Update August 2015, Bullys is no longer serving Flammkuchen, but their pastries and cakes are equally fantastic.
Neukölln, the hipster-y part of Berlin south of Kreuzberg, where obviously no one speaks Deutsch anymore*, is the district that’s changing the most: a new third-wave-coffee store opens every day, another second-hand boutique every second. Of course not all of these joints can be successful, and many are indeed rather ill-conceived and quickly assembled, probably not here to stay.
And then there are the others–places where the still somewhat affordable rents of commercial properties enable smart ideas and convincing strategies to flourish organically, without the competitive pressure they might suffer in other locations. Long story short, Bully’s Bakery on thriving Weserstraße is one of these businesses.
Their concept is not necessarily original, offering a small but appealing variety of French baked goods aside from their very popular Flammkuchen. The former was what first convinced me. Entering the bakery during a stroll through the Kiez (where I also found the cosy Café Valentin), I went for a small cakelike muffin filled with sweet apples, its crispness just right, which made me want to come back and try one of the Flammkuchen. In case you never heard of it, some call it the German pizza, but it’s actually an Alsatian dish (called tarte flambée in French) made from a very thinly rolled out dough and, in its most classic recipe, covered with crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions, and bacon.
Bully’s Bakery serves the classic version, of course, but adds changing varieties to the menu, like an Italian one with tomato and arugula or the very delicious blue cheese one with pear and radicchio. I wouldn’t dare call myself an expert on the field of Flammkuchen (and I’m only saying that, because I know that there are people who actually would consider themselves exactly that), but I like these treats a lot. The dough is perfectly thin with just the right amount of topping so it neither feels to heavy nor too puny. Especially the blue cheese and pear variety tickles your tastebuds in the nicest way, the contrast of sweet fruitiness and intense cheese goes so well with the crispy crust.
I will come back, when I am hungry in Neukölln, that’s for sure.
*Let me add a brief comment to the “No-Deutsch-Diskussion” that recently flared up inspired by Julie Colthorpe and her rant on expats’ lack of German skills in Exberliner magazine (sic!). For one thing, I’ve never encountered the situation where I would order in a restaurant/deli/café and the waiter wouldn’t know any German or at least try to communicate in German. Although I have in the past offered speaking English instead of German multiple times after a bumpy start, especially to French waiters, I have no experience or memory of being faced with total incomprehension. What I have experienced, though, are rather weird comments about the fact that this very blog is written in English, although it’s made “in the German capital, about the German capital, by a German” (loose quotation of a comment I received some weeks ago). And sorry, but I don’t get that criticism either.
As someone lucky enough to have learned this very complicated beast called German as my first language, I am always amazed when people take up the neverending struggle to learn it past the age of, say, ten. And it often makes me a little proud (although this is a feeling very uncommon, even uncanny to the German me). But to demand a skill surpassing “Eine Schrippe bitte!” and “Aufenthaltsgenehmigung” would never cross my mind. Luckily, I’m not alone in thinking this, I’d like to very much agree and recommend Lauren Oyler’s response to Colthorpe’s article for a perfect explanation.