From shakshuka to sabich sandwiches, Berlin is home to a flourishing Jewish food scene. Young Israelis have been flocking to Berlin, drawn, like so many other young people, to its thriving arts scene. As a result, new bars and restaurants such as Kanaan in Prenzlauer Berg, a vegan-vegetarian joint run by a Palestinian and an Israeli chef, and Gordon, a cafe-cum-record shop in Neukölln, are springing up.
Bagels are also now prominent on the Berlin menu. “Whether it’s for homesick club kids from Tel Aviv, New Yorkers who can’t imagine breakfast without bagels, or Germans who want something different, there’s a big audience,” says Laurel Kratochvila, owner of Fine Bagels, who, with food writer Liv Fleischhacker, has organised Nosh Berlin (19-26 March), the first food week celebrating Jewish cuisine in the city.
The festival will take place at venues across the city and includes a one-day breakfast market at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg, serving dishes such as blintz pancakes and smoked fish. Goldhahn & Sampson, a bookshop/cookery school/delicatessen, is running classes (€69pp) on how to make challah bread, potato latkes (pancakes) and rugelach (pastries), and various supper clubs will host festive Shabbat dinners, serving Jewish-Roman, Jewish-Iranian and Yemenite-Israeli dishes (€40).
“Liv and I come at this from different backgrounds,” says Kratochvila. “She is a lifelong Berliner, with family and roots here; I’m an American transplant. In a way, that we’re organising this festival together is pretty representational of what’s happening with Jewish food in Berlin in general,”
We asked Liv and Laurel about their favourite places to enjoy a good nosh in Berlin:
Doron Eisenberg and Nir Izveniki have been serving Israeli treats in this Neukölln café since 2015. Nir runs the kitchen and makes the possibly best skhug (hot sauce) in a city that has little love for spice. The decor is the classic brick, unfinished wood, big windows and soft lighting of a Berlin coffee shop, but opens up to a record store, a nod to the boys’ other job as DJs. The bourekas are crispy, the hummus silky and the coffee excellent, but the best thing they do is their perfectly drippy, spicy, aubergine-heavy sabich.
• Sandwich € 3.90, Allerstraße 11, on Facebook
Don’t expect service with a smile at this iconic west Berlin delikatessen. However, what the ladies might lack in charm they make up for in their dedication to some of Berlin’s best smoked fish. The canteen-like Rogacki has been around for over 80 years and it’s well known for its perfectly smoked eel, smoked on site every day. This is one of those rare places that hasn’t been infiltrated with the new Berlin; fur coats and demure ladies in their 70s still reign supreme.
• Sandwich € 8.75, Wilmersdorfer Straße 145/46, rogacki.de
Jointly run by a Palestinian and an Israeli chef, Kanaan offers an excellent range of vegetarian and vegan delights and claims to make the best hummus in Berlin. It’s beside the train tracks and, on sunny days, there’s nothing better than sitting in the warm air and watching the trains go by. A particular crowd-pleaser is the turmeric rösti, a modern take on the German potato cake – hot, salty, fried, crisp goodness. Obviously best served with hummus on the side.
• Mains €7, Kopenhagener Straße 17, on Facebook
In what used to be Mitte’s Jewish Girls’ School, this is one of Berlin’s very few delis. The interior is kept delightfully modern and purple couches line the walls. Though most people rave about Mogg’s pastrami sandwich, we come here to fill up on its warming matzo ball soup. It’s exactly what you need during those grey Berlin winters – a soup that’s like a comforting hug served in a steaming hot bowl.
• Sandwich € 9.50, Auguststraße 11-13, moggmogg.com
Simple Russian Jewish fare at a great price is served in this conveniently located spot in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. Expect a lot of vodka, pickled eggs, herring, mushrooms and caviar. It’s nothing if not decadent, though at a very fair price, and is also one of the few places in Berlin where you’ll find the often talked about, yet not often enjoyed, gefilte fisch chopped fish patties. A good way to cap off the evening is an order of Pasternak’s sweet blinis, filled with almond paste and hot sour cherries.
• Mains € 15, Knaackstraße 22/24, restaurant-pasternak.de