It’s that time of the year again, that time when Berlin fills with a myriad of hollywood stars (well, at least 6 or 7 of them) and various people flock from all over the globe to enjoy Berlinale (the global film festival, incase you are lacking in knowledge). This presents a couple of challenges for those of us gluten afflicted, one, where to eat in a city where you likely don’t speak the language and traveling to find restaurants is pretty low on your priority list, and two, where to eat in those 25 minute gaps you get between stuffing your eyeballs with filmy goodness. So, I decided to take it upon myself to help a little, to cut down on the amount of places you’ll have to rifle through.
First off a bit of general information about Berlin itself. You are going to find that most people here have no idea what you are talking about when asking for gluten free food, whilst it is becoming more common to find gluten free items in supermarkets, in restaurants I’m generally met with bemused looks or flat out incorrect information. Definitely bring a translation card with you as basic English is usually spoken around the main tourist areas, but often not to the extent to explain your ailment.
Now, if you want to eat some good food, avoid the main two areas of the festival that I’m covering here, Potsdammer Platz and Freidrichstrasse. Whilst the latter is a little better, Potsdammer Platz is a tourist trap of overly expensive bad food. So, if you can spare the time, look through the few reviews I have on the site and examine the google map of places, it is well worth traveling. Especially to places like Cha Cha, which is around 5 to 10 minutes away via the U2 and they have gluten free options clearly marked on their menu, plus if you have a free day, be sure to make it to Sauvage as everything there is gluten free.
But, if you are unable to travel or simply wish to stay around the festival, then this guide is for you. Although, I wouldn’t use this as a list of ‘places I can eat gluten free food’, but more as a research tool to aid in finding options, mostly as I haven’t eaten at most of the places listed and I cannot guarantee they are gluten free. All restaurants here either have items on the menu which are usually gluten free, or the staff have told me that they are gluten free (although I wouldn’t expect that information to be too reliable). Basically, it’s going to be tough and risky to eat in these restaurants, but it can be done. Plus, I’d expect there to be a high likelihood of cross contamination everywhere. If that is a worry for you, then this first option would be best.
The Safest Option – Make It Yourself
If you’re unwilling to risk eating in the restaurants (understandably), you’ll most likely want to make your own food. Fortunately you can do this with two shops located in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden ( the shopping mall). On the basement floor, on the North East corner past the restaurants, is DM.
From the outside you’d probably think it was just a drug store with no food, let alone any gluten free options, but they have a pretty good selection.
Lots of bread options, plus many biscuits, snacks and cereal bars. Personally my favourites are the Ciabatta Rustica mini-rolls (review) and the normal loaf Rustica.
Then, at the far opposite end of the basement floor is Kaiser’s, not the best supermarket in the world but they do have a pretty good range of meats, spreads, cheeses and salad for inclusion in a sandwich. Alas, they don’t sell anything gluten free.
Its also worth noting that both places have some lactose free products available, DM has Minus L milk and Kaiser’s has some pre sliced cheeses.
Potsdammer Platz – Around Alte Potsdamer Strasse
This is the side street inbetween the sony centre and the arkaden, there are quite a few restaurants down here, mostly chains and tourist traps though.
Best Option 1 – Maredo
They are the only restaurant in the area where you can display the gluten free items on their online menu > Link. They are pretty much just steaks with sides, but the staff should at least know what you’re talking about.Googlemaps Website
Best Option 2 – Mesa
In my opinion one of the better looking places on the street, with a fairly small menu that you can pick and choose from with what looks to be a few gluten free options (sausages usually are here), but as with all places on this list, check first. There is a German menu on their website, but they do have an English menu on display outside.Googlemaps Website
Desperation Option 1 – Mommseneck
Not a huge amount that can be eaten here, but they do have a few German dishes and Berlin specialties which can be usually eaten (eisbein/beef liver), plus there are English menus available outside. I had no joy with the staff understanding gluten free, but you may have better luck.Googlemaps Website
Desperation Option 2 – Oscar & Co
Not much that can be eaten here, the usual standby of salad, soup and steak.Googlemaps Website
Desperation Option 3 – Weilands Wellfood
While better than the other two, at least to minor degree, there is only some salads available and the staff couldn’t guarantee anything was gluten free, but they do make it there and then so you can check what they are putting into it.Googlemaps Website
Potsdamer Platz – Inside the Arkaden
There are quite a few restaurants/snack bars on the top floor and basement level, mostly what you would expect in a shopping mall.
