My Top 5 Mexican Restaurants in Berlin

June 26, 2014

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Santa Maria_margaritas and salsa A lot like a good burger, authentic Mexican food in Germany is often as elusive as the chupacabra, especially outside of culturally-diverse Berlin. So often done wrong by well-meaning restauranteurs, one begins to understand what to look for when seeking out the real deal: Spanish-speaking - both in menu and cooking staff, spicy dishes not compromised to appease the more sedate German palate, and of course, good word of mouth. The catch with word of mouth though, is it's all about perspective and expectations. I have so often overheard people bad-mouthing some of our favorite Mexican spots or been disappointed by a place highly recommended, and have come to learn that food is so subjective, it's nearly impossible to declare something 'the best' across the board. There will always be someone who disagrees, or values other aspects of said cuisine. This makes seeking out and declaring 'the best' of anything in a culinarily-blessed city like Berlin a difficult, albeit delicious, task.

So after several months of criss-crossing Berlin in search of some of the best Mexican food, I have come up with what I consider to be a pretty solid list of places to get your fix. Let's be honest, some days you really want great tacos, while others, you're just in it to get your drank on. So rather than rank them overall, I have broken down what I think each does best, as well as put some of my favorite aspects of Mexican restaurants - like great chips and margaritas - to the test. Who am I to make these grand declarations about Berlin's Mexican food, you might be asking. Well, I'm a born-and-raised Californian with a lifetime of experience eating good Mexican food, from our family-run neighborhood restaurant that had been a favorite of my family for generations, to family friends bringing up homemade tamales directly from Mexico. College eating meant frequent stops for giant, greasy breakfast burritos after a long night of drinking, with regular burritos in between for good measure. Before leaving California, we had a regular weekend brunch spot that consisted of creative Cal-Mex fare and the most potent and delicious frozen margarita concoctions known to man (nothing says 'breakfast' quite like a mimosa-margarita, am I right?). So, Mexican food and I, we go way back.

So now that you know where I'm coming from, I would like to introduce you to my favorite places to get Mexican food in this wonderful new city of ours. Obviously, main courses are the most important considerations, but margaritas, guacamole and chips (notoriously terrible in Germany) rank pretty high in importance as well, not to mention other factors like ambiance, location and staff.* I'm certain some will disagree with this list, or even want to contest me on a few (we foodies can be a passionate bunch), but my hope is that whether you are a Berliner or just visiting, you will find something here to enjoy. After all, that's what good food is about.

Maria Bonita

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Maria Bonita_quesadillas tinga de pollo
Discovering some of the city's best Mexican food was mere blocks from our new Berlin apartment felt like hitting the foodie jackpot. While the proximity is a definite plus, it's really the food that has us frequenting this spot on a regular basis. The simple menu of a few kinds of tacos, burritos and quesadillas, with a couple specialty items like heuevos rancheros, might make choosing easier if only everything weren't so damn good. Think taco truck meets your favorite neighborhood dive.

The quesadilla de pollo especial, with its juicy and flavourful chicken was my mainstay for a long time, until I discovered the simple perfection that is the carnitas taco: just tortillas and slow-cooked pork, that is then fried until golden and crispy. If I'm feeling crazy, I might add a little salsa or guacamole, but mostly I just stick with a squeeze of lime and enjoy the salty crispness in its purest form. One of my other favorites, ordered almost every visit, is the 'plato' of chips with guacamole and the best refried beans I can remember having in I don't know how long. The frozen Mezcal margaritas are another favorite, what I might even say is the best in the city. It was during our first visit here on an apartment-scouting trip in the dead of winter that I discovered the Berlin holy grail of my favorite cocktail, enjoying it so much, I ordered a second one to-go. In the snow.

