As often happens when researching dining options in foreign cities, I stumble upon something interesting, but too American for a short trip (unlike Las Vegas, which I'm currently researching, where restaurants are literal NYC duplicates--do I really need to travel to a desert to eat at Blue Ribbon Sushi, Scarpetta, or Grimaldi's?). Often, though, my curiosity gets the better of me and I give in after sampling a respectable amount of local specialties. (I'm not saying I burn out on regional foods, but that after, say, a week of eating laksa, char kway teow, and hawker fare, I feel less guilty about trying a Singaporean Pizza Hut.)
So it was with The Bird, a "New York style bar and steakhouse," which did a good job at reproducing the Saturday night Brooklyn dining experience. The best reservations we could get on short notice were for 10pm (at least they take reservations--Germans are obsessed with reservations--I don't think you can even dine without them) and we still had to wait for a spell at the bar, which never bothers me if I have a stool to park my aging self.
I wasn't there to eat a pricey corn-fed steak imported from Iowa, but the 11.50 Euro burger that I had read raves about, claims that it wasn't only the best burger in Berlin, but possibly ever in the universe. Really?
We were there to tackle the two griddled burgers (there are also a number of grilled burgers with creative toppings), Da Birdhouse, a house burger, so to speak, and The Big Crack, a take on the McDonald's classic. My original intent to split and share was thwarted by their oozing sprawl, so I stuck with Da Birdhouse.
Here's what The Big Crack looks like, though.
I initially scoffed at the tough-guy admonishment on the menu "At least TRY eating the damn burger with your hands. All you uptight people with your forks and your knives are driving us crazy." But I could almost, just almost, see the impossibility of eating these monsters out of hand without the whole mess spilling out all over the table. For the record, I do shamelessly eat pizza with fork and knife, usually plastic. I will never fold and I will never cave.
That message to fussy locals was unheeded, by the way. Everyone was not only using forks and knives, but mutilating their burgers. I was dumbfounded by the woman who had removed her top bun, scraped off the entire tuft of guacamole (they made a big deal on the menu about how it's hard to source avocados) and was just cutting away at the patty.
The other signal that this isn't really New York-style at all is the mayonnaise that accompanies the fries, so randomly hand cut, it's like a sampler for those who enjoy both shoestrings and steak fries.
The meat, two-patties-worth, is a super loose grind and packed lightly, hence the mess. The greasiness is divine and melds with the generous amount of oozing American cheese, my favorite aspect of a burger, or rather, cheeseburger. Dripping cheese and grease is the whole point (I'll never understand meat and bun only purists). Da Bird's closest American kin would be In-N-Out's Double Double, and due to its extra beefiness, a notch above. It really didn't need bacon and caramelized onions, though, because there was excess aplenty as it was.
My only beef (sorry, it's Christmas Eve and my guard is down) was the absence of a straightforward bun. An English muffin isn’t un-American, it’s not just my first choice. I'm all for mayonnaise-dipped fries, but certain liberties just can't be taken. That the odd choice of starch did not detract in the least, proves the strength of Da Bird. I can't declare it the best; it wouldn't feel right, but I wouldn't be embarrassed recommending a New Yorker-run restaurant serving $15 cheeseburgers to visitors--after you've had your fill of sausages and schnitzel, of course.
If you want to be totally American in Berlin you can pick up a McRib--all-year-round. Germany is the only country in the world with the limited-edition sandwich permanently on the menu.
The Bird * Am Falkplatz 5, Berlin, Germany