Best Option – Pomme de Terre
Most of their menu is off limits, take a closer look at their (rather odd) display case, it’s basically everything in breadcrumbs.
But, they do sell baked potatoes in quite a large variety of options. Plus, they have the option of just buying a plain baked potato, ie. without anything that could be gluten-laced sprinkled on top.
The second page there is with bacon and onions, or with eggs etc. (although stay clear of the Kartoffelpuffer as they’re made with flour)Website Googlemaps
Best Dessert Option – Caffe e Gelato
Whilst containing no real food, they do have plenty of delicious ice cream, and as a rather nice touch they have all the options which are gluten free written in the menu. Mostly this just means that you can order the larger dishes without worrying about a stray wafer or selection of gluten filled crumbs being included. All the gluten free items have a little logo in the corner as below.Website Googlemaps
Desperation – Play Off
There’s something about this place I find a little odd, I think it’s the faux 50’s US diner furniture just out in the open of a normal mall. Inside of a faux 50’s US diner building, it would be tacky, but not quite as misplaced. The food is as you would expect, faux American, there are no gluten free options marked and the staff had no idea what gluten free was. But, if you’re craving meat, you can buy a steak.Website Googlemaps
Desperation – Basement Options
Down in the basement the restaurants seem to be mostly run in a fashion akin to McDonalds, as in, cheaply employed staff who don’t really know too much about the food. The best option would be Asia Gormet, they do have some dishes served with rice that contain no soy sauce, but you’re relying on the staff member you get to tell you which is which.
Nordsee has a few pre-packaged salads on display.
There is a sushi place called Sushi Circle, but I would recommend avoiding it. I inquired about their use of gluten and specifically if they used traditional Japanese soy sauce (which is generally gluten free), I was told that their soy sauce doesn’t have gluten, but that there are tiny droplets of it in the food. I’m thinking this was a translation problem, as the idea of them taking gluten free soy sauce and adding droplets of gluten seems odd.
Elsewhere around Potsdamer Platz
A little south of Potsdamer Platz (between the S-bahn and U2 lines) on Stresemannstrasse there are a couple of options, the first being Cara’s Cafe, located on the south east corner of Potsdamer Platz/Stresemannstrasse.
It is, surprisingly, the only cafe that I could find in the area serving pre-made salads without any of that nasty gluten filled pasta or cous cous stuff, plus they have little cards in front of each with a list of ingredients. The coffee is passable and the ambiance is akin to a starbucks, although it is one of the few places around to have free wifi (for 30 minutes, ask for a username/password when ordering). Get there early as the salads tend to dwindle in numbers quickly around lunchtime.
A few doors further down is the FBI Eatery, seemingly a mix of Thai and generic asian food, with the option of a couple of dishes served with rice. Although the staff weren’t able to assist in the gluten free options when I asked, specifically if the ricepaper wraps had any soy sauce or other gluten ingredients, you may wish to try your luck though, here’s their menu.
On the street of Potsdammer Platz, directly inbetween the Sony Center and the Cinemaxx Cinema is Andys Diner, another faux American place with a couple of options, mostly that they have breakfast dishes which are not available in any of the other places (eggs, bacon, hash browns etc).
If you wish to stay within the Sony Center, there are a few places with Lindenbräu being the better of them. They have a pretty good selection of German food and a few safe options (like baked potato), but I find the staff to be quite useless and (understandably) they seem to have a hatred of tourists. Check out their menu.
There is also Josty, much in the same vein with German dishes, here’s their menu.
To follow, Part 2, Friedrichstrasse.