So while the food is the clear star here, the charmingly chipped enamelware your order arrives on and the colorful lucha libre figures that line the window sill helps make this one of our go-to spots. Though the seating area is small and can get crowded during peak times, I've found that turnover is fairly quick at this casual eatery and we have never waited very long for a place to sit and enjoy our meal. The staff is friendly and mostly fluent in German and English, and often Spanish as well.

chips & salsa/guacamole: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
margaritas: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
spiciness: 🔥 🔥 🔥
can't miss: carnitas

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Maria Bonita_chips beans guacamole margaritas Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Maria Bonita_sign eat more tacos

Maria Bonita
Danziger Straße 33
10435 Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg)
U2 Eberswalder Straße / M10 Husemanstraße
open 7 days a week 12:00-23:00 in summer | Monday-Sunday the rest of the year
specials & updates on Twitter or Facebook

Ta'Cabrón Taqueria

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Ta'Cabron Taqueria_jalapeno and cheese tamales
The first time we visited Ta'Cabrón, I looked at the menu almost entirely in Spanish and the offering of not just one, but two kinds of my-very-favorite-yet-incredibly-elusive-in-Germany Mexican specialty - the tamale - and knew we had found a potential winner. With my first sip of its perfectly mixed, chili-salt rimmed margarita, I knew this would be a regular stop for us.

Ta'Cabrón is perhaps the most authentic Mexican on this list. Its intense, rich and belly-burning flavors satiate an expat's need for Mexican food like nothing else. Phenomenal margaritas, delicious chips and guacamole, and never-disappointing entrees are always a reminder that we need to get out to Kreuzberg to eat more often. Definitely the place with the spiciest options we've come across, the heat never overpowers the amazing flavors of cornmeal or rich, chocolatey mole. The simple beans that come with most plates also do not disappoint.

The colorful, cozy interior is perfect for getting warm in the cold months, while the ample outdoor seating is most enjoyable when the weather gets warmer. Additionally, I have probably heard the most English and Spanish from patrons here than any other place on this list, if that is at all telling of who values its cuisine.

chips & salsa/guacamole: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
margaritas: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
spiciness: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥
can't miss: tamales, anything with mole sauce

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Ta'Cabron Taqueria_chicken mole tacos
Ta'Cabrón Taqueria
Skalitzer Straße 60
10997 Berlin (Kreuzberg)
U1 Schlesisches Tor
open 7 days a week, 13:00-23:00 (Fri & Sat until 24:00)

Santa Maria

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Santa Maria_carnitas pork tacos
Perhaps it's a bit unfair to have Santa Maria on this list, seeing as it is owned by the same folks as Maria Bonita, but I think the offerings and the vibe are different enough to call it a separate entry. Much bigger than its little sister Maria Bonita, this location is still always packed. We have been for lunch, for dinner and for Taco Tuesday and pretty much had to wait for a table every time. All that space and yet no reservations when trying to plan a night out can be a bit frustrating. That being said, it is worth the wait.

What Santa Maria lacks in the small-time charm of Maria Bonita, it makes up for it in menu offerings. You will find similarities in the basics like tacos, burritos and quesadillas, but in many more variations, including more vegetarian, seafood and spicy chorizo options. It is with the ample offerings that I think this restaurant really wins: tostadas, enchiladas, soup, salad and a wonderfully spicy and heart-attack-worthy cheese fondue with tortillas. The drink menu is equally impressive with everything from micheladas (not so impressive) and a frozen mango-jalapeno margarita (spicy and delicious!), to the classics like bloody marys and caipirinhas.

If you're looking for a budget meal, then Taco Tuesdays can't be beat: 1€ tacos and tequila shots all day. If you happen to be a bit of a culinary snob, like myself, it's worth springing for regular menu items, as the special-priced tacos on Tuesday can be a bit lackluster compared to what you can get for just a couple euros more. Every time I am here, I struggle with the plethora of options and mentally file away all the things I want to order on my next visit (like all those offerings of pumpkin with chipotle and caramelized red onion...). Solid chips and guacamole, with great basic margaritas on the rocks, it's definitely worth a visit for any Mexican food connoisseur. Just arrive early to ensure you get a table.

chips & salsa/guacamole: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
margaritas: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
spiciness: 🔥 🔥
can't miss: mango-jalapeno margarita

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Santa Maria_choriqueso chorizo cheese fondue
Santa Maria
Oranienstraße 170
10999 Berlin (Kreuzberg)
U1 Kottbusser Tor
open 7 days a week 12:00-late

La Tortilla Atomica

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_La Tortilla Atomica_potato tacos
It didn't take us long on our first visit to Street Food Thursday to hone in on the tacos booth. Often with one of the longest lines at the weekly food festival, we quickly discovered why. The owner hails from Mexico City and has clearly brought the flavors and spice with him. Their usual pork offering is juicy and delicious, but it's when they make something special like al pastor - chunks of pork marinated with spices and pineapple pieces - that you become a die-hard fan. And don't be fooled by the almost German-looking potato option, with its onions, peppers and slow burn in your belly, it's all Mexican. Those averse to mouth-burning heat would be advised against even touching the salsa.

