Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Great Döner Vergleich of 2012: Part I

(the reigning champ -see cellphone and hands for scale)

It's pretty wonderful that Germany's favorite street food is also MY favorite street food.  It's always available food.  Fantastic comfort food.  Terrible date food.  Brings-people-together food.  It's greasy and big.  Substantial and truly hunger-busting.  One of my guy friends even told me that the best way to scare a man who was being a little too friendly off was to eat one in front of him.  Guess it tears people apart too?  In short, Doener is everything the best street food should be.

...And like every street food, people stand by their favorite vendor.  I decided to do a little "vergleich" or "comparison" of the establishments in Tuebingen.  I've made it to two so far, hence the title "Part 1."  This is seriously going to be a food-nerd post.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

So before we get into comparing the four Döner (yes, it deserves its capital letter) establishments I've sampled, lets get into the history and specifics of what this magical food-of-the-gods is.  Ok?  Döner (also known as Döner-Kebap, Döner-Kebab, Döner-Kabab, and Doener) is part of the sandwich family.  It begins with a wedge of bread that is something between naan and pita.  The bread is usually freshly made.  You KNOW you've found the real deal when the bread is less than a minute out of the oven -it should be no older than 2 minutes during "rush hours."  Anything older, and you should be getting suspicious.  The first layer is the meat.  It comes off of a drumstick-shaped block of pressed meat, rotating on a stick.  It's shiny, greasy, and totally mystery meat.  It's halaal, though (manufactured in accordance to Muslim dietary standards).  What comes after this really varies by location.  Good ones will put a layer of sauce on next, usually garlic/yogurt/dill.  The vegetables will follow -some sort of kraut, iceberg lettuce, TONS of white onions, tomatoes, maybe cucumbers or parsley (blech).  On top of that comes the first or final sauce layer for most.  If you got a special Döner, there might also be cheese, another type of salad, or other sauce options.  I've only had one of those -they're a real rarity.

Where did Döner come from?  It was invented by Turkish immigrants who arrived in Germany as Gastarbeiter in the 80s.  Döner did not exist in Turkey before (there are now a handful of shops in Istanbul and other major cities).  This makes Döner a truly German food -modern and reflecting their diversity.  Enough poetry, sorry guys.  Back to the food.  

Döner Number 1:  Still the reigning champ, hands down.  For less than 3 Euros, I scored a GIANT, fresh, delicious Döner loaded with all the toppings I could imagine -extra salad, cheese, and two different sauces.  The staff at Istanbul (in Dresden's Albertplatz) are some of the nicest, most good-natured guys ever.  Very committed to the quality of their product.  Their kitchen is extremely clean and they make every sandwich with visible care.  Two thumbs up.  Check out the picture at the top of the post.
Location: Dresden Neustadt
Rating: 5 Stars

Döner Number 2:  This one was probably one of the most disappointing eating experiences of my life.  Seriously.  For almost 4 Euros I got a combination of a tiny bit of meat and a ton of iceberg lettuce crammed into a cardboardy pita.  The sauce was watery, the service was unfriendly and much too slapdash.
Location: Ulm     
Rating: 1 star (the meat was ok, I suppose)

Döner Number 3:  My first Tuebingen Doener, eaten late on a Saturday night.  This one was pretty good.  The proportion of meat, veggies, and sauce were just rightThe bread was LITERALLY fresh right out of the oven. The service was quick and friendly, if not very personal, and the vibe was nice.  Add to that the central location, and I might have a good standby here in Tuebingen.  My only complaint is the price -the Doener was not worth the 3.50 I paid for it, but that is the going price around here.  I think it's mostly that Dresden spoiled me.
Location: Kalendar, Tuebingen
Rating: 4 stars

Döner Number 4:  Every Monday, Aksaray Imbiss has a 1.50 Döner promotion.  (It's only 2 Euros during the day, making it the best deal in the city).  I decided to go ahead and give it a try.  The tiny Imbiss was PACKED with customers (no doubt lured by the greasy cheepness) and the service was very quick and a little slapdash.  Only one layer of sauce and the bread was a couple minutes old.  I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because it was Monday.  Worth the 1.50, yes.  Worth more than 2.50, probably not.
Location: Aksaray Imbiss, Tuebingen
Rating: 4 stars

Stay tuned for more Doener adventures.  I know *I* can't wait.

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