On a quiet street in a residential part of Berlin sits one of the most incredible sandwiches of your life. On a random street corner one block from a blue line U-Bahn stop sits Mustafa’s, the Mount Olympus of Döner Kebaps. As you walk to the stand the smell of roasted meat, garlic and happiness hit your nostrils sending you into a place of pure bliss. It’s something that conjures vice. You are filled with envy, lust followed by gluttony all in a matter of minutes, a true experience to behold. As you walk up to the stand you notice the huge line queued up for greatness and you realize that maybe this was the right choice, that tourists and locals both appreciate the masterpiece that is the Gemüse kebap. So you wait, you have to. But its always worth it in the end. Mustafa’s serves the Döner of the gods, something that inspires, confuses and can drive a person mad to their core. How good can a sandwich really be you ask? If you have to ask you haven’t been to Mustafa’s
Now first off what is a Döner Kebap and why should I care?
The Döner Kebap is the single most innovative apparatus for stuffing all the delicious flavors of life into your mouth as quickly as possible. The concept is simple, fresh bread or pita, stuffed with rotisserie style meat (chicken or lamb) with veggies and a bevy of delicious sauces. Sounds simple right?
The Kebap itself became a Berlin icon in the 1970’s and came along with many Turkish immigrants during Eastern Germany’s need for inexpensive labor. Currently, with Berlin’s population boasting over 1 million Turkish citizens, the Döner Kebap has become a cult classic, something found on every other corner, something as vital to the identity of Berlin as Currywurst.
Now, I have had Döner all over the world. I have sampled the delectable treat in Canada, the US, Austria, Turkey and the like but they all fail in comparison to the great Gemüse Kepab, and here’s why.
Mustafas starts with good crunchy exterior, soft interior french style bread, warmed up generously in a panini press. The only meat they have is chicken, which spins in a glorious 50 pound wheel above roasted vegetables and potatoes. The vegetables below soak up all the good fat, spices and flavor that comes off the chicken, creating deep flavors and adding ample punch to you sandwich. Once you have your bread, fresh off the pres, it is slathered in a garlic sauce and a spicy mixture of chilies, and stuffed heartily with the roasted veggies and meat. Next comes the fresh cut cabbage and lettuce, feta cheese with mint and an important but not overlooked squeeze of fresh lemon.
When this one pound monster gets handed to you out of the cart by one of their friendly workers a world of questions come to mind. How in the world am I going to finish this? What did I just buy? How can so much goodness be put into one bread bun? Once your brain has processed the immensity and significance of your purchase, you dig in, conquering the monster sandwich in minutes.
As you stuff the last bite into your mouth, horrified at what you have just done, but also still questioning if you have room for a second one, you realize that you have just devoured the single best sandwich of your life. It’s a hard moment to deal with, but for me, it is the one single thing I make sure I do when I go back to Berlin. I’ll stand in line for an hour, it doesn’t matter. As long as I get one more fix of the good stuff before I go on my way, I’m happy.