Does Berlin have an authentic American style diner? Finally the answer is an emphatic yes thanks to the opening of the new Nalu diner just off Helmholzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg. Oliver Miller the man behind the legendary Dr Pong on Eberswalder Str opened his newest creation last week on Sunday and it was a resounding success. Since the turnout was greater than expected they did run out of food a bit earlier than expected but for a dry run it went surprisingly well. The concept of the North American diner is very simple one. It is a place where you can go in the morning and get quality drip style coffee with free refills, eggs any style with bacon and homemade hash browns (I am still trembling in anticipation of the addition of corn beef hash to the menu), pancakes with real maple syrup and other classic American standards. Until now ex-pats have had trouble finding this kind of fare in the German capital.
A few years ago I was at Belushi’s on Rosa Luxemburg Platz with a few friends complaining about the lack of decent Mexican food in Berlin. The newest and virtually only semi-acceptable option at the time was Dolores California style burritos which had just opened a few months earlier. The only problem we were saying is that they were California style, not the authentic Mexican style every self-respecting American comes to know and love. We were lamenting over the tendency of most cuisines to adapt to the palates of the audience they are serving. Shortly after that night a few friends of ours who worked in the kitchen at White Trash Fast Food teamed up with Marielle Huey from Texas to open Maria Pelligro and Maria Bonita in Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg respectively and our long search for Mexican food in Berlin was over. Now all we needed to feel right at home was a diner. In comes Oliver with Nalu.
The idea seems simple enough, a cozy place with booths, open early and if all goes well open until late. Considering the staid nature of German labor laws it seems too much to hope for to expect it to be open 24/7. The décor seems right out of an Edward Hopper painting. When you walk in you see what looks like a Formica counter top with spinning stools and behind it the semi open kitchen with a window where traditionally you would expect the finished meals to be plated with the classic diner cry of, “Food up!” Last week Oliver was putting the finishing touches on what looked to be classic diner booths where you could imagine groups of teens with letter jackets sipping on soda fountain chocolate malteds. The original 70’s style Pepsi diner sign displaying the menu comes with a comic disclaimer, “Sorry we do not serve Pepsi. “
The food they will be serving at Nalu will be typical North American standards, breakfast with pancakes, cheeseburgers and other comfort foods that somehow get lost in translation when attempted by Europeans. The prices at Nalu are all under 10 Euro, breakfast going for roughly 7 Euro and the burger with potato chips for around 5 Euro. It is located on Duncker Str 80A, Berlin 10437 about 50 meters from Helmholz Platz and open 7 days a week from 9 – 18 but the official opening hours may change. The website is currently under construction but a big part of the concept can be seen in the logo of nalu diner where kindness has been written in small letters under the name. So far Oliver has proven he has mastered the breakfast and the cheeseburgers and now the ex-pat contingency in Berlin is waiting with bated breath to see what home style, delicious delights will come out of his kitchen next.