I’ll go just about anywhere for barbecue. If I’m on vacation and have heard about a local spot, I’ll usually find a way to work it into the itinerary.
Yet ahead of my first trip to Europe last month, I did no research on the local barbecue scene. It never even occurred to me actually.
But as soon as my wife and I landed in Berlin we met up with our American friends living abroad and they informed us that the next night we would be going to an American-style barbecue restaurant for dinner that some local Berliners had recommended.
I was skeptical. I mean, what do Germans know about smoking pork or brisket?
But I was open to it, mostly because the friends we were visiting in Europe have been supporters of the #BBQBucketList from the start. So due to the Burke’s and Kelly’s support I chose to accept the local tip they’d been given and dive in. Plus I could only imagine how much I’d be jonesing for some barbecue if I was living in Europe.
My faith was rewarded. We walked by The Bird Barbecue on our way to the biergarten (as one does in Germany) a few hours before dinner. It had all the right smells for sure.
We opted for a family-style platter that provided us with all the meats and sides on the menu. They were all up to snuff.
The brisket was perfectly tender with the pink smoke rings all barbecue connoisseurs desire. The pork was delicious, as were the ribs, turkey and chorizo sausages.
Of the sides, I would say the potato salad, coleslaw and watermelon salad were particularly strong. The rest of our group enjoyed the mac’n’cheese more than I did (thought it had bit of a concession stand nacho cheese flavor to it) but it wasn’t terrible.
I was curious how a German restaurant had managed to make such authentic southern barbecue.
Fortunately we had struck up a bit of a rapport with Jon, the owner, earlier in the evening thanks to a misunderstanding about the rules regarding reserving outdoor tables. Another employee had told us earlier in the day you couldn’t reserve tables outside, but then we returned for dinner there were some tables being held.
When a member of our party who will remain nameless questioned why, Jon provided the ultimate trump card in that he was the owner and the one holding the tables. Pretty good reason in my opinion.
(Tip on how ordering at The Bird works, you secure your table first and then go to counter to order, providing them with the table number so they can deliver your food).
Turns out Jon is also an American. He was born in New York City, but has been in Berlin for the better part of the last two decades. He owns another popular eatery down the street, also named The Bird. It features burgers and steaks with a New York style.
A few years ago his head chef, Michael, started lobbying for a second restaurant that served American barbecue. Jon was skeptical, as he was from the Bronx and knew nothing about the fine art of southern smoked meat. But Michael was undeterred and headed to Texas to learn all he could.
As Jon told it, since Michael was a German looking to learn, the normally secretive Texan pit-masters opened their doors to show him how they do it in the smokehouses. He returned with what he absorbed, including what type of smoker to buy, and The Bird Barbecue was off and running.
The Bird Barbecue celebrated one year of being open in January and showed no signs of slowing down while I was there. It has a great indoor/outdoor setup as most European restaurants do. It has a full bar with a wide variety of German and American drinks. The inside also features a Nintendo and a cozy fireplace lounge.
The highlight though is provided by Jon’s German Sheppard who keeps an eye on his every move outside the restaurant. And don’t you worry Dad-joke-enthusiasts, we all nailed the slam dunk of calling out “Hey look a German Sheppard, or as they call them here, just a Sheppard.” Things went to the next level when another customer brought in their German Shorthaired Pointer.
So if you ever find yourself in the wonderfully weird city of Berlin, Germany be sure to check out The Bird Barbecue for some inexplicably authentic Texas-style barbecue.