Guide books can be so useless in their recommendations. People who write them must just use other guide books as references. The authors are well – authors maybe some of them are even journalists. I have moonlighted as a jorurnalist and been sent on press trips with “real” journalists enough to know that they are just like poor students. Even when they are older, they will sleep on someone’s couch rather than shell out for a hotel. I remember one journalist was scandalized when she realized I was leaving all the wine I had been given behind in Italy instead of somehow taking 6 bottles with me back to London. How she proposed to do that herself, I am still not sure?
There is of course absolutely nothing wrong in living your life waiting for freebies, but I can not use these people as a basis of taste or opinion.
I think the exception to the guidebook rule is the Louis Vuitton Guide. Before you roll your eyes at my hoighty toighty recommendations, consider this. Using their New York Guide, I found places like the burgers at Union Square, Magnolia Bakery, Green Papaya. Fast food, street food, deli food and of course there are a smattering of Michelin stared places that cost the earth. The guides are written by insiders of the city and what they share is their knowledge of charming insider places, it doesn’t have to cost the earth but it has to be unique and whatever it decided to do, it has to be the best at doing it.
For Berlin, I would have to buy the whole box set for Europe. Worse, Berlin doesn’t even get its own book, its shoved in with 4 other cities I can’t remember.
My investigations of foodie Berlin started using the Lonely Planet (snore but it has youngish taste) and Something Guide to Living in Berlin. Lonely planet had some good places, like Dolores Burrito Bar. The Guide to Living in Berlin has a strange collection – places like Int’Veld Chocolate shop which seemed extremely promising until I had their salted pistachio chocolate bar. Have they tried that bar? The pistachios are so salty you can’t eat more than a square. Its disgusting stuff! The milk chocolate using goats milk doesn’t melt in your mouth but crumbles into oily pieces. Their saving grace was the 80% chocolate, the gloss and snap on it, and their clever packaging.
The Exberliner magazine did a special on burger places which sent me to Tartan which I found downright peculiar, more on that later, suffice it to say, I decided they are not going to be my beacon of foodie discovery of Berlin.
A surprisingly good source was Miniloft Berlin (a short rental studio featured in the Louis Vuitton Guide). They had some great recommendations including a great Vietnamese called Chi Sing. Although they also like Tartan – friends with the owner?
I still don’t have the Louis Vuitton guide or another guide I would trust but now I have discovered something infinetly better; Qype. I search for a place to go to, using Qype members who appear to have the same discerning taste as I do. Then I go, L in tow, we usually lunch or coffee or whatever we have decided to do. Then I go back home and give it a score and put my opinion out there. My only gripe about Qype is its not specifically food focused and there for there are some gaping holes in food areas. Like for instance – the only listing for Thomas Keller’s Bouchon is for the one in Las Vegas (he has one in New York and Nappa Valley). The French Laundry is not even mentioned! www.chow.com seems to be quite serious – but then they are not very present in Europe, where I happened to be! The New York Times has some great recommendations http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/europe/germany/berlin/overview.ht