Even with long lines, no margaritas and somewhat disappointing tortilla chips (of the German grocery persuasion), the excellent guacamole and stellar tacos makes it a must on Thursdays. But beware, like many Street Food Thursday vendors, they are not there every week, which means scoring some of their tacos becomes even more covetable a task. Now if only they would open a store front so I could get my taco fix on a more regular basis...

chips & salsa/guacamole: ⭐ ⭐
margaritas: n/a
spiciness: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥
can't miss: um, the tacos!

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_La Tortilla Atomica_chips and guacamole
La Tortilla Atomica
At Street Food Thursday | 17:00-22:00 | Markthalle Neun
Eisenbahnstraße 42, 10997 Berlin (Kreuzberg)
U1 Görtlizter Bahnhof
check Facebook for schedule and specials

Agüevo Taqueria Cantina

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Aguevo Taqueria Cantina_tacos dorados de pollo
Our most recent discovery on Berlin's Mexican food circuit, we were rather surprised at how Agüevo Taqueria has eluded us for so long. Our first visit, we were immediately struck by the great outdoor seating at colorfully painted tables. When the super sweet waitress, who seemed right at home taking our orders in Spanish from my husband, brought our on-the-rocks margaritas, we believed we had found the place in Berlin for this signature Mexican cocktail. When the chips and guacamole arrived, we started to get even more excited for our entrees. The guacamole was good, though not quite on par with some others on this list, but it was the perfectly crisp tortilla chips that became our new favorite.

After eating here a few times, we have come to the conclusion that it is the more specialty items - the chicken enchiladas smothered in a spicy mole sauce or the fat little rolled and filled tortillas, fried to perfect crispness - that is where they really shine. The tacos are good, but I think better can be had elsewhere in the city. I am looking forward to trying more off their diverse and ample menu, like their tasty-looking soups, on future visits. Or perhaps just make a meal out of the amazing chips and margaritas.

chips & salsa/guacamole: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
margaritas: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
spiciness: 🔥 🔥
can't miss: enmoladas

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Aguevo Taqueria Cantina_chips salsa guacamole
Agüevo Taqueria Cantina
Wühlischerstraße 12
10245 Berlin (Friedrichshain)
S Berlin Ostkreuz / M13 Boxhagenerstr./Holteistr.
open 7 days a week 12:00-23:00 (Fri & Sat until late) | Sunday brunch 10:00-16:00

Best Mexican Food in Berlin_Dolores_burrito bowl chips guacamole
Honorable mentions go to Dolores for its tasty and filling burritos - not to mention the best tortilla chips in Berlin (see above) - and to Tacos de Mexico, which lost some points for lackluster chips and margaritas, as well as its rather remote location, but has some really flavourful and authentic tacos.

* These are solely my opinions and my impressions can only be applied to what I have actually eaten. There may be spicier items on the menu or a better margarita somewhere else, but I can only comment on what I have experienced. That said, if you think you have found something better, please do not hesitate to share it in the comments. Nothing would make me happier than doing further 'research' on this topic!

Photos from #EverchangingBerlin European InstaMeet

June 24, 2014

European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Karl Marx Allee photographer stormy sky With all the opportunity to discover more of Berlin and learn from some really amazing photographers the other weekend at the #EverchangingBerlin InstaMeet, I lugged my DSLR along for the experience to capture some highlights on more than just my iPhone. After all, Instagram can't have all the fun where Berlin exploration and creative photography is concerned.

The temperamental weather made for alternating dramatic backdrops of piercing blue skies and threatening dark clouds, not to mention providing a sense of adventure whenever the downpours happened, forcing us to duck into underground stations or take cover beneath the elevated Ubahn tracks and get creative with our protected surroundings. At the end of Saturday's marathon of photo walks and activities, my overstimulated brain was nearly as tired as my aching feet.

Sunday's brunch at Tempelhof was the perfect way to relax after the previous day, with the airport-turned-public-park being one of my favorite places to meander around. For those who have never been, you may be thinking 'how exciting can an old abandoned airport be?', but there is just something about the wide open space in the middle of a big ol' city that fosters a sense of freedom and at-oneness with nature. The weather gods once again blessed us, this time with warm sunshine and picture-perfect fluffy white clouds for relaxing on picnic blankets, getting in our last chance at socializing with this amazing, worldly group and later, to explore Tempelhofer Feld and create more inspirational images together.

