A cook at Adana Grill Haus grills adana kebab and kuzu pirzola. Cevat Akpolat, the owner of Adana Grill Haus in Kreuzberg, says his restaurant is more than just Turkish snacks. "This is a Turkish culture restaurant."
A cook at Adana Grill Haus grills adana kebab and kuzu pirzola. Cevat Akpolat, the owner of Adana Grill Haus in Kreuzberg, says his restaurant is more than just Turkish snacks. "This is a Turkish culture restaurant." Layne Mosler
Döner kebab may have surpassed sausage as Germany's favorite fast food, but the famous sandwich, invented by Mahmut Aygun at a Turkish snack bar in West Berlin in 1971, is nowhere to be found at Adana Grill Haus.
Founded 26 years ago a few blocks from the epicenter of Berlin's "Little Istanbul" neighborhood in Kreuzberg, the 40-seat restaurant claims to be the first Turkish grill of its kind in the city: every piece of beef and lamb is butchered in-house and grilled to order in the open kitchen.
"This is not a snack bar," Adana Grill Haus owner Cevat Akpolat said.
"This is a Turkish culture restaurant."
Fifty years after Turkish guest workers first came to Germany to help rebuild the country after World War II, assimilation is still a hot topic, especially in Kreuzberg where visitors are likely to notice as many head scarves as mohawks.
Like a handful of restaurants in the neighborhood that feature dishes from different regions of Turkey, Adana Grill Haus draws multiple generations of homesick immigrants and increasing numbers of food-loving Germans, suggesting to some that integration has begun here at last - at least when it comes to food.
Adana Grill Haus serves kuzu pirzola, or lamb chops.
Adana Grill Haus serves kuzu pirzola, or lamb chops. Layne Mosler
The restaurant specializes in dishes from Adana, a city of 1.6 million people in south-central Turkey famous for its minced meat kebabs with red pepper.
Adana Grill Haus' version of its namesake kebab is flavorful but dry, and it is their lamb chops (kuzu pirzola, 13 Euro) that draw Turkish celebrities, from director Fatih Akin to Green Party politician Özcan Mutlu.
Juicy, pink, and rimmed with fat, kuzu pirzola are perfect with a side of acili ezme (a-SILL-ee EZ-may, tomato relish with olive oil and spicy red chilies, 4 Euro) and house-made yogurt (3.50 Euro) or ayran (the salted yogurt beverage popular throughout the Balkans).
German actor Daniel Brühl and boxer Marko Huck ("He eats four portions of ribs, no bread and a liter of water," Mr. Akpolat said.) are regulars here, too.
But their photos have not made their way from Mr. Akpolat's smart phone to the restaurant's walls; they might clash with the life-sized statue of a ram atop the grill and the evil eye above the storage room door or put off the taxi drivers who also consider Adana Grill Haus to be their place.
Layne Mosler is a writer who ate and danced tango in Buenos Aires for nearly four years before moving to New York City to drive a taxi. She's currently living and eating in Berlin and writing Driving Hungry, a book based on her Taxi Gourmet blog that's scheduled for publication by Vintage (Random House) in 2014.