I have to confess I’m a little rusty, not to mention a little resistant, when it comes to jumping back into the taxi adventures after spending most of the last two years sitting at my computer, writing about taxi adventures gone by.
But on Saturday I finally dragged myself out the door, hailed a cab, and somehow ended up in a taxi with a driver named Musa, who taught me more about Turkish food in fifteen minutes on the road than I could have learned from hours of surfing the internet. He also told me about his favorite place to stop for köfte (Turkish-style meatballs) when he’s on duty.
Where I hailed him: Frankfurter Allee, Berlin-Friedrichshain
Where he hails from: Samsun, on the north coast of Turkey (Legend has it that the river delta east of Samsun was the original home of the Amazon warrioresses.)
Years as a cabby: 7
Previous professions: Textiles and Baking
Best part of driving a cab in Berlin: “The Germans are not stressed out.”
Favorite dish from his home region: Bafra pide, thin, hand-rolled dough filled with Bafra cheese (similar to feta) and parsley or minced beef. Proper Bafra pide, according to Musa, should be between 70 and 80 centimeters long.
Where Musa eats Bafra pide in Berlin: He doesn’t know of a particularly good place. But he did give me three clues: 1) Good pide must be eaten the moment it comes out of the oven 2) It must be baked in a brick oven 3) The boss of the bakery has to be the one doing the baking. (I did do a little research after the ride with Musa, and it looks like Özge Grill, a great find from Berlin’s Wednesday Chef, might pass Musa’s pide test.)
Favorite dish not from his home region: Menemen, the Turkish equivalent of huevos rancheros, made with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions, chilies and a lot of olive oil. This is one of the most popular breakfast foods in Turkey, says Musa, and best eaten with some salty cheese and crusty bread.
Where Musa eats Menemen in Berlin: At home. But you can also find decent versions at Simidchi, on Adalbertstrasse, in Kreuzberg, or at LaFemme on Kottbusser Damm in Neukölln. If you’d like to make it yourself, Serious Eats has an excellent-sounding menemen recipe.
Where Musa eats on duty: Maranda, a Turkish grill across from the Görlizter Bahnhof U-Bahn station in Kreuzberg. The place opened in 2011, and the owners come from Trabzon, a city about 200 miles east of Samsun, on the Black Sea coast.
Musa likes that Maranda is named for a flower that grows in the mountains of northern Turkey. He also likes their köfte, which aren’t bad, but can’t really compare to the Inegöl-style köfte at Gel Gör.
What’s really outstanding at Maranda is lamb ‘antrikot’, which costs 8 euros and comes with a beautiful herb and white bean salad. This lamb, along with all the other meat here, is butchered in-house and grilled to order and arrives in thin, juicy slices around a mound of bland rice. It also comes with sides of spicy sauce and herb sauce that are way too sweet. Ignore these sauces.
Focus on the lamb, and on the fact that there is no döner kebab here (Note: Many of the better budget Turkish restaurants in Berlin don’t serve döner kebab). Nor is there any alcohol, which may have something to do with the restaurant being two doors down from Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, one of the city’s major mosques.
Wiener Straße 8 10997 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 70038694
Open: Mon-Fri, 10am-6am; Sat, 10am-7am; Sun, 11:30am-5am
Recommended dish: Lamb Antrikot Plate, 8 Euros
I’d like to thank the ‘Fare is Fair’ columnists of New York City’s L magazine for inspiring the format of this post.