Best Doner Kebap Berlin Food Stories Per Meurling 1
Best of Berlin

The Döner Top List

When you come to Berlin you have to eat a Döner Kebap, it’s as simple as that. The warm meat sandwich with Turkish origins, in all its messy and juicy glory, is an integral part of Berlin’s food DNA. And with over 1000 Döner restaurants (some say 1500) scattered across the city, the next Döner shop is never more than a stone’s throw away in Berlin. Be it for a quick lunch, between work snack, or the 5am stomach filler after a night out, you can always count on the Döner to save you.

“Be it for a quick lunch, between work snack, or the 5am stomach filler after a night out, you can always count on the Döner to save you”

My personal relationship with the Döner Kebap is a very intimate one – some might even call it an obsession. I’ve spent the last decade combing every Berlin district for great Döner sandwiches, trying far more than 100 of them, and for this 2020 update of the best Döner Kebaps in Berlin, I left no stone unturned and no lead unexplored. I travelled to Munich and to Nürnberg and even as far as to Turkey to understand the origin of the mythical meat skewer dish, only to learn that the actual origin of the dish is a lot more unclear than Turkish-Germans claim. I went down a Döner rabbit hole of research (the longer summary of that can be found within my article “A brief history of the Döner Kebap”) but in a nutshell it can be concluded by saying the Döner Kebap was most likely not invented in Germany – as the common story in Germany goes – and that the Döner Kebaps sold in Berlin differ a lot from what you’ll find in Turkey.

Best Doner Kebap Berlin Food Stories Per Meurling 5

The classic Berlin Döner consists of thinly sliced beef and/or veal from a vertically rotating skewer (occasionally laced with lamb fat), served in a triangularly cut and toasted pocket of flat bread with the (optional) condiments of salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, red cabbage and your choice of three sauces: Kräuter (herbs), Knoblauch (garlic) or Scharf (spicy). The beef döner can also be split into  subcategories of “Kıyma”, which refers to ground meat (the most common variety, since it’s cheap) or “Yaprak”, which translates to “leaf” and refers to the practice of stacking thin slices of meat onto one, large skewer. Yaprak style is usually the sign of a quality Döner, especially in Berlin, so as a rule of thumb you want to look for skewers with visible layers of meat and somebody cutting meat off these skewers with a knife, not a machine.

Since the late 90’s, there has also been the increasingly popular subcategory of Chicken Gemüse Kebap, where Yaprak chicken döner is served with salad, tomatoes, onions, sauce, fried vegetables (potatoes, peppers, onions etc.), crumbled cheese and lemon juice in a pide bread. And although we’re talking about two very different dishes, I have decided to lump classic beef döner and chicken gemüse kebab into one list.

“…these mayonnaise- and sugar-laced monstrosities serve no purpose other than disguising low-quality, dry meat…”

Having eaten at over 100 döner shops in Berlin and over a dozen in Istanbul, I have, over the years, developed a strong aversion to the kräuter-knoblauch-scharf trinity of sauces used in Berlin. Even when made in-house, these mayonnaise- and sugar-laced monstrosities serve no purpose other than disguising low-quality, dry meat and hydrating the overly thick and crunchy döner bread style that’s common in Berlin. Over the years, I have developed a habit and principle of eating and testing döners the same way: meat, tomatoes, onions and chili flakes – nothing else. This is also the common way of eating Döner in Turkey. No salad, no sauce and definitely no red f-n cabbage. One mayor issue eating your Döner the Turkish way in Berlin is that the pide bread usually are very thick and dry as they are designed for the use of salad and sauce. Breads used in Turkey are usually softer and thinner, and for a Berlin Döner without sauce and salad not to be exorbitantly dry, you need to look for unusually high meat and bread quality and this is the case for only a very small percentage of Döner kebaps in Berlin. Most of them, you will find on the list below.

How you eat your Döner is, of course, up to you, but I encourage you to consider stepping outside your regular Döner habits. Why not skip the sauces next time? And why not skip the salad another time? Consider eating the Döner as it was meant to be eaten, with a full focus on the quality of the meat and without any distractions.

