August 19, 2011

The Best Burgers in Berlin?

Berliner-Spezial No. 2: A Burger Showdown

Better late than never, I welcome thee to the second Footprint-Berliner-Spezial, and this time it’s about burgers. Burgers, you may ask? Why burgers? The reason is partly because I can and partly because they have become an integral part of Berlin’s fast-food identity.

It all began a few years ago, I am not sure exactly why, but it (rather conveniently) happened just around the time How I Met Your Mother had aired its classic burger episode. To those of you who do not know How I Met Your Mother: I’ll just have to shake my head in disbelief and say I’ve expected more of you. HIMYM is an American sitcom about five friends living and struggling through the Big Apple. As much as a great deal of the series is about the American obsession with dating as a way of life (more on that some other time), other parts of it are just about what makes New York the Greatest City in the Universe (a HIMYM quote, not necessarily the Footprints’ opinion).

Back to the Burger Episode, twenty minutes in which our five main characters run around New York in search of the perfect hamburger. They race between holes in the wall, rant about how burgers used to be better in the past and groan an awful lot (apparently the natural reaction to a really good burger). After watching it, I felt like groaning as well, but at the time, the only hole-in-the-wall in Berlin dedicated to burgers was the Kreuzburger. You could still find good – albeit pricier – burgers in real restaurants, but the very idea of running around in town looking for the best piece of meat in a bun seemed unattainably absurd.

Which is, needless to say, not the case anymore. Holes-in-the-walls dedicated to serving greasy burgers for humane prices have been popping up in Berlin like mushrooms after an autumn shower. If Berlin had its own proper HIMYM (Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten, anyone?*), one could think of shooting a classic burger episode even here.

But until that happens, you will have to be satisfied with Footprints in Berlin rising to the challenge of providing you with a basic guide to burger-holes-in-the-wall in Berlin. Over the last week, I have tried out seven burger institutions all around the city (with the main criterion being price/accessibility – these are NOT restaurants, but burger stands, the Low-Cost of burgers). They were then ranked according to the burger quality (I tried out the cheeseburger and the wedges in each hole-in-the-wall in order to have a fix parameter for comparison). The ONLY real criterion for the ranking was the burgers’ quality (and value). Other factors (like ambiance, service and variety) will be described, but I will try to keep their influence on the actual ranking to a minimum. Now enough chatter. Let’s get down to work: Where can you find the best burgers in Berlin?

Overall Rank: 7: Burgers Berlin, Friedrichshain


If this Berliner-Spezial gave any credit for ambiance, Burgers Berlin would definitely be a bit further ahead. The inside is quite nice (considering the fact it is just a hole-in-the-wall), with neon-aesthetics well combined with a wannabe-diner look. The burgers are alright. They’re the bog-standard variety with a rather small chunk of meat (which wasn’t that exceptional to begin with). It is not bad, but something about their burger just felt an awful lot like McDonald’s, which will – unfortunately – have to place them at the very bottom of the list.

Prices:
Regular Burger: 3.20 €
Cheeseburger: 3.40 €
Chips: 1.20 €
Wedges: 1.40 €

Why Ja? An actual diner-like place, onion rings.
Why Nein? Putting the bog in standard.

Burgers Berlin
Sonntagstraße 2, 10245 Berlin


Größere Kartenansicht

Overall Rank: 6: Burgermeister, Kreuzberg



This is not just me being contrary here, but it’s about time somebody said admitted that Burgermeister ain’t as good as everyone says it is. Sorry. True, the location is a stroke of genius: under the U-Bahn railings in a turn of the century-art-nouveau-look-alike public lavatories’ structure. It really is quite brilliant. Their number system is also a bit more customer friendly than anywhere else (they’ve actually got an electronic display, unlike other places where they just shout something into thin air). Maybe it’s the fact that you have to queue for too long a time and that it doesn’t take long to gather enough material of a hipster-bashing blog entry. Maybe it’s the fact that the buns we got could have been mistaken for charcoals and that the meat was fairly dry, but I just can’t really see why people go on raving about the place. And yet, if you make it through the queue: the sauces are good, the wedges are excellent and it’s the only place in town where you can get a Teutonic version of chips-and-cheese!

Prices:
Regular Burger: 3.40 €
Cheeseburger: 3.70 €
Chips: 1.50 €
Wedges: 1.60 €
(Cheese-fries: 1.90 €)


Why Ja? Perfect location, good number system, their bacon-cheese-fries (that grease galore is worth every pound you gain in weight), good selection of burgers.
Why Nein? Horrible service, long queues, dry meat, burnt buns.