I must say again how grateful I am for the organizers, sponsors, photo walk leader and all the attendees for making this weekend happen. The friends I've made, the new, talented Instagrammers that have been added to my feed and the influx of crazy-good creative energy have added more to my Instagram journey and relatively new life here in Berlin than I can say. I am humbled, grateful and ready to take my own creative endeavours to the next level.

European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Fernsehturm TV tower reflection
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_looking up at Fernsehturm TV tower European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_underneath Fernsehturm TV tower architecture
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Fernsehturm TV tower architecture and St Mary's Church European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_under Fernsehturm TV tower steps
European Instagram meetup #EverchaningBerlin_under Fernsehturm TV tower European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_building architecture grey sky
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Berlin architecture window reflection European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_looking up Berlin architecture
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Alexanderplatz train bahn station European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Alexanderplatz station above trains waiting
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Alexanderplatz station stairs European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Alexanderplatz ubahn U5 sign
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Ubahn train in motion
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tram sign European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_photographers and the streetcars Strassenbahn
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_ubahn tracks Schoenhauser Allee European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_bahn tracks buildings blue sky European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Alexanderplatz Fernsehturm TV tower group
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Eberswalder Strasse ubahn station train leaving European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_@muenchmax on the Alexanderplatz station escalators
European Instagram meet up #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld runway lines closeup European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld bird sanctuary
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld runway takeoff European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld runway symbols Flughafen
European Instagram meet up #EverchangingBerlin _Tempelofer Feld airport instagrammers photography jump European Instagram meet up #EverchangingBerlin _Tempelhofer Feld airport boxador dog on barrier
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld barriers and field European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld runway with friends European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld segway tour
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhof runway shadows dog European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld wood structures
European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld bird art European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Tempelhofer Feld Flughafen European Instagram meetup #EverchangingBerlin_Flughafen Tempelhof and field

European InstaMeet #EverchangingBerlin

June 20, 2014

#EverchangingBerlin European Instameet Instagram collage_with text
This past month and a half has been a luxurious, much-needed hiatus of purely focusing on myself, keeping stress-free and getting my health back on track. As it always happens though, I have been antsy to get back to a routine. Writing, taking pictures, crafting these stories I have to tell fulfils my need to be creative and helps me feel like I am contributing something to the world. So when I discovered there was a weekend-long meet up of European Instagrammers right here in Berlin, I knew this was just what I needed to kick my motivation - and inspire some creativity - back into high gear.

Continually surprised by how many amazingly talented people I meet here in Berlin, this event was no exception. Over two hundred folks from all over Europe, including several from the States, gathered to explore Berlin, take tons of photos and just get to know each other. Being one of the small-time Instagrammers in attendance (as in, followers in the hundreds, as opposed to tens of thousands), I was eager to rub elbows with such talented photographers, watch them work and take inspiration from more seasoned and artistic perspectives. During that weekend alone, a couple of the Instagrammers were featured on the likes of Darling magazine's Instagram feed and recommended by Instagram itself. Needless to say, I was humbled by the company I got to keep over the weekend and feel inspired to take my photography to the next level.

While I only managed to introduce myself to a fraction of all the attendees, I feel really lucky to have met the people that I did. Their company through the weekend was a pleasure and their Instagram accounts will be a continual source of inspiration on my feed. For all the amazingly talented people I already followed, I discovered even more impressive 'grammers through this event, including:

    gandafro - a feed full of gorgeously captured Berlin and San Sebastian,

    alexandrabode - Alexandra's worldly feed is a carefully culminated collection of the simple and beautiful,

    stefzor - this Australian's captures as she bikes her way across Europe will give even the most staunch homebodies a serious case of wanderlust,

    snyx - an Instanbul-based attorney by day, her urban landscapes almost beg a second career in photography,

    ryanm - a Berliner with a great eye for color and perspective.

These are only a few of the amazing new folks I now follow, but I hope you find some inspiration here as I have.

It is with a heavy heart that I wrap up this chapter of new Berlin experiences, but I have high hopes for another such meeting of talented Instagrammers in the not-too-distant future. Stay tuned for some more photos from this inspiring weekend...