Berlin during the holidays is nothing short of magical. The plethora of bustling, food-filled Christmas markets convert the city into a culinary dream.
While on the hunt for a traditional schnitzel the first night, we stumbled upon our “neighborhood” Christmas market, far secluded from the larger, tourist-filled markets. I couldn’t help but gape in awe. Long lines formed at the seemingly endless rows of food booths—raclette-drowned toasts, pulled pork over purple cabbage and potatoes, bars of fine chocolates...And the intoxicating smell of campfire and sweet waffles filled the air while flocks of families laughed with cherry red-stained lips over mulled wine. I’d found my gluttonous sanctuary.
On the second day, I set out to achieve my main objective for the weekend—find the perfect bratwurst. Under a rain-soaked awning in the Gendarmenmarkt market, I found my bratwurst haven. Overtop a crackling coal fire swang a large metal grate, clutching the hissing, naked sausages. Once I was handed my bun-clothed bratwurst, I topped it only with a coil of mustard. The savory bite of the meat combined with the piercing creamy tang was beyond perfection.
Clearly, breakfast was far from my first priority in terms of meals. On our last day, we offhandedly asked our hostel for a breakfast recommendation before heading to the East Side Gallery. We left the hostel with one name circled on our map—Cafe Krone. Expecting the standard tourist recommendation, a cafe with TripAdvisor stickers littering the door alongside a tall English menu out front, we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived. Notably absent from the slim forefront window were those little red stickers, and all you could hear from outside was German chatter. So far, so good.
After a short wait, the waitress ushered us to our table. The cafe feels like a contemporary, yet timeless kitchen—an intimate space where brick-laiden walls collide with sparkling white tiles. Greenery peeks around every corner and wooden bookshelves jutt out of the walls. We had the best vantage point, seated right next to the case of tantalizing housemade cakes and close enough to the kitchen to watch the dishes weave their way to the surrounding tables.
Choosing a drink has never been a huge decision for me—I usually stick to water to prevent an elaborate drink from overshadowing my meal. After mindlessly flipping through the book of drinks, I settled on a chai latte. I was surprised when the latte reached the table. It was housed in a tall, ridged glass, different from the run-of-the-mill coffee mug I was expecting. I took my first sip and felt the sweet cream make its way down to my stomach. I was stunned. It was just hot enough to warm my belly but not enough to scorch my tongue. Creamier than most lattes I’ve had, it was reminiscent of an eggnog on Christmas eve, but infused with more vanilla and cinnamon. So far, Cafe Krone had my attention.
The food menu was impressive. Fine goat cheese and rosemary eggs, apple compote pancakes with rum raisins, sweet curd dumplings with hot plums and roasted bread crumbs...but one dish caught my eye in particular—Buta No Kakuni. Meaning “to the top of the pig” in Japanese, the dish was described as eggs, Japanese pork belly, sesame reduction, fresh herbs, and lemon. I admired the dish’s ingenious yet simple spirit and knew I had to get my hands on it.
When the plate arrived, I sat mesmerized. Textbook scrambled eggs, perfectly fluffy and dusted with the finest aromatic herbs. Clockwise sat the glistening, fatty pork belly, resting in a shallow pool of sesame reduction. To the left—two slices of multigrain toast, smeared with a knob of butter, slowly soaking up the reduction sneaking into its territory. Finally, the mixed salad. Usually the neglected afterthought of most breakfast dishes, this salad was not skimped. Colorful bunches of mesclun and radicchio doused in a tart balsamic vinaigrette.
My fork skated from the bottom of the plate, to the top, carefully and intentionally dragging the eggs through the reduction before picking up the pork. The pork was so tender it was almost hard to pick up, bits falling from the fork tines with every stab. The first bite was euphoric. The pork immediately melted in my mouth and was a surprisingly delightful compliment to the eggs. Every bite was noteworthy, from the porky egg combo to the leftover toast crumbs. Needless to say, I deserve an award for my clean plate club work.
The unlikely delicious combination of sesame-seasoned pork belly and eggs—and tasty chai latte—propelled the breakfast into my top five favorite for sure. Berlin, keep doing your thing, especially at Cafe Krone.