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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When all else fails, there's always döner

Now that's a spicy meatball
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Döner Kebap. It's the food we all know and love. If you don't know it, then it's the food you should give a try, because odds are you will most certainly love it (unless you're some kind of retarded-ass vegetarian -- no offense). However, if you do know about Döner and still don't love it, then you are either A.) eating at shitty Döner-Buden or B.) a former singer in a defunct Boy'Girl Band who's afraid of "tainted" tzatziki.*

If either of the above are applicable to you, never's not your fault. Well, if the latter one is true, then that is kind of your fault (the popstar part, at least). You have to keep in mind that you are always taking a risk when going into an unfamiliar Döner shop. However, if you are loyal to "The Cause" (which is similar to, but not the same as "The Revolution"), then you've got to take a few for the team when in search of that dönery-goodness.

In the end, you have to let your PDP (Personal Döner Preference) be your guide. PDPs vary, of course, by individual -- hence, the "personal" part. However, for the uninitiated, click below for a few points to take into consideration.


Rule of Thumb: You can't always judge a Döner-Bude by its cover. True enough, some places just look like shitholes and that should give you some pause (if for no other reason than general health regulations). Just remember, a pretty shop does not necessarily equal a delicious döner.

Ask yourself: Q1.) Are there (ever) other customers there? Q2.) If so, are they usually a bunch of drunks? Q3.) Are you drunk?

If you've been by the place a few times and you never really see any one there (other than friends or family of the owners -- a.k.a "employees"), that could be a bad sign. However, a bunch of drunk people eating there is also not an indicator of goodness, because drunk people cannot be trusted in matters of what does or doesn't taste good. That said, if you are drunk, then it's probably gonna be the best damn döner you ever had, because everything tastes bomb when you are drunk. So, go back when you sober up, buddy.


By my observation, this varies by region. When I first encountered döner in Berlin, I only saw calf meat döner. In fact, I never had a chicken döner until I came to Hamburg, where I couldn't really find calf döner, and the places that had it weren't very good. This isn't so much the case now. Most places have both calf and chicken and in Munich I saw a bunch of places that had just had turkey döner.

My PDP: I actually like both kinds, but learn more towards chicken these days, although I find chicken döner to be greasier. Turkey döner just tastes like Thanksgiving and I never really liked that holiday.


Döner generally comes in two types of flatbread. One looks kind of like pita bread and the other is kind of bigger and thicker. Or it's rolled in a tortilla like flatbread and looks like a burrito, but then it's called a dürum and that's not my bag, baby.

My PDP: I like the thicker bread, especially when it's toasted to where it's crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The pita bread-type usually makes for a smaller döner and always seems to fall apart and leak faster. However, I sometimes make exceptions for the places that make their own flatbread...that's some dedication to the artform right there.


A matter of such great debate, that I can only say "To each his/her own".

My PDP: 95% of the time, no onions, no hot sauce, no cabbage. I love onions, just not on my döner. I'm not a big fan of hot sauce (doesn't make my tummy happy). Cabbage is alright, but some guys just go overboard and then it's like I got a döner that mostly just tastes like sauerkraut.

Minus points for: carrots, parsley, and mixing the onions together with the cucumbers and tomatoes.


Quite possibly one of the most important things. There are basically only three ways to put together a döner:

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1.) This kind of döner reminds me of a top-loading washing machine, without the impeller. I dislike this method, because I only see disadvantage after disadvantage. You spend half of the time just eating vegetables and then once you get to the end you've just got a bunch of greasy meat and soggy bread.

It's sad, because I think it's a technique based on taco-construction that can't be applied to döner. It's the ol' form/function idea (See: Tacos, angle of attack).

2.) This is my PDP. Trying to eat a döner from the side, as though it were a goddamn taco**, only results in disaster and heartbreak. With this particular method, you can start at the top (as the Good Lord intended). The only downside is that sometimes you still end up with excess meat at the end.

3.) By far the winner in terms of distribution of contents. However, I don't like it, since I feel it lacks in the area of döner-aesthetic. The whole time, I'll watch the döner guy, like, "Hey now, aren't you just a clever motherfucker?" Then, I get the döner and think, "Aw...this just isn't cute."

I think these are some of the most important considerations -- at least for beginners. The price-to-size ratio should also be taken into account, especially if you've got a gigantor appetite and/or are a guy. Personally, I find myself struggling to finish just about any döner I purchase for 3 EUR, so size doesn't really play a role for me***.

For the advanced döner-connoisseur, you could maybe pay attention to extras like free tea and döner-bonus-cards (9th döner is free, baby).

One of my most favorite things in the world is when I can go to a Döner-Bude and I don't have to say a word when I go in, because they know my order already.

I tell you, it's one of the most beautiful things in life.

*= And when he says tainted, he means like skeet-tainted. I admit, that would be nasty beyond words and maybe not a totally unfounded fear, which is why I'll probably make the sign of the cross and say a small prayer before I eat a döner from now on.

**= Don't get it twisted, I love tacos, too.

***= I know, I know, Schmidt. Once upon a time, you could get a freakin mega döner in Dortmund for like 5 cents. One day, I'll build you a time machine so you can go back and get me one.

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