Burgermeister
Oberbaumstraße 8, 10997 Berlin
www.burger-meister.de


Größere Kartenansicht

Overall Rank: 5: Hamburger Heaven, Kreuzberg

True to its location, the burger-stand on Graefestr. is all about friendliness and organic-vibes. Everything is clean and nice, not to mention this being the only place where they offer two degrees of organic meat: “Freiland” and “Bio”, with the difference being that the Bio-animals had been fed organically themselves, whereas the Freiland-cows might have roamed freely through the green meadows of Northern Germany, but their nutrition was based on Lidl produce. Be it as it may, take the “Bio” burger if you come around, the difference is fairly rewarding. The less rewarding elements are the waiting time (there was no real queue and we still managed to wait for nearly 40 minutes out in the cold), the buns (they don’t fall apart, but they’re not tasty either) and the home-made sauces. As the place is all about being organic, they make their own ketchup, BBQ-sauce and the rest. It might sound good (and to be fair, it also tastes good inside the burger), but I’ve rarely been so frustrated as while trying to get some of their thick and sour tomato-spread (AKA home-made ketchup) on top of my chips (home-made as well, yet very good).

Prices: (add 0.50 € for Freiland and 1.00 € for Bio)
Regular Burger: 3.50 €
Cheeseburger: 4.00 €
Chips: 2.00/3.00 €


Why Ja? Very rich burgers, good quality meat, real cheese in the cheeseburger, good chips, nice service, the place also serves steaks for those who could not be bothered taking a burger.
Why Nein? No seating arrangements inside in case it gets either cold or rainy (as in 90% of the time), long wait, home made sauces, an overriding impression of trying too hard to be healthy.

Hamburger Heaven
Graefestraße 93, 10967 Berlin
www.hamburgerheaven.org


Größere Kartenansicht

Overall Rank: 4: Kreuzburger, Kreuzberg.

Tradition has to be rewarded in some way. The original Kreuzburger on Oranienstraße can be crowned as Berlin’s original burger-hole-in-the-wall. The space inside is much bigger than in most other places and is therefore also more suitable for winter escapades. Just keep in mind it’s fairly gritty – and not always the nice way. The burger variety is quite impressive, assuring that just about anyone will be able to find something. Their burgers are fairly standard, but the good way: the meat is good (their organic meat is even better), the sauces are just fine and their selection of chips is great. Just keep in mind that their “home fries” are fairly massive pieces of potatoes, whereas what you mean when you order “wedges” anywhere else would have to be their “country fries”.

Prices:

Regular Burger: 2.70 € (3.90 € for large/ 3.40 € for organic)
Cheeseburger: 3.10 € (4.40 € for large/ 3.90 € for organic)
Chips: 1.60 €
Wedges: 2.50 €

Why Ja? Good quality; standard burgers; large variety of burgers; good chips that come in more than one shape.
Why Nein? Not the nicest atmosphere.

Kreuzburger (Kreuzberg)
Oranienstraße 190, 10999 Berlin
www.kreuzburger.de


Größere Kartenansicht

Overall Rank: 3: Burgerium, Friedrichshain

Surprisingly enough, not one of Berlin’s well known burger institutions, but the hole-in-the-wall on Revaler Straße that seems to be there purely for the sake of large groups of drunken tourists on a stag-night tour of Berlin (i.e. who would be satisfied by just about anything, as long as it’s greasy enough) managed to get to the top three. Don’t let the place’s appearance blind you to their burgers: We’re talking about large, juicy burgers with tasty sauces and great chips.

Prices:

Regular Burger: 2.90 €
Cheeseburger: 3.30 €
Chips: 1.80 €
Wedges: 2.00 €

Why Ja? Good burgers.
Why Nein? There would be a fair chance to find oneself in the fire range of someone’s vomit in case you decided to sit outside.

Burgerium

Revaler Straße 8, 10245 Berlin


Größere Kartenansicht

Overall Rank: 2: Marienburger, Prenzlauer Berg 

If I handed hamburger-footprints for service, Marienburger would win by a large margin. The ladies at the till were inherently nice in a way you rarely see in Berlin’s holes-in-the-wall. As it is the only good burger institution in Prenzlauer Berg, expect a long queue due to parents and children negotiating matters of high importance at the till, usually followed by the same parents trying to calm down these same children once they start crying after the first “no”. The space inside is minimal. In summer, hope to get a seat outside, seeing how the street is actually quite pleasant and all. And the most important bit? Yes, the burgers. They’re great. Really. The standard burgers are already massive and the meat is good quality. The topping is otherwise quite minimal (with the buns, gherkins, onions and the usual sauces), but it still managed to be just right. The only problem was that I found the cheese to be quite horrid (they use the worst kind of American melted “cheddar”), but I know some people who actually enjoy an injection of radioactive chemicals into their burger and find cheeseburgers should be served without any real cheese. And yet, try out their Marienburger (double cheeseburger with slices of bacon), it’s a chunk of pure, greasy joy for the mere price of 5 EUR.

Prices:

Regular: 3.50 €
Cheeseburger: 3.80 €
(Marienburger – double + cheese + bacon: 5.00 €)
Chips: 1.40 €
Wedges: 1.50 €

Why Ja? Great burgers; good meat; nice service; the Marienburger.
Why Nein? Long wait; horrid cheese.

