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BURGER GUIDE: What’s between your buns?

In this year's food issue, we decided to revisit Berlin’s most-hyped, best burger places and dig a little bit deeper into that meat we put in our mouths. The result? Our beefiest burger guide ever!

Image for BURGER GUIDE: What's between your buns?
Tommi’s Burger Joint. Photo by Erica Löfman
Practically every other week, a new burger joint pops up claiming the title of Best Burger in Berlin. Long gone are the days of the thin, often frozen patties at German and Turkish joints. Over the past decade, enterprising expats from the US to France, from Iceland to Italy have created a whole new burger culture – and even the Germans have gotten in on the fun. Who gets it ‘right’ is subject to much intense debate. We decided to revisit Berlin’s most-hyped, best burger places and dig a little bit deeper into that meat we put in our mouths.
BUNSMOBILE 125g local, free range beef topped with Irish cheddar: €6.50
Great sauces made from scratch!
Judging by who’s flipping them in Berlin – tattooed, bearded types – burgers are a dude thing. Not here. Since late 2013 the female half of a French- Canadian duo, Mathilde Bayle, has been doing the cooking in a former US army truck repainted canary-yellow. Found at festivals and street food fairs throughout the Hauptstadt, Mathilde’s delicious meat patties are made from Franziskaner young bull beef sourced from local free-range farms in Brandenburg by Neukölln’s Blutwurstmanufaktur. This is a juicy, lush burger, cooked to a perfect medium rare, topped with Irish cheddar, red onions, pickles and arugula (tomatoes only when seasonal). The mayo, Dijon and grainy mustards, BBQ sauce and ketchup are all homemade and quite special. For the ultimate French touch, let them add a dollop of butter on each half of the slightly toasted buns (€6.50). For another euro, you’ll get a 4mm-thick slice of crispy, threehour- braised bacon on top. A burger topped with golden homemade onion rings sets you back €7 (they’re €3 as a side). Desserts (éclairs, tatins) and specials vary according to season and the chef’s imagination. Neue Heimat, Markthalle IX, Bite Club… (check Facebook/Twitter for whereabouts)
BERLIN BURGER INTERNATIONAL 190g beef burger topped with Chester and Tilsiter: €5.90
Chilli Cheeseburgers!
Riffing on the first name of the still-yet-to-beopened new airport (Berlin Brandenburg International, now just BER), BBI has been flipping budget-friendly burgers for Neuköllners since 2010. Its name has long been bandied about as the best burger in that ‘hood – and at €5.90 for a cheeseburger, and €2 for fries (€4.90 for chilli-cheese fries), this in one of the cheaper “gourmet” burgers in town. Owner Thimo Gladel offers a decent 190g of “young German bull” on his burgers, delivered fresh and pre-ground every day from a Neukölln butcher. For the same price as the cheeseburger, spice lovers should make a beeline for the “Chilli-Cheese-Burger” (€5.90) with cheese, bacon, salsa, jalapeños and chilli flakes. It’s sloppy, not fancy… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In-store seating is sparse, but wait till the summer months and you’ll find the wide Pannierstraße pavement outside packed with burger fiends. Pannierstr. 5, Neukölln
SCHILLERBURGER 150g beef shoulder/brisket burger with cheddar: €5
Home-baked buns!
With thick burgers you can sink your teeth into and affordable prices, it’s no wonder Schillerburger’s become a neighbourhood favourite in Schillerkiez – and beyond. Their burgers range from €4.50 for a basic burger to €7 for a topping of goat cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto and grilled peppers, with free-range Neuland beef available for €2 more. The favourite, though, is their standard cheeseburger, the “Glocke” (€5). A combo with fries (€2.50) and an Afri Cola (€1.50) is €9, but you’ll definitely want to upgrade to the “Jungfrau von Orleans” sweet potato fries (€3.50). They buy their toppings from a Neukölln market and source their meat from a local butcher – only shoulders and brisket. The burgers are cooked medium with the right amount of pink inside. And then there are the sesame buns, fresh from their own bakery. Since its 2012 opening, Schillerburger has expanded to Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and most recently Pankow but the locations are very small – go with a small group or plan for take-out. Herrfurthstr. 7 and Karl-Marx-Str. 223, Neukölln, Schönleinstr. 34, Kreuzberg; Wühlischstr. 41/42, Friedrichshain; Berliner Str. 11, Pankow
TO BEEF OR NOT TO BEEF 200g local, free-range beef topped with Scamorza: €12.50
Ciabatta bun and fancy Italian toppings!
