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Monthly Archives: January 2013

‘Sup y’all, it’s everybody’s favourite Randonneurs back on the scene. First of all, it still seems almost appropriate to wish all of you a happy New Year – have fun, be healthy and I hope that whatever 2013 has in store for you proves to be good and enjoyable. After this very memorable summer, the last days of 2012 proved to be just as thrilling for the Randonneurs. Read on to learn more:

It was just shortly after Christmas and our two heroes were still quite well-fed when they decided to go on a hunt for the most distinguished prey that calls the streets of Berlin its home: the Döner (as those in the know call their kebap).

After dozens of borders crossed and hundreds of kilometres cycled, this was a task that required courage and stamina as well as culinary expertise. The Randonneurs’ newest feat would be remembered as the Half a Döner Tour.

The idea was simple, and it was born on a late ride in the dark. Arriving tired and hungry at a kebap house in a remote part of this town, they found themselves lacking the money to treat themselves to a full Döner each. Knowing they both needed nourishment for the way home, they decided to have the Döner cut in half and shared it like brothers.

And as they chewed away, they said to another: why not visit the most famous Döner restaurants of all of Berlin’s numerous districts and put their fame to the test?

So what’s it all about?

In case you didn’t listen: the idea is to visit each district’s purportedly best Döner shack and share one. The rules are (luckily enough) simple.

Everyone loves a Döner’s versatility, so we decided to take turns at configuring them. So at each restaruant, we try a different combination of sauces, vegetables and bread to make things more interesting.

Now you will agree that the sauce is a Döner’s heart and soul, but it does most certainly not stop there. Bread is darned important and it gets increasingly difficult to find a Döner hut that uses good bread. Meat quality is crucial, as I learned the hard way after eating a bad Döner in Spain and spending a week battling the salmonellae somewhere between bedroom and bathroom. Not fun. And finally, the vegetables play a role, too. They are our friendly little helpers and have all the vitamins and such.

There’s a rating for each of the Döner’s elements, and they are pretty straightforward. So a meat rating of 1 or even 0 will most likely have you end up vomiting (be it from the taste or the food poisoning) while a full 7 is almost impossible to achieve (but it can be achieved, as we will see).

But we all know that eating is not the only thing to do at a Döner restaurant. We found that it was vitally important to thoroughly examine the sanitary qualities of each and every place. We also found that this part of the Döner experience would need an especially highly objective categorization, so we came up with a highly sophisticated rating system. We give you a percentage of just how good going to the toilet is for your spiritual well-being in every particular restaruant. You wouldn’t believe what we saw (if you do, you have a really twisted imagination, my friend). Low percentage = hold it until you are safe again. OK, you might have guessed as much.

So, on a surprisingly dry day sometime in late December, we wrapped ourselves in plastic (they said it would rain), hopped on our bikes and sharpened our toothpicks.

Here’s what we saw:

First stop: Imren Grill 2
Badstr. 46, 13357 Berlin (Mitte)
2012-12-29 11.27.33

Fabled Imren Grill 2 is well-known among residents of the Gesundbrunnen area. The local population is mainly of Turkish origin, many claim that Döner was invented in Berlin and kebap restaurants are almost exclusively run by Turks around here. This said, just following the most basic rules of logic one can expect Imren Grill 2 to be an excellent choice for top grade Döner, and one would indeed assume so rightly.

Our heroes started the day with an especially delicious breakfast:
2012-12-29 11.33.09
Self-made Lahmacun (flatbread garnished with spicy tomato sauce and mincemeat and baked to exquisite crispyness in a stone oven) adorned with yogurt sauce (chili and herbs) and then stuffed with first grade meat, fresh lettuce and vegetables.

Jay already was a frequent customer at Imren Grill 2, so let us see what Ben had to say about his share of the meal: “Something’s different about this one … this might be the best meat I’ve ever had in a Döner!”. That’s right, Imren Grill 2 serves deliciously tender and mild meat marinated to perfection. The vegetables are mixed with a generous dash of parsley to top off the taste. The fact that there are lemon juice bottles on each table speaks a language of its own – experts will agree that no Döner is complete without a hint of lemon.

2012-12-29 11.36.09

The restaurant sponsors an Ayran fountain, which might conjure a peculiar image with those not acquainted with this refreshing, salty yogurt drink but, again, is a sign of the excellence that customers can find at Imren Grill 2.

Some of you might wonder if this rapporteur might be a tad biased. Well, he certainly is, but really, you should go and judge for yourself.

For now, let us see what verdict the Randonneurs’ taste buds have reached:

Bread: 4/5
Meat: 7/7
Vegetables: 2/3
Sauce: 3.5/4
Toilet: 74%
Ayran fountain count: 1

What a good way to start a day. On we went…

Second stop: Meraba Neuland Döner
Greifswalder Str. 32, 10407 Berlin (Pankow)
2012-12-29 12.39.42

It was just a short ride to get to our next destination, and almost getting run over by a fat guy in a small car with a White Pride bumper sticker on it did not make it too pleasant. Rot in hell, you bastard. The street is for everyone.

Would it have only been for the area, the ride would have been most pleasant: we went to Prenzlauer Berg, a former hipster quarter turned family friendly residential area.

Meraba Neuland Döner is what you would expect in a neighbourhood such as this – something between a coffee shop and a Döner restaurant. We sat down and looked out the huge glass window while our Döner was being prepared.

While Prenzlauer Berg quickly became one of the most exciting places in Berlin after the Wall came down, it has certainly changed a lot. A lot of the students that moved there because of the ridiculously cheap rents still live in this area, and they have transformed it as they started to earn money, got married and had children.

So nowadays, one will find organic food markets where music halls used to be, and the once low living costs have risen drastically. Meraba Neuland Döner is no exception, and the first thing one notices upon purchasing a Döner here are the extravagant prices.

The second thing, however, one notices, is that the meat is produced organically and that they actually serve four kinds of yogurt sauce instead of the usual three here. Extra flavour translates to extra high sauce rating, of course.

There are more things to notice, for example the “Dönermann” hand puppet that is being advertised on one of the walls, but they are hardly worth mentioning.

The eating experience at Meraba Neuland Döner is, first of all, marked by a noticeable silence. There is hardly a sound, no radio is playing and people order their food with a soft and low voice.

The food is, as one would expect, excellent, even though the meat is not quite as perfetly seasoned as it is at Imren Grill 2. It is topped off nicely by the fresh and juicy vegetables, and the good and crunchy bread gives its contents an excellent shelter. I have already told you about the sauces, and they deserve a full ranking not only for their diversity, but also for their remarkable taste.

At a place like this, I was especially curious to examine the toilet, and I was surprised. I had to fumble around in a dark corner for a while before finding the light switch, and the actual bathroom seemed to come straight out of a horror movie. It was perfectly clean, but its looks nevertheless gave me the creeps:

It is a single, white-tiled room, just a little too big to be just a bathroom. For some reason, there is a heating pipe coming straight out of the floor ending in mid-air. In the corner, there is a dreadful duck toilet brush holder that only a mentally deranged person could have thought up. Just the place to enter, have the door fall shut behind you and wake up on the floor with several of your vital organs missing with that duck staring at you.

All in all, still a place I would recommend. Let us turn to the numbers:

Bread: 3.5/5
Meat: 5.5/7
Vegetables: 2.5/3
Sauce: 4/4
Toilet: 62%
Average noise level: 18 dB(A)

By the way, the heating pipe is not for floor heating. I enquired.