Last night I strayed from my mission again by skipping lunch, and ending up at Max & Moritz, the only true German restaurant in my immediate neighborhood, for an early-ish dinner. This place has been open since 1902, so I figure they must know what they're doing when it comes to German food.
After being judged by a waitress when I told her I was eating alone, I was seated in a cozy spot next to an old wooden spiral staircase. This is a true Wirtshaus--- a warm, cheery tavern with tons of candles and jolly people. To add to the charm, there was actually a choir rehearsal going on in the back room while I was there, which made me feel like I was in some sort of German fairy tale universe. There was a special buffet set up for the singers, who were practicing what sounded like classical Christmas music.
While I was waiting I got some warm brown bread with quark, a German thing that I've come to love. Unlike some other Europeans, Germans seem to love cream cheese. When my brother and I had French exchange students at our house, we liked to tease them by making them eat cream cheese, which they found to be highly disturbing and gross. I think the French might hate quark less, though. It's kind of like a very light, thinner version of cream cheese, with a consistency somewhere in between whipped butter and crème fraîche. German cooks use it as a healthy spread and in cheesecake, which I think is what makes the cake here so good.For dinner I ordered goulash, which is something I've had a few times in Berlin but avoided writing about because I thought it was Hungarian. It is Hungarian, however it's apparently a popular dish in a bunch of countries in different variations. I was a little confused when I got this goulash, because it was more of a soup than a stew, with chunks of beef but nothing else. Later I realized I ordered "goulashsuppe" (goulash soup) rather than just goulash, which is a stew containing, at least in Germany, potatoes and dumplings. Still, the soup was incredibly hearty. The broth was thick and tasted like red wine and spices, with ridiculously tender chunks of beef that fell apart in the best way when prodded with a spoon.
When I looked around my solitary table to see what other people were eating, I realized that some people were staring at me. On one hand, I think they were confused as to why I was treating myself to a rich German dinner by myself. But even more likely, I think they might have been wondering what would bring a young person to this kind of place, where the crowd is mostly mid-forties and up. They were probably asking why I wasn't hanging around with other 20-year-olds in one of the asian restaurants or döner places that surround this singular haven of German authenticity. I think the only time a young person would think of entering this place would be if their parents brought them there on some sort of special occasion. As I work my way from seriously traditional spots onto to the more stylish, modern ones, I wonder if I'll start to encounter more people my own age.
Max & Moritz
10969 Berlin Kreuzberg
Tel: +49 30 695 15 911
Open everyday from 5 pm