Think you know Berlin’s best Döner kebab? Meet the person reviewing them all.
There’s a breathtaking, ever-growing number of Dönerläden in Berlin. Feeling overwhelmed by it all, it’s easy to give up the hunt to find ‘Berlin’s best’ and settle for ‘Berlin’s nearest’. Attempting to test, catalogue and rate them all? Madness.
This daunting and nigh-on impossible task has been taken up by Brett Myers on his Dönerstag website. The concept is simple: each week, Brett takes on a new Dönerladen, tests it out and writes a rated review that appears on his Dönerstag website every Donnerstag (get it?).
We joined Brett on one of his reviews to enjoy a kebab, watch the master at work and hopefully become part of Berlin Döner history.
Putting Tadim to the test.
We meet at Tadim on a sunny day in the middle of Kotti. All tables full, we wait patiently in the sunshine, secretly eager for at least one group of kebab lovers to eat up and fuck off.
Seeing us standing there, cameras around our necks like hungry tourists crowding the Mona Lisa, Tadim’s owner, smelling journalists, quickly drags a new table from inside out into the sunlight, beaming at us as he waves us over.
Happy to impress, impossibly welcoming and with an infectious smile, he endures a quick photo session, posing for our cameras.
Kebabs ordered and the Döner-spit turning, it’s time to grill Brett for a bit.
25 years old and from Texas, it took Brett’s German girlfriend, Larissa, to show him the Döner-shaped hole in his life. Yanking him across the Atlantic in search of the real thing, Brett soon found himself in Berlin, eating his first Berlin Döner kebab in Schlesi’s Bagdad Bistro.
Since then, his love affair has spiralled, taking him across the city in search of more. His Dönerstag website boasts 21 reviews so far, and he holds Rüyam Gemüse Kebab and Imren to be the finest.
Our Tadim kebabs arrive: his taken without tomatoes. I ask his first impressions: “You can see it’s real meat. 100% veal.”
As we tuck in, I ask the hard-hitting question: why Döner kebabs?
“It’s a silly thing to take seriously, I know,” he spits, mouth full, meaty grease and sauce streaming down the sides of his face (only joking Brett, that never happened), “but, I do it for the love of kebabs, for supporting local businesses and hopefully, one day, making Dönerstag a real national holiday”. “I mean”, he quips, “I’m not eating kebabs to stay fit”.
But Brett’s love of kebabs is a different kind of love from mine. It’s analytic, almost scientific.
Berlin’s Döners go under the microscope.
In his reviews, the quality of the meat and sauces are of paramount importance, going as far as to overshadow the sheer Döner joy of stuffing your face with something that’s bad for you.
He pays attention to signs on the walls stating the origins and quality of the meat, he questions the staff about the processes behind the sauces and bread, he’s even created his ‘Four tiers of Döner’ meat quality scale, ranging from 1) contains filler, 2) made with meat trimmings 3) actual meat, albeit stretched to the limits and 4) homemade, the best quality.
This analytic approach enables Brett to delve through the dirge of sub-par and mid-level Berlin Döner joints and identify those who are really doing something – something entirely new, or just entirely good. And he wants to take this approach as far as it will go, adding a ‘Deep Dives‘ section for in-depth kebab analysis onto his website. The first Deep Dives post is a collaboration with Sam Panzer, who takes an almost PhD-worthy look at the different kebab sauces used in Berlin Dönerläden.
I end by asking Brett the future of Dönerstag. He answers that he wants to do a series where he spends a day in a kebab shop, working, preparing food, seeing life from the other side of the counter. It’s an interesting proposition indeed – and one that may actually shine a new light and understanding on those hard-working people who… literally feed this city.
We shake hands, Brett’s thick with grease and massage-ready (only joking Brett, that also didn’t happen), and leave.
For me, the kebab at Tadim was an under-filled and salad-heavy specimen which, while tasty, only barely peeked its triangular head over the pulpit of mediocrity. But you can read Brett and Dönerstag’s take on it here.
Camera: Canon EOS 6D. With special thanks to Canon.