When it comes to street food, This Middle Eastern trinity can hold it’s own against any other region’s offerings, if not in variety then at least in tastiness.
The fact that two of these dishes are vegetarian/vegan and two can be eaten standing up (or walking if you are in a hurry) makes them ideal for our twisted 21st century where you eat healthier to be able to endure more stress.
The best two places for shawarma/döner can be found within walking distance of Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg.
Imren offers probably the closest experience to a real döner in Berlin. The meat is high quality and the flavor authentic. Unfortunately the portion size is a bit on the small side and the staff can sometimes be rude to non-Muslims so I can’t give them the first place.
Maroush serves excellent Lebanese shawarma from either chicken or beef. The beef usually runs out by the evening, but the chicken one can be enjoyed up to 1AM making it a great late snack option. Both versions are very good and the garlic and hot sauces really add to the quality. The falafel is also decent but not as good as…
I have a confession to make: I’ve never been that big a fan of falafel. It can be quite nice but IMHO it pales in comparison next to Egyptian ta’amiya. While falafel is made from chickpeas the Egyptian version is made from fava beans which gives it a richer taste. Unfortunately it’s extremely rare to find Egyptian style falafel outside Egypt and inside Egypt it’s too dark to read.
Dada in Mitte is probably the best known falafel in the city and the quality is definitely good enough for the average European/American palate, even i eat it sometimes.
Mamo in Friedrichshain has the unfortunate problem of being located on the wrong side of the warschauerstrasse train station but I sure hope it survives and prospers because it offers excellent falafel in 3 different flavors and you can stuff your own pita with pickles and salads and drown it in sesame sauce till it drips down on your pants which is the only way to properly eat falafel.
Saving the best for last we finally arrive at the crown jewel of Middle eastern food. If there was a hummus stock on NASDAQ I’d be putting my money where my mouth is and piling in. Fresh hummus is full of healthy ingredients including Omega 3 acids and protein, it’s filling and will keep you supplied with slow-releasing energy for the remainder of the day (traditionally it’s a field worker’s food served for breakfast or early lunch) and it is oh so delicious. I’ll take excellent Hummus over almost any other dish and luckily for me Berlin has two great Hummus joints.
Zula offers refined Israeli style hummus in a nice cafe atmosphere in trendy Prenzlauer Berg. The real highlight here are the homemade Pitas which are the best in the city. They also serve hummus with meat and mushrooms and have other traditional dishes on the menu.
Azzam is not a place for a first date. Located in Neukölln’s “Gaza strip” it offers some of the dirtiest toilets in the city and oozes slightly stuffy air instead of quality. Having said that, it is one of Berlin’s most recommended restaurants. Here’s the thing: you can get great steaks, fab pizza and classy french food in every big city on the globe, but there are very few places outside the Middle East where you can find such fabulous hummus dishes. My favorite is the musabaha: a rawer version of hummus with whole chick peas and garlic, the best meal you can get for three and a half euros.