Couchsurfing with a Vegan in Berlin
On my second visit to Berlin, I used Couchsurfing to meet a super cool guy who offered to host me for a few nights. If you haven’t heard of or used Couchsurfing, definitely check it out- it promotes a very real style of travel that connects people from all parts of the globe, opening up their living quarters to fellow travelers in a mutual and cultural exchange! Such great experiences to be had- great new friends, adventures, just do it! Trust me on this one!
Anyway, I digress. My Couchsurfing host was a vegan and total foodie, at which point I knew I had picked the right place to stay. Now, I can’t claim to have ever eaten a vegan diet, or even vegetarian for any significant length of time, but I have a deep appreciation for the lifestyle and food when it’s prepared at its best! (Admiration even, as I know deep down that I could never really do it, never forever give up chicken Phad Thai or smoked salmon, fried calamari or bacon…) One day I’ll give up meat for awhile, to see how it feels- but when traveling, I abide strongly by “eat everything to get the best cultural experience!” But when vegan food is done right, it’s a nourishing and creative work of culinary art in my mind, and I think it can taste absolutely amazing.
So off we went to experience Berlin food, vegan style! The city’s crowning glory of street food is without a doubt the donor kebab (some say they surpass those in Turkey!) So clearly, a vegan kebab had to be found. My host took me to a small café called Voner (“Der Vegetarische Doner”) and we ordered a round of doners. Perfectly spiced “meat”- I’m guessing they used some sort of tempeh because it had a great smokiness and texture that perfectly complimented the fresh veggies and sauce!
Later, walking amidst industrial warehouses-turned nightclubs, hunger called again and this time for vegan dessert at a late-night vegetarian cafe called Emma Pea. The vegan apple cake was delectable, perfectly crumbly and apple-y!
The following evening, my host and I went in search of another German specialty: the currywurst. One spot in the city serves the vegan version out of a hole-in-the-wall, and we enjoyed the curry-laden faux meat and sweet potato fries from paper plates at a small sidewalk table. The verdict on vegan currywurst? Quite good! The meal itself was smaller than we expected, but the texture and taste was satisfying, if not quite identical to meat. But something different and new, and the curry sauce was perfect- not too spicy or sweet but something right in between, and great on the fries too.
A trek across town later (Berlin’s vegan restaurants should really all be in the same district!), we got hungry again, so found a restaurant called Viasko for some serious dessert action. A quick perusal of the menu showed some great vegan dinner options, which I unfortunately can’t report on… but would love to go back and try! We split 2 desserts; the first was a pina colada cake bursting with citrus flavor, a nice light glaze, and accented by some raspberry sauce on the side. Truly lovely with perfect texture; never would have known it was vegan. But the second- oh the second! Let me just preface with this: tiramisu is my favorite dessert in the world, and I had the good fortune to eat it homemade in Italy by an Italian mom this summer, and that was quite the experience. But somehow, and I can’t even explain how or why, but this vegan version was quite honestly the most decadent, creamy, intensely flavored piece of tiramisu that has ever passed my lips (pardon the X-rated food talk here…) I can’t possibly tell you what non-egg-or-dairy magic they used to replicate and maybe (don’t tell Italy!!) even surpass every aspect of a traditional tiramisu, but the perfect balance of coffee, vanilla, cream and lady fingers was so present in every bite that I don’t even want to know the answer. I just want to go back there and eat more tiramisu. Preferably today.
So whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or just in the mood for some good, plant-based grub, Berlin is definitely a great spot to find amazing meals where you’ll never miss the meat!