I can admit it: I am a food driven person. I love to garden and cook and grocery shop, and I even chose nutritional sciences as my major because I love food (both healthy and not so healthy)! As a vegan, however, in my small town I am lucky enough to have an expensive all vegan cafe and a few Chinese restaurants where I can eat. Although it may satisfy some vegans, as an aspiring nutritionist, I do not consider a whole plate of fries or a salad sans protein as a real meal––thus limiting my dine out options. So what are my experiences in the giant city of Berlin?
People told me I shouldn’t have a problem finding food here, since vegetarianism and veganism is quite popular in Berlin, but the truth is: there are so many options, I don’t know what to choose!
Many restaurants advertise themselves as all vegan, such as Vöner, an all vegan German cuisine restaurant you can find in Friedrichshain. Almost every newer restaurant has at least 2 or 3 good vegan options––like a pesto tomato panini or a veggie burger––I’ve only had trouble at some of the older, more traditional German restaurants. I am continually surprised by my options, like the soy currywurst found at a stand in a Sunday market or the well labelled pastries in the train station bakeries.
By far, my favourite food so far (and one of my favourite things in Berlin) are the döner! Döner places are almost everywhere in Berlin. Near the IES Abroad Center there are two just close enough to eat at between classes. I always get Falafel Im Brot (falafel in bread), which is the same as the traditional lamb döner but with falafel and a few cents cheaper, and find it satisfies me for a whole meal or more. Just make sure to get the scharf (spicy) sauce, since the others typically contain milk. It also comes with plenty of veg, like tomatoes, onions, and chopped lettuce, all for 4 euros or less!
In the supermarket most vegan things in Europe have green vegan seals on them––sometimes they say vegetarian and are vegan as well! You can also look at the Zutaten (ingredients) to make sure there's no fleisch (meat), fisch (fish), eier (eggs), or milch (milk). Fruit and vegetables are cheaper here than at home, which definitely encourages healthier eating, and plant based milks and soy proteins are relatively easy to come by. Just check through a few of the supermarket chains if you're having difficulty. There is also a vegan supermarket/cafe called Veganz that you can buy from, safe in the knowledge everything there is vegan, but most basic things like bread are also more expensive there. For groceries, I suggest keeping bread and hummus on hand which you can get anywhere, and then having some fruit for snacks too. Most groceries you buy in the US will also be available in Berlin, although you may have fewer options (i.e. hummus flavors).
What about vegan culture you ask? Well there's plenty! Especially if you come in the summer like me. So far I have visited two vegan markets and I've known of more that are happening a short (trains) distance from the IES Abroad center. I also got to see a vegan cooking show where afterwards I got a free sample of the meal! Although they can be hard to find out about, especially if you don’t have a Facebook like me, if you frequent vegan restaurants or check online you can definitely find interesting places to go to.
For vegans and vegetarians, Berlin is a great place to study in!