Eats in Berlin: How long would you wait in line?

This is an odd week, isn’t it? If you follow me on the ‘gram, you know I’ve been struggling with this feeling of oddness since Monday, and then yesterday my dog slipped on the banks of the canal and fell down into the water with a big splash – not voluntarily, she prefers temperatures above 35 degree celsius to get soaked. I managed to pull her out by the neck, and she was fine 30 mins later, but, oh’ the drama. Anyhow, something’s off right now, and it’s even showing in my dining choices! From the three places I went to last week, only one was good. Albeit, the good one is a trustworthy choice: the people at Hallmann & Klee in Neukölln just know what they’re doing, hence the line out the door all weekend.

It’s not so much brunch they’re serving, but breakfast, some would say German breakfast. You should order the big plate filled with cheeses, cold cuts, jam and more which comes with lye rolls, sourdough breads and house made ciabatta. It might seem pricey at 15.50 Euro, but it’s enough for two if not three people if you order some eggs with it. And the quality of the produce used is prime.
That’s my usual issue with these kind of cold breakfasts served in many German cafés, the cheese they put on it is just meh. Don’t give me pre-cut slices of Milram and some white label Mozzarella from the discounter, gimme the good stuff. And then I’m willing to pay for it. We added silky scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, and it’s been delicious and plenty. Which was unfortunate since we couldn’t order the famed pancakes with maple sirup and roasted nuts. Bad planning, or just an odd week. Usually I don’t think twice about ordering a sweet dish.

What you need to know about Hallmann & Klee though: it’s packed. Especially on Sundays during brunch time. If you didn’t book a table (and the earliest available is usually three weeks from now, on the weekend), you might seriously consider showing up when they open doors at 09.30. And you might still need to wait a bit. We arrived at 10.30 and waited around 40 mins for our table. And when we left around 13:00, there was still a line outside. But I’m telling you: it’s worth it. I yet have to try their dinner, but it’d be really odd, if that wasn’t as good as the breakfast.

Speaking of lines: I was pondering the validity of a line in Berlin, is there a place with a line out the door that isn’t worth it? Strictly speaking about food places. Burgermeister is certainly not worth it, I also wouldn’t queue at Monsieur Vuong although I respect the history and importance of that place, but for example Cocolo in Mitte always has a line but is also kinda worth it (if you can’t just go to the Kreuzberg one and wait half the time). I’ve never queued at Mustafa’s but I know many people who’ll do it again and again. So, I can’t come up with a lot of places with huge queues that aren’t worth it, so would it be valid to say, a line in Berlin still shows you to the good spots?
At Hallmann & Klee it does.

Böhmische Str. 13

12055 Berlin Neukölln

Wed–Sat 09:30–22:00,
Sun 09:30–18:00

What about the other two places, you ask? Well, here’s the issue. One of them just recently opened, and I went against my usual rule of waiting at least three months for them to smooth out all the creases. However, it came with praise from not one, not two, but three friends who I (usually) trust 100% when it comes to food. Oddly enough, and despite only five things on the menu, we managed to order entirely different dishes then these three friends did. And all of them were.. bad. Mine was, unfortunately really, really bad, while the others just had bland food. I don’t wanna go into the specifics because I decided to not name them (going back to the rule of giving businesses some time to figure things out after opening). But I wouldn’t go back and try it again. (PS, after this disappointing dinner, we proceeded to watch the disappointing Queen movie which was also very much not cool, and ended the night on a disappointing bar visit, so we made it a theme.)

The second place also came with a recommendation of (another) trusted friend. However, I don’t think we received the same treatment as she did. They must’ve served her with a different style of food. Ours was so bland, it was barely there. Thing is, it wouldn’t be entirely unusual if this place decided to serve different food to different people based on their origin. And I won’t blame them for it, so no call-out for that one either.

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  1. Kieler on

    Reply

    This is one of the most disappointing posts I read on this blog ever. Why not naming the bad spots? If they were as bad as you claim, people should know about them. Especially the latter one: what do you mean “this place decided to serve different food to different people based on their origin. And I won’t blame them for it…”?? This is just ridiculous for someone claiming to support human rights and equality and so on. Just double standards. Ridiculous.

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      haha, this is a funny comment – so you assume you deserve to be warned to spend 10 Euro at a place which people I trust liked, but I didn’t?

  2. Christian Wu on

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    Dinner @ Hallmann & Klee: recommended! And they serve excellent natural wines from Viniculture. Fair prices!

  3. Cam on

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    i find German breakfasts the most unsatisfying, underwhelming thing ever. Cold cuts, cheese, bread – not even toast!- and boiled eggs. It’s all things I can make myself everyday. Give me homemade baked beans, waffles, corn fritters, shakshuka or something that shows a bit more effort!

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Ha, I (and many other Germans) really do love it, though. Might be a bit like a good old Abendbrot. It’s all about the choice of produce, though, and the effort to source those you won’t get in every market.