This list is a guide to the very best Döner restaurants in Berlin, from Neukölln to Wedding and Charlottenburg to Friedrichshain. As always with a BFS top list, there is no ranking between the places on the list. They are all great in their own ways and you have to read the descriptions for the nitty gritty details. Go forth, eat kebaps and hold your local döner joint accountable in terms quality. But do remember: the strongest mechanism towards a better Döner culture is your willingness to pay just as much for your Döner as you pay for your gourmet burger.

RÜYA
PI-LOVE
DOYUM GRILLHAUS
K.W.A.
PAMFILYA
SOFRA GRILL
KÖYLUÖGLU
IMREN
TADIM
MUSTAFA DEMIR’S
MUSTAFA DEMIR’S RETRO KEBAP
TEKBIR
MUSTAFA’S GEMÜSE KEBAP
HASIR

 

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Chicken Döner

One of the few Berlin shops with a dedicated Döner Usta (master) in charge of the skewer. Owner, Yalcin Yilmaz, became famous for his friendly attitude and attention to detail while selling his Chicken Gemüse Döner at Rüya’s  original location on Hauptstraße in Schöneberg. Today, you’ll find him in Charlottenburg on Ernst Reuter Platz, serving arguably one of the best Chicken Döner in Berlin. Rüya is not to be mistaken for Rüyam, which is actually a chain developed by the former landlord of the first Rüya location in Schöneberg and essentially just a copy of the original.

MEAT: Yaprak Chicken

BREAD: Custom baked pita or sandwich

PRICE: 4,50€

INSIDER TIP

If you're lucky you get to see owner Yalcin joking around with his toy light sabor

Beef Döner

A great example of the new wave of Döner Kebaps sweeping through the city. What used to be a standard, mediocre Döner joint in the heart of Neukölln is now worth a journey across town, all due to the recently introduced, hand-stacked Yaprak beef skewer they are grilling. The unusually high fat content in Döner skewer allows the masters at Pi-Love to put a fantastic crust on this seriously sizzling skewer and although the meat somewhat lacking in terms of seasoning, Pi-Love was one of the best Döner discoveries of recent times and a great reason to go to Neukölln (do stay away from the sauces at Pi Love under all circumstances).

MEAT: Yaprak Beef

BREAD:  Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE: 6,50€

INSIDER TIP

The best thing about Pi Love is how it's open 24/7

Beef Döner

This old-school Ocakbasi just off Kreuzberg’s Kottbusser Tor is mostly known for its kebap cooked over hot coals, but they also serve a very good, classic Döner Kebap grilled on gas as well. The Döner skewer at Doyum might look a bit grey and dull upon a first glance, but where Doyum excels, is in the seasoning of the meat. Balanced and nuanced, with a great salt level and packed with flavour, this meat works well with the minimalistic tomato & onion combo.

MEAT: Yaprak Beef

BREAD:  Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE: 4,50€

INSIDER TIP

Order the grilled Adana Kebap while you're there

Beef and Chicken Döner

The new-age trailblazer among the Berlin Döner shops. Based in Mitte, K.W.A. started in 2019 with the bold mission to elevate the Döner Kebap onto the level of gourmet burgers and pizza. Hand-stacked, free range beef and chicken döner are served as both classic and progressive options at the very cool venue on Gipsstraße. The 8€ price tag of the K.W.A. Döner is subject to constant, public debate but they have created a loyal following with their product. Personally I miss a touch of salt and umami with the beef meat and I would love to see this meat in a smaller bread. That said, the beef döner meat served here arguably comes closest to what you would get at the best Döner shops in Istanbul and it’s also one of the few places where the sauces are great.

