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The Köfte King of Kottbusser Damm

Kral Kavurma-Köfte is a little food hut on Kottbusser Damm whose new inhabitant looks as if he's here to stay.

Kral Kavurma-Köfte on Kottbusser Damm. Photo: Luka Godec.

If you’ve been to Moviemento Kino or cycled between Kotti and Hermannplatz, you’ve noticed it: a curious little stand-alone hut whose ownership seems to change every few years or so. For a while, it was a branch of Sudanese Imbiss Nil, then one of those suspiciously cheap falafel joints that were ubiquitous around 2015. Next came burgers, then an extremely short-lived ramen shop that also sold Pommes and fried chicken. So far, so forgettable.

kral köfte, a decadent dish where patties are laid atop bits of grilled bread, smothered in tomato paste and yoghurt

There’s something different about its latest incarnation, though. Few realise that for the past 17 years, the food stand at the edge of Hohenstaufenplatz has been owned by the same man, a Turkish entrepreneur by the name of Kemal Salis. Now, rather than rent it out to yet another zeitgeisty concept, he himself has taken the helm.

The result, called Kral Kavurma-Köfte, is dedicated to a genre Salis refers to as neue türkische Küche, or “French brasserie cuisine auf türkisches Art”. Which isn’t to say you should expect steak-frites. At the centre of the menu is köfte – not the dry, salty meat logs you might’ve tried elsewhere, but moist, coarsely ground Akçaabat-style patties, made with German beef and flavoured with homemade sauces.

Köfte-King Kemal Salis serving his deliciously juicy köfte. Photo: Luka Godec.

Salis himself is from Konya, “where the whirling dervishes are”, but has been a Kreuzberger since 1980. A trained chef, he opened a handful of since-shuttered grill and kebab houses before taking over and renovating the former public toilet on Kottbusser Damm in 2005. After running it as a köfte stand for a short time, Salis eventually stepped out of the kitchen to focus on other projects, like running the student apartment building Salis-Residence, volunteering as a citizen deputy for the district of Kreuzberg and, in 2011, spearheading an effort to raise money for earthquake victims in eastern Turkey.

He managed the burger and ramen restaurants from a distance, preferring not to step into the kitchen himself. At the beginning of 2022, though, he decided to give his passion project a try. 

Today he can be found at the shop most of the time, serving köfte in sandwiches or as kral köfte, a decadent dish where the patties are laid atop bits of grilled bread, smothered in tomato paste and yoghurt and finished off, tableside, with a drizzle of melted butter. It’s a must-order, as is his juicy, lightly spicy version of the meat stew sac kavurma, made with beef, lamb or chicken and served in a wok-like pan. For breakfast, there are epic plates of cheese and olives as well as the baked egg dish kiymali yumurta.

A half year after Kral Kavurma Köfte’s opening, word has begun to get around that the little hut on Kottbusser Damm is finally worth a visit, with a stream of positive Google reviews and a growing number of neighbourhood regulars. Salis isn’t surprised that his levelled-up take on his home country’s cuisine has found fans, but he’s certainly proud of that fact. “Of all the things that have been here, this one’s been the best-received by far.”

  • Kral Kavurma Köfte, Hohenstaufenplatz, Kottbusser Damm, tel 0177 4849085, daily 8-3
A Köfte sandwich fit for a king. Photo: Jane Silver.