Situated in Nollendorfplatz, directly below the Gay Hostel, is Zsa Zsa Burger: a hot meat injection into the heart of Berlin’s glittering Gay Village.
Zsa Zsa Burger isn’t your stereotypical burger joint. No laminated menus. No grease-stained tables. And, god forbid, no Formica bar and neon-glowing Wurlitzer jukebox. Instead, it’s a restaurant-bar that is chic without being haughty.
You are welcomed and seated as you enter and notice that the restaurant is immaculately decorated (redecorated throughout the year to match the seasons, to be exact). The next thing you notice is the ‘Reserviert’ signs propped up on each empty table. Painted boys sit at the bar, their faces illuminated by candle light. An ageing cabaret star fixes her dyed-red bouffant in the reflection of her wine glass. You instantly get the impression that this place is more LGBT than BLT.
The menu is something to behold: a veritable burger trip around the world, picking and choosing ingredients from a wide range of cuisines – from the “Swiss Miss” with raclette cheese, to “The Iberico” with Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and a tomato and bell pepper salsa, and “The Egyptian” with figs, goat’s cheese and thyme. What’s impressive is that the menu has been finely honed, mixing classics and original creations, to offer something for every taste. It took us a long, long time to choose the burgers we wanted.
We ordered one Swiss Miss, one Hangover Burger, which comes with bacon, cheddar cheese and a vodka shot, and, following our experience at The Bird, a portion of hot wings with a blue cheese dip. All burgers come with fries, pickles and coleslaw and you even get to choose your bun: sour dough or whole wheat.
After a very brief wait our food arrived. Whilst beautifully presented on the plates, the burgers instantly dispelled any notions we had that this place was chic. No small-portioned nouvelle cuisine here. These burgers are big, meaty and serious. Zsa Zsa Burger also leaves the majority of the burger’s salad and topping on the side of the plate so you can build your burger the way you like it, which is nice.
That first big bite caused Philip to exclaim “Ach! Das ist so geil!”, and with good reason. The patty was perfectly cooked and beefy – really beefy – like a good steak. All of the toppings complimented each other perfectly and our deliciously fresh sour dough buns held everything together. All conversation ceased as we concentrated only on eating.
The chicken wings are fall-off-the-bone tender and the blue cheese dip is more sharp and tangy (is there a word for blue cheese flavour?) than The Bird’s luxuriously creamy version, which contrasts nicely with the mildly piquant hot sauce the wings are served in. You get a little dish of water to wash your sticky fingers in but, with the ferocity with which we were eating these wings, we’d sooner need a bath.
In the end, we still had food left on our plates (although not for want of trying). Zsa Zsa’s owner came over to clear the table and ask us how the meal was. Now, usually we like a little anonymity when reviewing as we don’t want any special treatment. Get in, eat, get out. But, since we had already eaten, why not indulge ourselves? We started to ask him some questions.
Speaking to the ever-charismatic owner, Ernesto Kuoni, one thing became clear: Zsa Zsa Burger is all about moving towards perfection. What started out as an imbiss with the idea of bringing burgers “out of the junk food corner”, Zsa Zsa’s menu has gone through countless changes, with Ernesto tweaking each ingredient personally until he has created something he’s happy with, “at first, we couldn’t get the coleslaw right. People weren’t eating it and we had to throw so much away. I tried so many recipes and was about to take it off the menu when wham! people started enjoying it.”
Since opening, Zsa Zsa Burger’s search for perfection has left a trail of hired and fired butchers and bakers behind them. Their menu has tried 12 different varieties of potatoes for their fries before they found the one which worked. They order their mayonnaise from Spain as they were unhappy with any they could source in Germany. And the best thing? Ernesto’s still not happy. “You can’t cheat people!” he shouts.
BLY’s top tips for eating at Zsa Zsa Burger
- As a popular Schöneberg night spot, it’s best to reserve a table.
- Can’t get a table? Don’t worry, they do take away.
- Try the iced daiquiri… it’s delicious.
- Look at the specials board. The menu offers almost too much already, but Zsa Zsa Burger also has a special burger which changes every 4-5 days.
Andy says: “This is a burger I don’t mind not finishing. Whilst Zsa Zsa Burger lacks the normal burger joint vibe, its burgers are worth tucking your shirt into your jeans and traveling to Schöneberg for.”
Phil says: “Zsa Zsa Burger has refined its burgers to perfection. Their approach to food is impressive. Once you try one of their classic burgers, you’ll soon be coming back to try all the rest. And to finish off: the margaritas and cocktails are amazing.”
Berlin Loves You Rating: 9/10
This review is part of our series on Berlin’s best burger joints. Read our opinion on what makes a good burger.
Zsa Zsa Burger
T +49 30 21 913 470