Berlin has 13 Michelin-starred restaurants. Its celebrity chefs are making-over classic Prussian dishes like ham hocks and rediscovering black salsify. Mitte boasts more sushi bars than parts of Tokyo. Yet Berlin will forever be associated with the Currywurst. In the time it takes you read this post, more than 5,000 of these spicy sausages will be eaten in Germany. That’s more than 2,000,000 every day, or an astonishing 800,000,000 portions per year. This week’s walk takes you to my favourite four Currywurst spots in the capital.
The Currywurst Crawl
Our mini-Super Size Me tour begins in Prenzlauer Berg, under an elevated section of the U2 at Eberwaldestrasse. Konnopke’s is Berlin’s oldest stand from which the family has sold sausages since 1930. In the open, under the rail line, surrounded by portraits of Dietrich and dancing Berliners, you can experience ‘Tradition mit Geschmack’ (call it, Tasty Tradition).
For those who don’t (or would rather not) know, a Currywurst is a hot pork sausage cut into slices, covered in curry powder and a sauce made from tomatoes, onions, chilli, sugar and vinegar as well as a ‘secret ingredient’ such as apple puree, fruit juice and even Coca-cola syrup.
Hop on the U2 and head south to Mehringdamm (U6/U7) to sample the wares of Curry 36. To many, Curry 36 serves the best Currywurst in town. Certainly the stall is open for the longest time, from 09.00 to 05.00 every day, and is especially popular with clubbers heading bed-wards after tripping the light fantastic at nearby Kreuzberg nightclubs.
Back-track now to Alexanderplatz (U2/U5/U8), and the ultimate Berlin al fresco dining experience. In Alexanderplatz, grillwalkers sells Wursts from a mobile kitchen strapped around their neck, rather like old time cigarette girls (with tomato stains). As your stomach wrestles with its third sausage, pause to consider the Currywurst’s origins. In the hungry years after the Second World War an enterprising Berliner housewife, Herta Heuwer, hit on the idea of spicing sausages with curry powder. She bought an old van for 35 Marks and started selling the cheap and filling snack on a street corner, thereby assuring her place in German culinary history.
But why has the Currywurst remained a Berlin obsession? In part because – like Berliners themselves -- it is honest, down-to-earth and a bit rough (with an irresistible spice). Also because of its democratic credentials; it is best eaten standing around a small bistro table, rubbing elbows with businessmen, shoppers, hookers and bus drivers. But even poor-and-sexy Berliners like to go up market once-in-a-while, for example to Bier’s Ku’damm 195. Catch the S-Bahn to Savignyplatz and stroll along Kurfürstendamm to where Gerhard Schroder, Boris Becker and even Tom Cruise like to munch on the most abstracted form of the pig. And if you are in a celebratory mood, or just pleased to have survived this digestive Armageddon, Bier’s sells miniature bottles of Moët & Chandon champagne. Enjoy!