  4. Brockman on

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    Hm, for some reason it cuts out the beginning, sorry to spam the comments. If it’s a sit-down restaurant, it’s OK to wait ca. 30 min to be seated if there is the possibility to drink at a bar, or step out for a walk, but I would never wait in a line to put my name in to the host to be seated, or, at a takeaway counter if it looked like it was going to be more than a 5-10 min wait. I can count the number of times I have waited more than 30 min to eat from a takeaway counter establishment or food-truck on one hand, and every time I was utterly disappointed. Even if the food is good, it’s never ‘wow’, and by the time I am done waiting I’m irritated and the expectations are too high. There is always a place nearby almost as good (sometimes even just as good or better) where you don’t have to wait. You need to look at the big picture. I once walked by a certain kebab koisk in Kreuzberg when they were opening at 10.30am and there was no line. I ordered, and yeah, it was good, certainly above average, but my usual place down the road (where there is never a line) is better, and I cannot fathom how anyone would wait 30-60 minutes for the aforementioned kebab kiosk. To each their own.

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      That’s also a big problem of mine – the rising expectations when waiting in line, once you’re at your table you expect the food to be fabooosh to justify waiting.

  5. Kriss on

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    Hallmann & Klee – I agree that the quality is high there, but I had a bad experience with the service there. They confused the dish I ordered and brought me something with meat, which I don’t eat. Then they asked me if it is ok for me to eat it. It was not, I’m vegetarian and it was hard to separate the pieces and put the meat aside. So I waited another 30min for them to bring me my food and at the end they seemed to be waiting for the tip, which I of course didn’t give them.
    The other time I went there I saw a women asking them to use the toilet even though she was not a client and they made such a problem of of it…
    Not liking the attitude there.

  6. andi on

    Reply

    I would never wait in line for a restaurant table, unless it is clear that I`m waiting for the next free one and nobody is waiting in front of me. Ten minutes waiting time would be the max for me. If possible I have my name taken down and go for a walk around the area or for a drink in a nearby bar and return after after 30 minute or whatever time I agreed with the waitress. But I´d never ever consider standing in line for a table.
    Queuing for a restaurant is (in my eyes) a bad habit that has become common (in both senses of the word) in Berlin only in the last six-eight years. Queues outside restaurants put me off: I either make a reservation or I eat somewhere else. I´d rather enjoy a homemade sandwich at my kitchen table then wait outside a restaurant for forty minutes. I otherwise feel like loosing my dignity.

    I must say I do agree with one of the commenters above: Why mention bad experiences in detail when not naming the places!? It doesn’t make any sense. If you ever do decide to go again to one of them again, you always could mention “I went some months ago shortly after they opened and it was a bad experience because xxxxxx and now the food/service has improved/not improved/… – but your approach is just a waste of words written and read.

    On another note: I really, really agree with your comment about German Abendbrot and Frühstück. If the products are top notch, both are really enjoyable! And if the products are top notch the high price is so worth it. A place of good cheeses, cold cuts and breads is much more expensive than a stack of pancakes with Aldis Maple Sirup (which is often served in Berlin) or Eggs Benedict with ready made hollandaise – also not uncommon to be found in restaurants… Ohhh – I HATE the quality of many cooked brunch dishes!

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Well, this is a blog so it’s not a service but rather filled with my musings, whatever I like to write about and share. Not sorry you’re offended you “wasted your time” by reading that one paragraph.

  7. Eva on

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    What does it even mean, serving different foods to different people according to their (apparent?) origins? who does that, why, is it even legal?!

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Ha, why do so many people instantly assume there’s something illegal or maybe even nationalistic about this? When it’s rather a sometimes necessary business strategy that I don’t whole heartedly agree with, but that isn’t that uncommon and has many understandable reasons.

  8. Meredith on

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    I think the queue outside of Roamers Cafe in Neukölln is absolutely not worth it. Rude unfriendly staff and overpriced canned beans, not to mention the noisy atmosphere due to overpacked guest room.

  9. J. J. on

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    You can tell queuing for a table is still on the newer side in Berlin because the restaurants really don’t manage it well. Often there’s no bar to wait at, as another commenter pointed out, and they also don’t have a designated host dealing with the wait. I’m okay to wait if I can put my name down on a list and then chill at the nearest Eck-kneipe and get a call or text when my group’s table is ready. But here, for instance, I pass that Mitte outpost of Kuchi all the time and people are literally lined up on the sidewalk (which, for Kuchi, is like…lol). This is silly and not particularly enjoyable, when the whole point of going out to eat is to enjoy one’s self.

    Do you think the acceptance of waiting on a line for a restaurant is because people are used to waiting on line for clubs? Now it’s been extended to dinner! Oy.

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      So true! I can’t with the refusal of places to have a host dealing with the situation… however, the line at Kuchi isn’t for Kuchi (at least I hope so) but for the ramen place “Next to Kuchi”, which is famed Cocolo.

  10. Cristina Rozados on

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    It’s not to balance this comment section but… I like this post. I even would go that far and say that is a “good-influencer” post.
    It’s maybe because I also like German breakfast despite not being German (as long as there’s not Leberwurst or Mett involved, which I find gross).
    And it’s definitely because I fully support Mary when she decides not to name the “bad” places. Another four people didn’t find them bad, and maybe so do you.
    Finally, I was happy to read that somebody agrees not to queueing at Burgermeister or Monsieur Vuong (been there, done that, not doing it again). Ah! And thanks for the advice about Cocolo. Specially since days are getting colder ;-)

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      Thank you :-)

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