Despite its catchy Shakespearean name, Schöneberg’s To Beef Or Not To Beef is a proud Italian steakhouse, the kind of place where you’re greeted with a friendly “Buena sera!” and lured with lavish plates of antipasti. Skip the long list of pasta and Tuscan steaks on the menu and indulge in their cheeseburger (Hausburger, €12.50): a handsome 200g-patty made from house-ground meat and served Italian style, on slightly toasted focaccia with molten Scamorza smoked cheese on top, plus copious arugula and balsamic-dressed fresh cherry-tomato salsa. The meat is delivered every day from a farm near Jüterbog in Brandenburg, where the cattle supposedly spend most of their time grazing outside. The homemade fries cost an extra €4 but taste so good you’ll eat every one. Watch out for their monthly burger: In January, it was gorgonzola-spinach-walnut. Akazienstr. 3, Schöneberg
LILY BURGER 200g organic dry-aged Black Angus topped with Irish cheddar: €9
Tallest burgers in town!
Don’t be fooled by that floral name: Lily Burger is the bullring amongst burger joints, where burger and burger eater have an equal chance. After 10 years working at various burger restaurants, owner Rocco “Rokko” Saleha made headlines when he opened near Hermannplatz in late 2013, serving reportedly the tallest burgers in Germany (30cm high!). At €7-15 per burger, prices are commensurately high but nonetheless reasonable given the quantity and quality of meat in that mountain: some 200g of organic Black Angus raised at the Zempow Bio Ranch (the same supplier as Burger de Ville), dry-aged for 28 days, ground directly at Lily’s and cooked medium or medium-rare. Organic handcut fries and wedges (€3.50) provide a toothsome, crispy interlude. The only problem, really, is picking just one burger among the 23 on the menu (10 vegan options!), with toppings like spinach, mushrooms, halloumi, guacamole, jalapeños, Parmesan or dried tomatoes. Ach, first-world dilemmas. Urbanstr. 70, Kreuzberg
VOLTA 180g Black Angus beef from USA and South America topped with cheddar: €12 (with fries)
Homemade BBQ sauce!
Opened by graphic designer László Trepák and three friends in mid-2012, the still-hyped gastropub Volta offers a popular, sizeable beef patty covered in their sweet-salty-smoky housemade bacon BBQ sauce and topped with melted cheddar on a brioche sesame bun, baked especially for them by a Berlin bakery and crowned with onion rings. The burger comes with a generous portion of distinctly thin, crispy fries and a Spreewald Gurke. Spice things up with optional jalapeños for an extra euro. The meat is Black Angus, sourced in the US or in South America, cooked to a perfect burger texture. The venue itself deserves a mention: a former shop pavilion beneath a huge public housing complex with minimalist, industrial décor. Perfect for dinner before a night of clubbing at nearby Stattbad, or for lingering over a beer and pondering whether Wedding might actually be the next big thing. Brunnenstr. 73, Wedding
WHITE TRASH FAST FOOD 200g organic Black Angus beef topped with Irish cheddar: €10.50 (with fries)
Organic buns and the original Ami attitude!
Berlin XXL rock ‘n’ roll burger emporium White Trash Fast Food single-handedly introduced the “no-bullshit” burger culture to Berlin: fuck-you attitude, a foul-mouthed menu and seriously tattooed, multi-pierced, English-speaking staff. Owner Wally Potts got started by catering to the long-gone Mitte underground with a stall in 2000. Three ever-larger, ever-more popular venues and a lengthening list of American favourites (ribs, steak, etc.) later, burgers are still the focus: 200g of organic beef from Brandenburg, lodged in a no-lessorganic bun from Kreuzberg’s Beumer & Lutum Bakery. They get a whopping 80-150kg delivered daily, which they grind themselves. Coming in at €10.50 with chunky signature “Fuck You Fries”, it’s not the cheapest burger on our list, but it could be argued that the organic Black Angus is worth it (and you can get a half-size for €7). Four euros for a Coke is steep, but at least it’s Texas-sized. Having abandoned gentrified Mitte last year, White Trash now inhabits a former car showroom in front of the Arena complex, complete with hipster-friendly beer garden, inhouse tattoo parlour and live music four nights a week. Am Flutgraben 2, Treptow
TOMMI’S BURGER JOINT 150g organic Black Angus beef from Scotland topped with cheddar: €6.75
Great meat and free condiments!
