While it may seem strange for a couple of Seattleites to be talking up Mexican food, Ian has a mysterious past. He is actually from Eastern Washington. GASPPPPPPP!!! Oh- you have no idea why that's a big deal? Let me explain a little something about Washington state.
Most people only know about glorious Seattle, but Washington is quite large (18th largest in fact). Do you see that brown thing in the center? That's a big ass mountain range, the Cascades, and it separates the state.
West side - more liberal and city-like
East side - more conservative and rural
Anyhoo - back to Berlin. I've talked about the lack of Mexican food all over the world and our yearning for it in my work article "American Snacks Gone Global", and seen this repeated as an answer to "What do you miss most? in our Expat interviews. Seeing the need, many have trie to right this wrong in otherwise amazing city. There has been rapid expansion of the Mexican restaurant scene in Berlin. Most have missed - whether it be tortillas that immediately fall apart, pickles in the salsa, or food assembled so hopelessly it is impossible to eat. But there are a few places making a difference.
Three restaurants (that I believe are owned by the same people) are elevating the fine art of Mexican food. There are still stumbles, but our favorite hits closer to the food of our dreams than we have dared to hope before. The restaurants....
Danziger Str. 33, Prenzlauer Berg, 10435 Berlin
Verdict - I wouldn't bother with this one again unless I was in the area and wanted something to go. At least the artwork and attitude are right.
Skalitzer Str. 81, Kreuzberg, 10997 Berlin, Germany
The opposite end of the spectrum, Maria Peligro is the largest space with a slightly more upscale, although still Berlin ramshackle, vibe. We came here for Cinco de Mayo and there was a host of specials on the menu for drinking & dining and plenty of intimate seats to choose from in the Dia de los Muertos decor. That changed quickly as the place filled up and the Coronas and 4 euro margaritas flowed (happy hour price). The carne asada burrito was a delight, but at 9 euros for the burrito and a smear of gaucomole it's price was a little absurd. The plate screamed "Some beans! Rice please!" My dish of chilaquiles was surprisingly less well crafted and more expensive than the preferred third restaurant.
Verdict - A good place to meet a group and have a meal, especially during happy hour. But for the best food of the three, party on to the next place.
|Maria Peligro in Berlin|
|Cinco de Mayo in Berlin|
Oranienstr. 170, Kruezberg, 10999 Berlin
We've found our Mexican home. We stumbled in on a cold evening and found a few tables packed into a tiny space on trendy Oranienstrasse. We worried about finding a place, but were able to take a seat at the bar and order 1 euro tacos for taco Tuesdays with a 4 euro margarita. Things were looking good. Additional orders of a salad for 3.50, a burrito for 5, and my first run at chilaquiles were surprisingly delightful. Service is also an unexpected highpoint with the hurried, but helpful, staff getting food out and people sat in a timely order.
Verdict - We're in love. Like a puppy dog crush, that may fade with regular visits...but for now we are charmed. Note that it is often overrun, but if you can wait it's worth it.
|Santa Maria Berlin|
|Santa Maria menu|
|margarita Santa Maria|
Tip: If you like things hot! hot! hot! like us - ask for the habenero salsa. It's no additional charge at Maria Peligro & Santa Maria and packs a delightful punch to the tongue.
If you are still dreaming of Mexican food without relief, here is a little inspiration. We substitute Indian chili powder for Mexican, use feta for queso fresco, and Turkish breads for tortillas to make something like homemade Mexican food work. We are by no means chefs, but maybe knowing we can do it can lead you to some adventurous cooking of your own. I use Allrecipes to get ideas and for its easy metric conversion.
|Quaedilla, Mexican rice, black bean salad|
|Simple corn, cilantro, and feta quesdilla with cherry tomatoes|
Have a recipe you like or recommendation? Do tell....AND if you're gonna get really crazy, please start a taco truck in Berlin! Here is a how to: http://www.tacosberlin.com/how-to