When it comes to German cooking, you can most definitely expect the wurst… Pardon the pun, but it is, true that sausage in all its infinite varieties is a staple on German menus.
Sure, there are still restaurants clinging to the clichés but you don't need to look very hard to discover that German cuisine has solidly arrived in the 21st century. Nowhere in the country is this more apparent than in cosmopolitan and trendsetting Berlin where next-gen chefs like Tim Raue of La Soupe Populaire have made dishes lighter, healthier and more refined without sacrificing authenticity.
The organic and locavore trends have also made huge inroads. More often than not ingredients that end up in pots and pans follow the seasons and are hunted and gathered regionally. Rather than Argentine steak or Australian lamb, menus are more likely to feature apple-fed pork from the Havelland, pike-perch from the Müritz Lake District or duck from Neuruppin. The ample use of rediscovered heirloom vegetables such as parsnips, turnips and Jerusalem artichokes ensures that there are also plenty of meatfree modern takes on the culinary past.
But don’t worry if you’re more the traditional type - there's no shortage of places in Berlin where you can still indulge in rib-sticking classic German cooking, Max und Moritz and Zur Letzten Instanz being among them.
There's much debate among Currywurst connoisseurs about which purveyor makes the best, and Curry 36 is certainly a strong contender. The Currywurst is a quintessential Berlin snack food invented in the city in 1947 by a woman named Herta Heuwer. Unfamiliar with this dish? It's a slivered pork sausage drizzled with tomato sauce and sprinkled with curry powder. The secret is in the sauce and every respectable sausage kitchen has its own homemade version. Flooded with customers at all hours, this roadside snack bar enjoys cult status and serves not only Currywurst but the full spectrum of sausages, including a Bratwurst (fried pork sausage), a Wiener (a thin hot dog) and a Knacker (smoked pork sausage) alongside fries, potato salad and other hearty sides. (+49-(30)-251 7368)
It's rare for a place to flaunt yesteryear flair, yet be a mere pup in terms of age. With its forest-green leather banquettes flanking rustic wooden tables and walls sheathed in wainscoting and vintage photos of Berlin, Repke gets the job done beautifully. For the past eight years, it has been the neighborhood go-to place for big portions of southern German faves, most famously cheese Spaetzle ('mac 'n cheese'), Maultaschen ('ravioli') and Flammekuchen ('French pizza'), all homemade of course. Add to these offerings seasonal specials duck and blackboard lunches and you know why you often have to shoehorn your way inside. (+49-(30)-8871-8672)
Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt
Bavarian coziness comes to Berlin courtesy of the Augustiner brewery, which operates this earthy beer hall-type restaurant right on Prussian-era Gendarmenmarkt, one of Berlin's most beautiful squares. Sit down at one of the long polished wooden tables and peruse the enormous menu while watching servers clad in dirndl dresses and lederhosen bring out big mugs of foam-capped beer and groaning platters of classic Bavarian fare. Dedicated carnivores should order the Haxe, an entire kilo (2.2 pounds) worth of crisply roasted pork knuckle. Daintier types can stick to sausages and a pretzel or boiled beef with fresh horseradish. (+49-(30)-2045-4020)
Joseph Roth Diele
The location on a decidedly ho-hum thoroughfare is deceptive, for this bustling 1920s-style bistro is no secret among fans of honest-to-goodness, budget-priced German fare. In fact, at lunchtime you may have to elbow your way inside to score a table in the tunnel-shaped room whose walls are festooned with old framed photographs and books by its namesake, the Austrian Jewish writer Joseph Roth. Roth had his domicile next door before being forced into exile in 1933. Given its literary pedigree, it's perhaps no surprise that the place is popular with the gallery owners, artists and journalists based nearby. If the lunch specials are gone, there's an entire menu to fall back on, featuring everything from small dishes like scrambled eggs with ham to such gut-fillers as roast pork with noodles and salad. (+49-(30)-2636-9884)
It's easy to walk right past this unassuming-looking little storefront bistro but that would mean missing out on a fantastic meal. This is not formal dining; it's a quick-in-quick-out hangout where you can watch veteran chefs Andreas Breuer and Stefan Kleinert give simple German dishes a refined and inspired workout. After helming various kitchens in Berlin, the two decided to leave the culinary rat race in 2010 and instead do what they love: serve great German food at reasonable prices. Aside from a daily changing lunch special, the blackboard menu features seasonally inspired dishes, including meatless fare and salads. Always on the menu are such perennial tummy-pleasers as Bouletten (meat patties) with fried potatoes and Wiener Schnitzel with homemade potato salad. (+49 (30) 2403 8543)
La Soupe Populaire
Berlin star chef Tim Raue has a knack for capturing the city's culinary zeitgeist. In his latest venture, he has ditched his Michelin-starred Asian crossover cuisine in favour of honest-to-goodness German comfort food and camped out in a disused 19th-century brewery. Amid raw brick walls, exposed pipes and shiny steel girders diners sit at vintage tables overlooking an art gallery. Don't expect beer hall-style pork roast, though. Raue's interpretations are all carefully calibrated modern spins on beloved classics such as Koenigsberger Klopse. In this perennial bestseller Raue pairs caper-laced meat balls with shredded beetroot and places both in a pool of Riesling-reduction sauce. The beautiful dish was even part of the state dinner he served to President Obama on his 2013 Berlin visit. (+49-(30)-4431-9680)
Nobelhart & Schmutzig
'Brutally local' is the philosophy of Nobelhart & Schmutzig, the new restaurant of star sommelier Billy Wagner who earned his stripes at the Michelin-starred Rutz and other reputable outfits before setting out on his own. Without exception all ingredients hail from producers in and around Berlin, while the fish is sourced in the nearby Baltic Sea. So don't expect salmon, avocados or even pepper but do treat your tastebuds to trout with chicory, goat cheese with elderflower or salsify root with hazelnut and currantbush. All ingredients are either fresh and seasonal or naturally preserved by using such traditional methods as pickling, brining and fermenting. There's no a la carte menu. Instead, all guests are served the same 10-course meal private-dinner-party-style right in the kitchen while Billy and his team do their magic. Kind of like one giant chef's table. Food allergies, by the way, can be accommodated. (+49-30-2594-0610)
Wine lovers and fans of hearty German cuisine cherish the Weinbar Rutz, helmed by Marco Müller who's also the mastermind behind the gourmet restaurant Rutz upstairs. Here Müller practices a more down-to-earth form of cooking that shines the spotlight brightly on quality ingredients from various German regions. Crispy ducks hail from Oldenburg, the black pudding bread has roots in Berlin, and the ox shoulder comes from Holstein. A true highlight, though, is the enormous wine selection with over 850 different bottles to choose from. The focus is squarely on Rieslings but there are lots of other German wines as well, many available by the glass. (+49(30)-2462-8760)