Dining alone in Berlin
February 24, 2020 3:18 PM   Subscribe

I'll be traveling to Berlin alone in late May. I'm very accustomed to traveling alone, but this is the first time I'll be by myself outside North America. I have questions about dining.

So I enjoy traveling alone, but the one thing I tend to find a bit tricky or awkward is dining alone, as some places will give you the hairy eyeball if you take up space as a solo diner. I usually do stuff like ask to sit at the bar, or go sit at a regular table at off hours, like 5 pm or 9 pm, although of course, whether something is "off hours" depends on the city. I also will sometimes get takeout if it's a pizza place or whatever.

First, is there anything different about navigating dining alone in Berlin? My German is passably good, at least for a city like Berlin where everyone basically speaks perfect idiomatic English anyway. Second, I'd be grateful to have recommendations about specific places where solo diners might be welcome (or might not be). I'll be staying in Friedrichshain. I'll also have company for some of the trip, but as a confirmed introvert, I'll probably be alone for more than half the time.

Oh, and I'm also happy to hear any other advice for traveling alone in Berlin -- no need to stick strictly to dining.

Thank you!
posted by holborne to Travel & Transportation around Berlin, Germany (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've done Berlin as a solo, non-German speaking diner, and I did not find it to be an issue anywhere I went. I understand the hairy eyeball fear, but I definitely did not experience anything like it in Berlin, especially on the East side. Sitting at the bar or going late or early are fine moves, but I haven't found them to be necessary to offer—if they need or want to seat you at the bar, they'll offer that, and you can take it.

Some specific places I've been solo in Berlin, moving from Friedrichshain outward:

The Michelberger Hotel has a cool lounge area if you want to chill by yourself with some simple food or good drinks.

Silo Coffee is great coffee and fine to do solo.

It feels weird to recommend an American-style burger restaurant in Germany, but Burgermeister is excellent and the Schlesises Tor location is in a neat little open-air building.

Markhalle Neun is a great little funky enclosed market with excellent food and excellent coffee, good for a hangout for a while.

Doyum is one of many excellent casual Turkish options

Mogg is very good pastrami and deli food, but with fairly communal seating (like, not a deli atmosphere)

Felix Austria (because Austrian restaurants are a Thing in Berlin) was very tasty and casual and not too busy, fine to linger.

For fancier dining, I was fine as a solo diner at both Pauly Saal (same building as Mogg, and a FANTASTIC dining room) and Lode & Stijn. I haven't been to Nobelhart & Schmutzig yet but hear consistently great things and they seem like cool people, so could be a third good option.

I have also spent hours at an amazing store called Manufactum which has two floors of shelf upon shelf of durable, thoughtful, elegant handmade goods, from paring knives and fancy gins to garden shears and sweaters. I've picked up amazing stationary, a fantastic tea strainer, and excellent felt coasters there.
posted by zingiberene at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

I went to Berlin on my own for a few days and had no issue dining alone at any hour. I tended to find I felt more comfortable at more touristy places, which often seemed to have other lone diners there - I’m guessing quite a few were business travellers. There were some delicious-looking hipstery places (I think maybe along Alte Schönhauser Straße?) but I went past in the evening when they were full of benches of noisy groups of friends dining together and there was no way I was going to sit alone on the end of one of their benches!

I was there in a very hot summer and ended up eating at least twice on the terraces outside the restaurants on the opposite bank from Berlin Cathedral, just up from the DDR Museum. The food wasn’t anything unusual, but it was nice to sit outside and watch the river. The staff were attentive without being annoying and utterly unfazed by a single diner.
posted by penguin pie at 4:53 PM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would walk in, say "ein Tisch für einen bitte" and never had issues.
posted by brujita at 6:07 PM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just went solo to Berlin in October! Two random pieces of advice:

I don't know if you're only looking for dinner suggestions, but for earlier in the day I really liked Rogacki. It is an old-school place in West Berlin, so not at all hip as far as I can tell (it looks like you're in New York -- it seemed sort of like parts of the Upper East Side) but the fish counter was absolutely wonderful and totally a comfortable place to eat alone. It's quite casual but could be enjoyable to stop in for lunch, especially with the €3.50 or so glasses of wine!

My other tip is in tipping and money in Germany. (If you've been to Germany before, you probably know these things and can freely ignore this!)

Have cash -- credit cards are fairly widely accepted, but Germany is relatively speaking a lot more cash-oriented than the other Western societies I have experience with (US, Canada, UK, France) and a lot of small businesses are still cash-only.

Then specifically with dining, when you want to tip, if you're paying in cash you should tell the server when you pay the check how much you want to tip. In other words, you shouldn't leave money on the table as a tip, and the server typically expects you to pay and tell them how much you want to pay as soon as they bring you the check. (A helpful hint if you're not good at mental math on the spot, keep track of what you're ordering and the cost, so that you have a general idea of the total and can calculate ahead of time what you owe).
posted by andrewesque at 7:01 PM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

In my experience (including living in Germany for three years), this is much less of a problem in Germany than it is in the United States. There is very little sense of please-leave-this-table-so-we-can-cram-in-more-paying-customers and much more of the attitude that your table is yours until you care to leave it. I would only be concerned if you end up in a place that's crowded to the extent of there being a long line at the door, and even then I suspect it's more likely to be a case of you wishing to be polite rather than them trying to hurry you.
posted by kyrademon at 6:48 AM on February 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone -- this all helps a lot!
posted by holborne at 11:57 AM on February 25, 2020

Response by poster: Oh, and zingiberene -- as it happens, I'm staying at the Michelberger. So thanks especially for that recommendation.
posted by holborne at 11:58 AM on February 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

nice! I always stay there. The breakfast room is especially good.
posted by zingiberene at 9:57 AM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

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