MEAT: Yaprak Chicken and Beef (free range)

BREAD: Custom baked pide

PRICE: 8,50€

INSIDER TIP

Get a glass of the fantastic, homemade Ayran and make sure to visit the techno bathroom

SUN - THU: 12:00 - 22:00FRI - SAT: 12:00 - 23:00
Beef Döner

The Wedding institution that started grilling meats in 1997. Pamfilya is a full fledged grill house, famous for their general meat quality and, specifically, their Döner Kebap. The meat is Yaprak Veal, where relatively thick slices of light veal are stacked per hand to a skewer every day. The chunky meat and the high fat content create a lot of crispy edges and beautiful texture, along with the light seasoning this is hands down one of the best Döner meats in the whole city.

MEAT: Yaprak Veal

BREAD: Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE: 5,30€

 

INSIDER TIP

Owner Fikri Arslan insists that the best way to enjoy this meat is not in a classical pide but in a thin lavash dürum

Beef Döner

A Wedding institution that’s been around since the 80’s, selling everything from Adana Kebaps to Rotisserie Chicken. The Yaprak beef skewer at Sofra is pretty good, but what makes this place stand out is the freshly baked pide bread they use for their Döner: a soft, fluffy pocket with enough texture and bite to work as a perfect Döner vessel. This comes closest to what you would get at great döner shops in Istanbul and Sofra arguably makes the best Döner bread in the city.

MEAT: Yaprak Beef

BREAD:  Home-baked Pide pocket

PRICE: 4,50€

INSIDER TIP

Make sure to get a freshly baked bread

Veal Döner

The youngest Wedding addition on the Döner list, located just across the street from Sofra on Prinzenallee. Köylüoglu opened early 2020 and functions as a full fledged Turkish Ocakbasi Grill House with a Döner Kebap offering in the window. The skewer is 100% yaprak light veal and they get it custom-made from MEVA. What makes the meat stand out is the unusually high fat content and juiciness in combination with the seasoning. Served in pide pocket that’s fairly fluffy, you definitely don’t need any sauces with this kebap.

MEAT: Yaprak Veal

BREAD: Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE: 4,50€

INSIDER TIP

Get the Döner and stay for the grilled meat kebap skewers

Beef Döner

The old-school champion of beef döner and the only Berlin chain which grills hand-stacked yaprak döner. The Imren-style of beef is a very specific one, where the meat is marinated in onions, yoghurt and unusual spices such as cinnamon and cumin. It’s also laced with lamb fat which gives the Imren döner its very rich taste. This used to be my go-to place but deteriorating quality and increased competition has catapulted the Imrens to the lower end of my list. The sesame-yogurt sauce is actually one of the few Döner sauces in Berlin I’d recommend though. Imren has six outlets in Berlin but the best two are the original location on Boppstraße in Kreuzberg and the one on Haupstraße in Schöneberg.

MEAT: Yaprak Beef with lamb fat

BREAD: Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE: 4€

Kreuzberg: Boppstraße 10, 10967 SEE ON MAP

Kreuzberg: Wiener Straße 11, 10999 SEE ON MAP

Schöneberg: Hauptstraße 156, 10827 SEE ON MAP

Neukölln: Karl-Marx-Straße 75, 12043 SEE ON MAP

Gesundbrunnen: Buttmannstraße 1, 13357 SEE ON MAP

Wedding: Müllerstraße 134, 13349 SEE ON MAP

INSIDER TIP

Order this one with a bit of sesame sauce, otherwise it's a bit too dry

Veal Döner

A classic vendor at Kottbusser Tor, the very heart of Turkish Kreuzberg, serving a very classic and lean Yaprak Beef Döner using white veal. While the meat quality at Tadim isn’t exceptional in any way and ordering it without sauces sets you up for a fairly dry experience, Tadim remains a very solid option for a classic Berlin style Döner.

MEAT: Yaprak Beef

BREAD: Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE:? 

INSIDER TIP

Get one of their legendary lahmacuns while you're there

Chicken Döner

The often overlooked, original Chicken Gemüse Kebap. Mustafa Demir invented this specific Döner style at his former location in Charlottenburg, in the 1990’s, and then subsequently started the (much more famous) Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap on Mehringdamm (which Tarek Kara later took over) before eventually ending up at this location on Warschauer Straße. Today, he serves his hand-stacked Chicken Yaprak Döner with over 8 different sauces to mostly locals. Note that the other Mustafa Demir Kebaps are franchises and aren’t run by Mustafa himself.

