Whenever I’m new to city and looking for restaurants, I have one simple rule: follow the queue.
I am well aware that looking for places with long queues might take me to some touristy locations. However, it has also got me to taste some of the most delicious food of my life, from an amazing bowl of ramen at a tiny outlet called Toto Ramen in New York to the famous Tian Tian chicken rice at a hawker food stall in Singapore.
Therefore when I arrived in Berlin, I looked for places with the longest queue.
Berlin is home to the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey. The first settlements of Turkish immigrants in Germany began in the 16th century, but the most notable influx came in the 1960s with West Germany’s labor recruitment agreement.
As a result, Berlin boasts some of the most authentic and mouth-watering Turkish cuisine, especially the beloved twilight-hour kebab known to many who have blazed through a night out in Berlin. But only one stall draws a line of both tourists and locals at all hours of the day. It’s called Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab.
I can’t really think of any other kebab joint that has a collaboration with a fashion label, their own commercial, over 10.000 Facebook fans, and at any given time a line that stretches at least 50 m past the shop.
Every day in Berlin’s trendy Kreuzberg district, hundreds of hungry customers wait in line, for what can be hours at its peak, to sample Berlin’s best-known kebab. “They must be giving away free food or perhaps a celebrity is making sandwiches, ” I thought when I first discovered this treasure. In reality, it’s just an average day here.
When I finally arrived at the counter, I took a moment to congratulate myself for having the patience to wait for almost 40 minutes. Then, I marveled at the gigantic chicken rotisserie gently roasting as it slowly spins as my mouth watered, and one of the guys asked me for what I want.
I ordered the famous Hähnchen Durum mit Gemüse (Chicken Wrap with vegetables). There is a choice of three sauces: Kräuter (herb), Knoblauch (garlic), Scharf (spicy), and an array of fresh salad & roasted vegetables. Then, the pièce de résistance a crumbling of Feta cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice add a freshness that elevates a Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab above the average kebab. It was so delicious.
With so much hype surrounding the kebab stall, it would be easy to write Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab off as a Berlin’s tourist trap but the truth is that the kebab here is something special. Maybe it’s the secret sauce or the tender meat. Maybe it’s the fresh roasted vegetables. Or maybe it’s true that “Hunger is the best sauce” – After you queue for an hour, everything will taste good.
Nevertheless, I’ve been living in Berlin for more than 4 years now and every time I crave for a nice kebab, I find myself queueing at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab.
Maybe the old adage is correct, “The best things in life are worth waiting for.”