Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Griechenland: Berzis in da Bezirk

As months go, April hasn't been without its hiccups. May isn't looking much better and I can't make G happen in perfect alphabetical order. But I can tell you where to get a good lunch for 3 Euros and that's something. It's possible that there are good Greek restaurants in other neighborhoods, but Schoeneberg seems to have the lion's share. Mein Mann would eat at Ousies every night if I let him and while Greek isn't my very favorite cuisine, Ousis does it well. So well, in fact, that it's really not worth going without a reservation. It's also not worth going with the elderly because it's always packed and always loud. From what I understand, it's not a lot easier to dine at Berkis sans reservation, but at least they have an Imbiss (right next door to the main restaurant). That means without planning ahead, you can get five different sandwiches or platters (gyros, souvlaki, ground beef or lamb kebabs, and a vegetarian version) along with the standard mezze (tzatziki, grape leaves, taramasalata, etc.) most any time. Even at the Imbiss, Berkis has a selection of Greek beers and wines. Most importantly, their sandwiches are really good. Berlin has no shortage of snack bars selling meat in flatbread (the Turkish doener is, of course, the most ubiquitous, but there are a handful of Arabic schawarma places and the ocassional gyros). They always cost somewhere between 2 and 4 Euros (you really want to avoid those 2 Euros ones, in case you didn't know), but there is a huge range in quality. There is an awful lot of scary meat (not to mention scary meat fillers - hint, if you can't see the individual layers/pieces of meat on the spit, they are using ground meat, probably with lots of filler) out there, but there is also too much bread that has nothing to say for itself (no flavor, no texture of note, etc.). There are way, way too many overly sweet mayonaise-y sauces that have no place in savory food (and I do love me a cheese and chutney sandwich) or really anywhere. Finally, there are too many places stuffing sandwiches full of sad vegetables. This is mostly true towards the cheaper end of the scale, but this being Berlin, nobody ever (and I mean not even in August) has a decent tomato. I've yet to find a place in Berlin that does all these elements really well (though I have to admit, despite having written a Master's thesis on the humble doener, I haven't made it my mission), but I am here to tell you that Berkis come close. First, they really have the meat down. They use all organic meat and both my gyro and mein Mann's bifteki (ground beef kebab) were really well-seasoned with excellent meaty flavor. I give extra points for making the bifteki to order - not something every Imbiss would do. Not to belabor the point, but there is so much cheap, flavorless meat in this town - I would absolutely go back to the sit-down Berkis and order something meaty. Berkis doesn't make their own pita, but it's actually quite good: fluffy and substantial enough to support the sandwich contents. My biggest problem with the sandwich was the meat to vegetable ratio, but I think I could tweak my ordering technique and fix that. I know it's traditional, but I don't think French fries have any place in a sandwich. A vegetarian friend of mine has fond memories of the all-French fry gyros she ate in Greece, but I just don't. So I asked for my gyro without potatoes. I should have specified: no potatoes, extra salad because was a tad heavy on the meat for my taste and it would have been helped by a more crunch from additional veg. I will say, though, that the tzatsiki is excellent and really puts those sauces available in every single doener Imbiss in town to shame. When you think about all the mediocre 3 Euro flatbread sandwiches out there, Berkis is really offering an amazing deal. If I can convince mein Mann that there's life beyond Ousies, I'm going back to get out Berkis' sit-down restaurant. Berkis Winterfeldstrasse 45 Taverna Ousis Grunewaldstrasse 16

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