Marienburger Imbiss
Marienburger Straße 47, 10405 Berlin
www.marienburger-berlin.de


Größere Kartenansicht

Overall Rank: 1: BBI – Berlinburger International, Neukölln



The best burger joint in Berlin is actually a den. Or a pigsty, you choose. I reckon it’s appropriate, as we are talking about Newkölln and most people around would not be caught dead in anything less cool (or without the obligatory swanky moustaches and thick-rimmed glasses). The interior space is tiny and stuffy and the tables outside are just... well... not the nicest place on earth. However, go there. It’s worth every cent. The regular burgers are already massive (even though you can also order the “Nimmersatt” version for an additional 2.80 € and probably stuff your face with enough meat to keep your stomach busy for a week) and not always easy to get into a normal person’s mouth (mine is larger than most, so I am usually spared the need to cut things into smaller slices). But the main point is that the meat is great and the topping together with that lamb’s-lettuce is quite amusing. Even if you’re not the type who likes dens in Neukölln, you should try their burgers.

Prices:

Regular: 3.90 €
Cheeseburger: 4.40 €
Chips: 2.00 €
Wedges: 2.00 €

Why Ja? Great burgers, period.
Why Nein? Not the best space ever; their chilli-cheese-fries are quite strange (a layer of chips, covered with a slice of cheese, covered with nice, yet bland chilli con carne).

BBI - Berlinburger International
Pannierstraße 5, 12047 Berlin
www.berlinburgerinternational.com


Größere Kartenansicht

13 comments:

  1. huge disagreement here. hamburger heaven reigns supreme, i don't care how long it takes. the quality of their beef stomps all over everyone else's.

    bbi tastes like lamb. i don't want lamb in my burger.

    i'd put burgers berlin a distant second. i'm not sure how you call their meat bog standard since it's not frozen like most other places.

    all the other places on your list are terrible and would survive only if located inside a hospital cafeteria in the USA.

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  2. i can't follow the disagreement. it' true that hamburger heaven belongs into the top 3, but then i would agree, although i'm not sure which one would win. it's a matter of personal taste whether you like the slight taste of lamb at bbi, i do.
    and i think you're right about the lower quality standard in Berlin in general, but task was to find the best burgers here and this list did this quite well.

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  3. Have you ever tried BURGERAMT in F-hain? Or THE BIRD in P-berg? No? Then you missed the best...

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  4. @ Dennis:

    Quoting original blog post: "these are NOT restaurants, but burger stands, the Low-Cost of burgers."

    ...and what comes to Burgeramt. My god, it's the standard burger of all standars. Completely overhyped mediocre joint.

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  5. This post is exactly what I have been looking for all my life. Ok, maybe more like just this second- but absolutely love the reviews and completely agree Burger International is far and away the best.

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  6. The Bird is not quite as good as people say, way to expensive for the quality, but i agree with Dennis: You missed Burgeramt! Eventually BBI is my favorite too.

    My Ranking:
    07. Burgerdream
    06. Kreuzburger
    05. Burgermeister
    04. The Bird
    03. Burgeramt
    02. Marienburger
    01. BBI

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  7. "these are NOT restaurants, but burger stands, the Low-Cost of burgers"

    a normal burger + chips at BBI costs 5.90 eur. at white trash it's 8.00 eur, but you get to seat in a warm place, you can use the bathroom if needed and somebody will take your order and bring food at you table.

    the price difference is so small that i see no reason to go to one of those stands instead of a restaurant, sorry.

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  8. what about ROOM77 ??? and ZSA ZSA burger ?!?! i know they're not 'stands' but they're worth a mention.. the smudgyness of the room77 burger is to die for! whereas the sheer range of insane burgers combinations at zsa zsa tops any of the other places :D imho ! xx

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  9. Hamburger Heaven is by far the best, at least when their bioland-burger is available.

    And second is one that is not even on the list, but maybe they opened after this post was made?
    Anyway, after Hamburger Heaven the place to go is Burger De Ville, Hardenbergstr. 29 in Charlottenburg. Great meat, very nice dressings for their fries (parmesan/garlic for example).

    BBI is probably third, their beef patty is however pressed to hard, so it feels a bit "manufactured", and in general terms it is far below the two top spots.

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  10. Well I don't know if I'm ever going to come to Berlin, but thank you for this guide, it's very well done!
    Please visit

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  11. Thanks for a really nice post. I realized that there are so many nice restaurants here in Berlin. Will definitely try some of these out!

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  12. Sorry but the best Burgers in Berlin ar Burgermeister & Burgeramt! watch this Burger Test, and you tell the difference only from watching it! http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgIHLABn_f6kt8PqOPNC3NPNAO8bk-yiz

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  13. I think it's a very "tasty" and well-structured post, congrats! Check out my blog and my post about the best burgers and attractions in Berlin at: letstravelonburgers.blogspot.com

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