A recipe for a good night out in Berlin means planning accordingly:
Step 1: Plan with public transportation
Step 2: Prefunk with a delicious Döner
Step 3: Drink (good) beer
Step 1: Plan with Public Transportation
This step might be obvious for me, because I don't have a car in Berlin. BUT people usually use this option anyway. It means no traffic (there are a serious amount of road closures in Berlin due to construction that make car rides much longer), no need to search for limited parking places at your destination, oh, and, you don't have to worry about having one too many beers!
This step is also seriously easy thanks to smart phones. The public transportation network here, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (known by its acronym, BVG) has an app that helps you plan a trip or see when buses and trains are arriving.
But, in my opinion, even better yet is the Google Maps App. This helps you calculate a trip using car, bike (still in beta, but has worked great for me!), public transit, or walking. You can even add options like the day/time you are planning a trip in case the time tables are different on that particular day, or late at night.
I use this app almost every day and it has really helped me orient myself in Berlin and learn the various transit lines in a short amount of time.
It also helped me get out of a pickle during a wind storm this week when public transit went completely out of service and I had to walk home from an underground station I had only ever transferred at. The app helped me navigate my way around a huge (and, in the wind storm possibly, very treacherous park) and make it back to a street I was familiar with and could get myself home safely*
*Disclaimer: I always recommend reviewing the WHOLE route that Google Maps suggests BEFORE you embark just to make sure it looks right. Never blindly follow a piece of technology, sometimes following your intuition has a better outcome. Exhibit A courtesy of The Office:
Step 2: Prefunk with a delicious Döner
When one goes out, you need to presume you'll spend the night drinking delicious beer, so you need to plan the food pre-funking accordingly!
One of the best street foods to indulge in here is a Döner, or Doner kebab. This delicious cuisine came to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s when many Turkish immigrants came to the country as migrant workers. Today it is a staple street food.
Seasoned meat (veal, beef, or chicken) is stacked on a spear and spun on a vertical rotisserie. Each Döner is made to order - your choice of meat is shaved off right into a pita bread, with a garlic, spicy chili, or house-made sauce options (or be daring and combine them!), and vegetables that can include lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.
Step 3: Drink (Good) Beer
Beer in Germany is important. You don't drink [insert name of American brand beer here] Lite here. But that being said, there are a lot of traditional beers made here that follow the Reinheitsgebot, or German beer purity laws and sometimes you miss a good fresh hops beer or IPA.
Look no further than Eschenbräu in Berlin-Wedding. While the branding leaves a lot to be desired (yes, that is Comic Sans...), this is a place you MUST visit if you're into the beer scene.
It is a little bit like a Speakeasy to locate. When you arrive at the address, there isn't a bar or brewery to be seen - but on the corner of the building is a sign that directs you um die Ecke, or "around the corner". I put around the corner in quotes, because it is really around the corner.... through a little park, and around a second corner, where a strange glowing light guides you in the right direction, down some stairs and into a basement where the brewery is located.
This basement bar has a very old-school, southern German flair, but the servers were hip, super chill and used smart phones to ring up your tab table-side.
We enjoyed a seasonal Panke Gold #1 beer. We learned from our server that the numbers are tacked onto the end of the names to indicate batches of the beer. Every two weeks, they start a new batch of certain beers and number them so that regulars can try various batches and compare the taste.
The Panke Gold reminded me of a fresh hops IPA - it is unfiltered, was mild on the hops, but had a delicious, full-bodied flavor that was evened out by a bright, citrusy-floral pop (P.s. I'm not a beer aficionado, so don't read too much into that description!). Also, shout out to Washington, my home state: The Citra hops used to make this beer come from the Yakima Valley!
This beer didn't hit you over the head with flavor (or alcohol content) like some IPAs, so you could enjoy multiple throughout your evening. After several rounds of good conversation and beers, we said goodnight and I hopped back on the public transit nach Hause. A Friday night for the books!