I’ve had the worst insomnia in Berlin. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I got more than two or three hours of sleep. So last night, at four a.m., just as the sun was coming up over the Brandenburg Gate outside my window, I got up and began combing my city map, lookng for the intersection of Mehringdamm and Yorchstrasse, which is where Herr Lubo had told me much earlier in the evening that I would find the best currywurst in Berlin.
If you don’t know, currywurst is to Berliners what a good kosher dog is to New Yorkers. What is it? Just a pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with an oddly addicting curry ketchup. It is the fast food in Berlin and during my time here I’ve gotten completely addicted to them. You can find decent currywurst on almost every street corner in Berlin, but last night, as I was telling Herr Lubo about my delectable evening at Henne, he told me that if I wanted to sample the city’s finest currywurst before I left, I had to go to a stand called Curry 36 late at night. “It’s where the Nutten, Junkies und verrückte Leute go,” he said. Hookers, junkies, and crazy people. “If you take more than ten seconds to order, they start to get a little angry. But the wurst and the sauce are homemade and it’s worth it,” he told me.
So I’ve been lying in bed thinking about currywurst since midnight and now I’ve decided I need to go find this place. I pulled on my jeans and a shirt and hurried down to the lobby where a solitary young woman dozed behind the front desk and went out the door, wondering if I wasn’t a bit crazy to walk a good two miles in the dark in search of a hot dog with spicy ketchup.
But waiting just outside the Hotel Adlon was a taxi and slumped behind the wheel was a young Russian—maybe 25 or 26—named Igor who, when I asked him if he spoke English said, “You bet, Joe,” and then to prove it, turned up the Beyonce CD he was listening to and began to happily sing along to “Crazy Love,” giving a lie to the dour Russian stereotype.
I shouted over the music and Igor’s singing to ask him if he could take me to Curry 36.
“No problem, Joe.”
A few minutes later we were there. I asked Igor to wait for me.
“No problem, Joe.”
His English seemed limited but very, very good.
At Curry 36 I found two extremely haggard looking cooks wiping down their stainless-steel holding trays which were remarkably empty of currywurst or any other sort of sausage for that matter.
Everyone speaks English in Berlin, even the tired cooks at Curry 36 who told me they were finished, closed, kaput.
“We close at four,” one said, shrugging. Then she pointed down the street where there was a sidewalk kiosk with the words CURRYWURST painted on the side. I hurried down. Two very stoned German students told me in German that they had just ate three currywursts and if I would order seven more, splitting them with them, the three of us would get a free one.
It sounded tempting but I knew I’d have to partake in their hubbly bubbly in order to find the appetite and that didn’t seem like a particularly wise idea. Instead, I ordered just one. With a roll. And climbed into the back of Igor’s Mercedes with my little paper tray oozing with sweet ketchup and grilled sausage juice.
“Curry 36 was closed,” I told Igor.
“Yes, I know,” he said. I gave him a look and he shrugged. “You didn’t ask me, Joe.”
And with that I sat back in Igor’s cab stabbing at sliced pieces of wurst with a little plastic fork while Igor drove me back to the Adlon singing, “Got me lookin’ so crazy right now…Your love’s got me lookin’ so crazy right now.”
Still, as we pulled up to the Adlon, I couldn’t help wondering if the currywurst was even better at Curry 36. Maybe I’ll go back tonight.
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