the main ingredients, I will!

  8. says

    @Tom: I don’t remember rolled up lahmacun when we visited Turkey, but that’s not to say they don’t do it like the Turkish folks in Berlin. We’d be interested to find out, actually.

    @Casey: I’m afraid we’re probably better on the international and Turkish breakfast and bakery side of the Berlin eating scene. In any event, we will post something and update the comments here when we do.

    @Jackie: Next time we’re in Rome, we’ll have to check it out. I imagine there has to be a doner recipe somewhere online, or at least, an idea of which ingredients go into the making of one. Or, perhaps, doner is like sausage: the end product is good, but maybe you’d really rather not know how it’s made.

  9. agathe says

    NOTE: The original intent of this piece was to include bakeries, breakfast, brunch and a few gems between 5€ and 10€. But it was simply too long. If there’s interest, we will cover that in a separate piece.

    Oh yes there is interest! I am in Berlin just now and for a few more days – would love to have bakeries and brunch recommendations, even in the form of a draft to my e-mail address if you don’t have time for a new entry :)

  10. Jackie says

    To Agathe who said she is currently in Berlin. Please, please find an imbiss that makes Doner Kebab with the large, flat bread -durum and uses a garlic yogurt on top of the salad ingredients. Please learn where the bread can be purchased and if the yogurt is sold in jars. Are the vertical spits made with 100% lamb or does it contain beef as well? I would love to pay you to do this research for me and if you can, find out if the durum is made by each imbiss or can it be ordered from some Turkish bakery. ‘
    I particularly fond of those imbisses on Clay Allee in the former “American sector.”
    I don’t have your personal email address but if you will contact me via my personal email, I would love to communicate further. Thanks!

    Jackie
    jp55@wt.net

  11. says

    @Brad: Kreuzberg — fun neighborhood, great food. We are returning to do some work in Berlin in a few days. And I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in part because of the food. Just a matter of getting a few tips on where to look, particularly for all manner of Turkish food.

  12. says

    This is exactly what I needed! I am planning my second backpacking trip to Germany this Spring, and since I’m on a very limited budget I’m going to make myself a list of cheap and acceptable eats from all over the country.

  13. says

    @Eez: In Berlin, this is the way to go. It’s amazing to me when I read elsewhere that Berlin cannot be traveled (or eaten in) on a budget. Simply not true. Safe travels!

  14. says

    Woah! Berlin looks like every student’s dream come true. Cheap yet nutritious and tasty food.

    Also, external influences definitely give the city’s restaurant culture that extra edge. Sorry Ms Merkel – you were wrong, at least as far as Berlin is concerned.

  15. says

    @Sagar: Among German and European cities, Berlin is a student’s dream when it comes to food and value eating. So true about once foreign influences of Turkish immigrants from West Berlin and Vietnamese from East Berlin.

    Your note to Ms. Merkel…funny.

  16. says

    This Vietnamese influence comes as a real surprise. I have traveled across Europe and it is quite common to hear about African and Arab influences but Vietnamese is a first.I think this kind of serves as evidence to all those comments about Berlin being among the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Will definitely check it out sometime in the near future.

  17. says

    @Sagar: The Vietnamese influence is an artifact of the Communist era. It’s the same in Prague…large Vietnamese communities. In some cases, they came over on educational exchanges, in other cases they came over to work and pay off Vietnam’s debts. Then they stayed.

  18. Erio Beatz says

    This makes my mouth water! lol
    wonder if there is also such foods available in Dusseldorf? Berlin is too far away from my place, oh god!

  19. says

    Everything looks “interesting” – good would actually be the wrong word to describe it I would say ;-) I still haven’t tried the currywurst – feels like a must though!

  20. says

    @Josie: I don’t know if currywurst is a “must”…particularly when I think on the dozens of other recommendable eating experiences in Berlin.

    This also reminds me that meat in general, sausage in particular, is difficult to make it look good. It’s usually gray, greasy, etc. This discussion reminds me of this article we wrote about photographing food.

  21. says

    @Josie: If you do give currywurst a try, go to Curry 36 in Kreuzberg. There’s nothing worse than bad currywurst sauce :) Hope you enjoy some of the non-sausage items on this list :)

  22. Tommy T says

    Excellent choices here (I live round the corner from Gel Gor) and Tekbir is one of the best doners, just pipped by Imren. There’s a new street food party right on the river Spree launching this summer though, Bite Club.

  23. says

    @Tommy: You live in a fun kiez, just around the corner from Gel Gor. Another great thing about Gel Gor is that it is open 24 hours a day – always good to have that as an option for a late night snack. I’m glad to see more street food coming to Berlin. Maybe this will be the next big place for food carts?

  24. says

    awesome tips.. I am now in Berlin.. and I am hungryyy! :) Will definitely look into all those hot eats. Already started yesterday at Imbiss for naan pizzas, then Saigon for the mains then Mani Restaurant for dessert! Thanks for the tips:)

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