Allow me to let you into two – connected – secrets. Guide books have lots of value if you need maps or information on who designed a famous building. But they are useless when it comes to the fast changing eating scene. Even the most up to date is out of date.
Worse – and this is the second of my two secrets – guide book writers are like so many food journalists. They just repeat old lists, over and over, without bothering to to go to taste and evaluate what is actually served at these places.
It might be down to economics. You don’t earn enough from writing a guide book to Berlin to make it worth your while updating restaurant knowledge – there’s the effort and the cost of all those meals! Or it could be just laziness.
Take Mustafas Gemuse Kebap for instance. It’s a kebab stall (we in Berlin call it kebap) – and one of very many in the city. It’s on Mehringdamm, a main street in southern Kreuzberg.
So what’s different about it? Why will people queue for 30 minutes, one hour or even longer to try this doner kebab? It’s a street stand. There are no musicians or dancers or acrobats or jugglers. Or posh table cloths.
The first clue is that it is open seven days a week. The second is that it has a super cool website. And the third – the most crucial – is that it appears all over the place as a top Berlin recommendation.
Has anyone tried this critically? Remember that quote “Hunger is the best sauce”. Here it is the most apt. If you are ravenous most anything will taste good and their customers are often ravenous. Or they want something to soak up all that beer.
Thus all the great reviews started – and they just get recycled. Additionally no one wants to admit the stood in line for perhaps two hours to get below average food from a tourist trap.
And that my friends is Mustafa’s in a nutshell, a tourist trap. A top ten tourist trap. You don’t see many Berliners in the queue. Even fewer are those of Turkish origin.
It’s not disgusting but there are so many better than this. To keep up with the crowds they slice the meat when barely done, allowing it to cool and congeal, the cold fat coating the vegetables.
The chicken is not well seasoned, and while the greens are good the cold fat does them no favours. Nothing special about the sauces (despite the claims) and the tiny sprinkle of cheese is not enough to forgive the rest of the composition.
The doner kebab is our number one street food and you get a meal for ten euros or so. Some are bad, some are great. Mustafa’s is mediocre, effectively just a tourist trap and best avoided. You can find much better for your euros!
Address: Mehringdamm 32, 10961 Berlin