A recent addition to the Berlin burgerscape, Tommi’s already had a few feathers in its cap before opening in a dark, high-ceilinged space on Invalidenstraße last year. Owner Gudmundur “Gummi” Gunnarsson, a tall Viking with a bushy beard dyed blue, opened his first Tommi’s 10 years ago in native Reykjavik before expanding to London and now Berlin. His recipe for success is simplicity. No agonising choices here: it’s either the regular burger or the veggie burger for €6.25, the cheeseburger for an extra €0.50 or the steak burger for €8.90. The meat is excellent: 18-percent-fat beef from various organic Angus farms in Scotland. It’s delivered fresh every day to the restaurant kitchen, where it’s ground and grilled by a team of cheerful Icelanders in plain sight over a backdrop of high-volume classic and indie rock. It’s not a huge burger, but it’s a memorable one, brown and crisp on the outside but pink and juicy on the inside. To make things even better, you can add as many free-of-charge condiments as you fancy – from mustards and ketchups to local Crazy Bastard hot sauce to Tabasco, jalapeños and sliced pickles. The hungry should jump on the “Offer of the century”: €9.90 for a burger, a beverage and crispy, thin-cut fries (€1 extra for sweet potato) that are so low on the grease that they hardly stain their paper wrapping. End with a Kjörís vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce (if it’s not sold out) and a shot of Icelandic akvavit. Invalidenstr. 160, Mitte
THE BIRD 250g Brandenburg brisket topped with American cheese: €11.50 (with fries)
Best value in Berlin!
When The Bird steakhouse opened on Falkplatz in 2006, Prenzlauer Bergers hardly knew the taste of beef, let alone burgers. It was the first serious challenge to White Trash’s hegemony and has set the standard for picky carnivores ever since. Now it’s got four branches, including restaurants in Hamburg and Cologne; the latest outpost opened to much fanfare in Kreuzkölln last year. American Jonathan Cook prides himself in “old school” burgers – you won’t find chichi toppings on signature ‘Da Birdhouse’ (€11.50), but you will find a thudding 250g of Brandenburg brisket, ground on-site and perfectly griddled to your liking (although asking for “well done” will earn you a scowl), topped with American cheese or Cheshire, accompanied by a mountain of homemade fries. Berlin’s largest burger claims one of the city’s smallest buns – an English muffin, in fact – but here the meat clearly is king. Not that hungry? Beg for the kid’s size, which at 150g is actually larger than most patties in town and a steal at €6! The blaring classic rock can render chit-chat difficult, but if you like your meat in magnitude and immersed in no-nonsense Americana, this is your place. Book in advance. Am Falkplatz 5, Prenzlauer Berg; Kottbusser Damm 95, Kreuzberg
BURGER DE VILLE 150g organic Black Angus beef topped with Emmental: €4.60
Black Angus and funky fries!
Tucked in among placards telling the history of the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie, Burger de Ville’s silver Airstream trailer can easily be overlooked. But it shouldn’t be. Launched in 2013 by Austrian Jürgen Klümpen to promote the 25Hours design hotel in the high-rise behind the Bikini shopping centre, it was given the boot and moved to the current spot last year. Their bestseller remains the mouthwatering cheeseburger topped with Emmental (€4.60 for a single, fries not included) and served on toasted buns baked fresh according to their own recipe at a local bakery. But what about the meat? De Ville uses organic Black Angus beef from the Zempow Bio Ranch in Wittstock, Brandenburg (the same supplier as Lily Burger). Aged for 28 days, ground fresh on-site – Checkpoint Charlie never had it so good. The location makes it an obvious tourist favourite, but the quality of the beef and “funky” fries (€2.50) cooked in peanut oil and topped with garlic-parsley sauce are enough reason to stop by for take-out before it closes at 6pm. Friedrichstr. 48, Mitte Originally posted in issue #135, February 2015.