MEAT: Yaprak Chicken

BREAD: Custom baked pide pocket

PRICE: 4,50€

INSIDER TIP

Order it with plenty of cheese and an extra lemon squeeze

Veal Döner

The newest restaurant by Döner legend Mustafa Demir opened its doors in September 2020, just a few houses down from his main Chicken Döner shop on Warschauer Straße. The objective with this Turkish grill is to recreate an old-school, higher-quality meat and Döner experience, and although Mustafa Demir himself isn’t too happy with the quality just yet, the Yaprak veal skewer at the new location is arguably one of the Döners in Berlin. Thick slices of crispy and juicy beef, packaged uniquely in the same way we know the chicken gemüse döner: With fried vegetables and potatoes, fresh herbs, crumbled white cheese and a squeeze of lemon. Regardless of how you eat it, the meat itself is highly appealing and a possible, future category leader.

MEAT: Yaprak Veal

BREAD: Custom baked Pide pocket

PRICE: 4,50€

INSIDER TIP

The only place to get a veal döner with the chicken gemüse döner condiments of fried vegetables, cheese and lemon

Beef Döner

Pursuing a style that’s pretty much identical to Imren, Tekbir in Kreuzberg has been selling hand-stacked Yaprak beef since 1979 in its tiny shop on Skalitzer Straße. The meat at Tekbir is arguably juicier than many and your chances of getting a good döner at this shop, which is run by Sahin and his business partner, is exponentially higher. A great and iconic place that deserves a lot more attention.

MEAT: Yaprak Beef with lamb fat

BREAD: Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE: 4,50€

INSIDER TIP

Make sure to get here early for the best meat

Chicken Döner

The most famous Döner shop in all of Berlin and Germany comes with a highly interesting backstory. The highly charismatic owner Tarik Kara purchased the Imbiss Stall on Mehringdamm in Kreuzberg in 2005 from Mustafa Demir along with the right to use the name „Mustafa“ (note: this is Mustafa Demir’s version, which remains the most plausible one). In 2007, two of Kara’s regulars came with a proposal: They were just starting a new marketing agency and they offered to take on Kara as their first client, in exchange for free Döner. Tarik agreed and started to be represented by the guys from “DOJO” who built him a cool website, filmed a commercial that aired across local cinemas and came up with the slogan “Ich bin Mustafa. Davor stehe ich mit meinem Namen“.

Today, you’ll have to stand in line between 30-60 minutes for one of Kara’s Döners, which are made twice as slow as any other döner. The place is in every Berlin guide book on the planet and, hence, on every tourist bucket list, which means locals unfortunately hardly ever visit the shop (audience is 95% tourists). In terms of quality, I rank it as one of the better chicken gemüse döners, but there are plenty of fish in that pond where you don’t have to stand in line. As the original stall burned down in 2019, the shop has now been relocated to a van a few meters into the sidewalk, but rumors say that they city wants to get rid of the shop in its current location as the cue clogs up the sidewalk. This leaves the future of Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap undecided.

MEAT: Yaprak Chicken

BREAD: Custom baked Pide

PRICE: ?

INSIDER TIP

Come right around opening time

Mon - Thu 10:00 - 02:00Fri - Sat 10:00 - 05:00
Beef Döner

Hasir is the only Döner Kebap shop in Berlin, which belongs to the list of the people who allegedly invented the Döner. Mehmet Aygün, the patriarch of the Hasir empire, which today consists out of steak restaurants, burger joints, hotels, spas etc., claims that he invented the Döner Kebap at his shop in 1971. Regardless if that is true or not (highly unlikely, if you ask me), Hasir on Adalbertstraße is still a place where you can get a decent Döner Kebap. The beef skewer is hand-stacked and can on a good day be the base for a solid, classical döner kebap.

MEAT: Yaprak Beef with lamb fat

BREAD: Classical triangular flat bread pocket

PRICE: ?

INSIDER TIP

Ask for plain yoghurt as a sauce

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