To me, the atmosphere of Berlin's Imbißes is as important as the food. For all the heated debate over where to go for the 'best' currywurst, I have to say that I suspect a lot of it is as much to do with fashion as anything else. There's a lot of decent currywurst (or whatever else tickles your fancy) out there, if you look around.
A lack of fashionability is exactly what brings me here, to the perhaps not so snappily titled "Currywurst Berlin & Friends" on Bundesallee. Though it's not among the currently trendy ones, it does have a claim to fame, being the favourite Imbiß of film director Wim Wenders. In fact, he liked it so much that he used it as the location for a scene in Wings of Desire, where Peter Falk meets Marion (Solveig Dommartin). "If you come to Berlin, you should try a currywurst here," he says in his commentary to the film. That sounds like an excellent plan...
So, to answer the question that's probably on every reader's lips right now: the currywurst is good. The wurst isn't too salty (something which some places are guilty of) and the sauce has a nice tangy taste to it. Is it the best currywurst in Berlin? I find that harder to say without going on a huge currywurst binge and trying all of them one after another...but it's certainly good!
What happens after I order the currywurst is what's going to cement this Imbiß's place right at the top of my list of personal favourites, though...
An old woman comes up to the Imbiß, pushing a three wheeled walking frame. She wears a dark red jacket, her hair covered by an almost matching burgundy beret.
She asks for a beer, pauses for a moment, then adds that she'd like a currywurst too.
"A what?" asks the man serving.
"A currywurst" she replies.
"Do you want a roll with that?"
He hands her the beer and she sips, waiting while he prepares the currywurst. After a moment, he pushes it over to her and takes her money. She prods at it for a moment.
"Don't I get a roll or anything with this?" she asks.
"I asked if you wanted one and you said no!"
She mutters, adding "Well I want one"
He fetches her a roll and takes the extra money.
As she prods at the currywurst some more, the couple who are eating on the other side of the Imbiß finish their currywurst and walk away.
"You could throw your things away when you're finished!" he shouts after them.
"Are you getting angry because I've started complaining?" asks the woman with a grin.
"What?" he says, baffled by her false-teeth-inflected Berlin dialect.
"You're getting angry" she says, the remains of a cheeky smile still sparkling in her eyes.
"Could you pack all this up for me?" she continues.
With a surly flourish, he produces a bag and packs up the woman's currywurst and roll. He hands her the bag and she hangs it from the handles of her walking frame, before shuffling her beer ever so slowly along the Imbiß counter. She settles round the corner, looking through the glass at me and the man like an Edward Hopper figure. She sips her beer.
"Have you got a newspaper?" she asks him.
"What?" he asks again, his frustration growing.
"Have you got a newspaper?"
"No! This isn't a newsagent's!"
"I just wondered if there was a newspaper I could read"
"No, go and find a newagent's if you want a newspaper!" The woman returns to her beer.
It's only when I turn around to head off that I realise there was a newspaper on the counter behind me the whole time...
I walk away, my face carrying a smirk not too dissimilar to the woman's. If life in Berlin is a cabaret, it's places like this Imbiß which are its stages. Like Wim Wenders says, come here and try the currywurst...you might get some entertainment thrown in for free.