Berlin Museum Review: The best of the (curry)Wurst
Berlin bursts with street food kiosks specializing in Cheapo-friendly treats. It’s easy to snack on anything from Turkish Döner kebabs to vegan cheeseburgers here. But one speedy snack has been around the longest: the currywurst.
Invented in 1949, currywurst is a colorful concoction of sliced sausage, ketchup-like tomato sauce, and curry powder, served on a ridged cardboard plate with a pile of fries (or a roll) is one of the city’s most iconic meals. The high-fat, high-calorie snack is hardly health conscious, but that doesn’t stop Berliners from snarfing down 70 million currywursts each year!
A grand opening for one hot dog!
This street food standby, available at “Bude” (kiosks) throughout the city (and country) made national headlines this past weekend when the Deutsches Currywurst Museum (Schützen Strasse 70, one block east of Friedrich Strasse, U-bahn: Stadtmitte, open 10 AM to 10 PM daily), nestled on a quiet street around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie and the Mauermuseum, opened its doors.
The low-key grand opening, which featured a dancing sausage and free samples, attracted about 1,500 visitors and a gaggle of pro-vegan protesters dressed in pig and cow costumes (see photo).
I was one of the first in line to visit the small museum, which charges a decidedly Cheapo-unfriendly admission of €11 (€8.50 for students). Furnished with a sausage-shaped couch, oversized “drips” of tomato sauce suspended from the ceiling, and a life-sized model of a sausage “Bude,” the museum covers every imaginable aspect of the Currywurst, from its 1949 invention by the Berliner snack stand owner Herta Heuwer to the ecological lifecycle of the snack’s cardboard serving plates. (It even acknowledges—but ultimately dismisses—Hamburg’s rival claim that it is the Currywurst’s true birthplace.)
The privately run museum, which cost €7 million to realize, is full of bells and whistles (including a “prepare-your-own Currywurst” computer game) and fun factoids, but it ultimately disappoints with superficial exhibits (in German and English) that stretch the theme too far.
It takes less than an hour to make your way through the entire museum. Some displays, including four model refrigerators representing the eating habits of different Berlin households, are only loosely linked (at best) to the currywurst.
A bit of currywurst history—for free
The museum’s most interesting display provides a brief history of the snack. Heuwer invented currywurst on September 4, 1949, during the lean, post-World War II years, when food was strictly rationed and Germans had to be creative in the kitchen. Based on the national staple—sausage—and ingredients introduced to the city’s residents by British occupying troops, currywurst struck a cord and became a Berlin institution. She went on to patent her “Chillup” sauce in 1959.
The snack eventually traveled to the rest of the country—and the globe. A map in the museum shows that currywurst is available in Bali, Bangkok, Oklahoma, and New York City, where the German-run sausage shack Hallo Berlin! doles out the Berlin export.
Because of the high admission price and superficial exhibits, I don’t recommend a visit to the museum. But I do encourage you to sample the storied street food at one of the city’s countless currywurst stands. Keep in mind that you may be asked to choose between mild or “scharf” (spicy) sauce or a sausage with or without “Darm” (casing) when ordering.
Where to get a currywurst in Berlin
The two most famous “Bude” are Prenzlauer Berg’s historic Konnopke’s Imbiss (Schönhauser Allee 44a, at the base of the Eberswalder Strasse U-bahn), which has been around since the 1940s, and Kreuzberg’s up-all-night Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36, U-bahn: Mehringdamm), a draw for the city’s club-goers and bar-hoppers.
Vegans don’t have to miss out: tofu-based varieties are available at the sister vegan eateries Yoyo Food World (Gärtner Str. 27, U-bahn: Frankfurter Tor) in Friedrichshain and Yellow Sunshine (Wiener Str., U-bahn: Görlitzer Bahnhof) in Kreuzberg. Don’t expect to pay more than €5 for your own personal taste of Berlin history.