It was Nurman who first had the idea of stuffing roasted meat and salad into a pitta to provide busy Berliners with an on-the-go snack, although there are plenty who dispute its origins, arguing that the sandwich had been eaten in the Middle East long before Berlin claimed it as its own. From street food feasts serving ramen burgers and pulled pork sandwiches to farm-to-table restaurants opening every month, Berlin’s culinary scene is rapidly improving. But for a long time, the city’s main claim to fame was the invention of the doner kebab by Turkish immigrant Kadir Nurman in the 1970s.
Whatever its beginnings, Berlin is sticking to its story and on 16 July celebrates the history of the kebab with a street food festival in Kreuzberg. Gathering newcomers and established kebab makers in one place, Kebabistan is organised by, among others, Kavita Meelu whose name is synonymous with Berlin’s burgeoning food scene.
After establishing the internationally known Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Neun in 2013, Meelu’s latest adventure explores topics such as food heritage, German identity and cultural exchange through food.
I asked Meelu about her favourite places to enjoy a perfectly grilled kebab in Berlin:
For more than 20 years, Adana Grillhaus has been serving large plates loaded with tender chargrilled meat and accompanied by a plethora of meze. The 40-seat restaurant is located amid the hustle and bustle of Kreuzberg, often referred to as Little Istanbul, thanks to its long-established Turkish community. If you’re lucky, you can get a seat next to the open kitchen, watching the grill masters preparing the meat the traditional Adana way: minced meat of lamb, under one year old, mixed with tail fat.
• Mains €6.50, Manteuffelstraße 86, +30 612 77 90, adanagrillhaus.de
Konak Grill: Izmir Köftecisi
Located just off Kottbusser Tor station in Kreuzberg since the early 1990s, this small food stand specialises in kofte, freshly grilled meatballs made of minced lamb meat. Konak Grill serves its kofte stuffed in sandwiches with fresh herbs including mint, rocket, parsley.
• Sandwich €3,50, Reichenberger Straße 10, +30 615 92 66, konakgrill.de
Fes – Turkish BBQ
Opened last year, this restaurant next to Hasenheide park is already a crowd-pleaser. What distinguishes the newcomer from the established kebab makers is the contemporary twist of using table electric grills instead of charcoal. This way, everyone can gather around and grill their own meat. According to Meelu, the meat quality is among the best you can get in kebab places across the city.
• Hasenheide 58, +30 239 177 78, facebook.com/festurkishbbq
Tucked away on a small side street next to Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg, Doyum is known for its tasty meat cooked in the style of the grillmasters from the city of Gaziantep in southern Turkey. Additionally, the flat bread is baked in-house and always served fresh. A must-try from the menu is the shish kebab, the small cubes of lamb meat served on roasted aubergine purée. “Don’t forget to order a side of lahmacun, stone-baked flat bread smothered in a very thin layer of minced lamb, tomato and spices,” says Meelu.
• Mains €11, Admiralstraße 36/37, +30 616 561 27, doyum-restaurant.de
Focusing on Lebanese and Iranian specialities, this place in the Moabit district, which is the only recommendation outside of Kreuzberg, is an institution and a must on the kebab map in Berlin, according to Meelu. Owner Hassan Khreis and his team offer a Persian version of the kebab called kubideh, which Meelu describes as, “a plate of perfectly grilled minced lamb kebabs, served with fluffy saffron rice, grilled tomato and a plate of Persian herbs and raw onion”.
• Mains €5.50, Huttenstraße 69/70, +30 391 11 19, el-reda-restaurant.com