Berlin’s Oldest Restaurant – You Will Not Leave Hungry

It’s a newish obsession of mine to find the oldest restaurant in a city and eat there. We’ve checked off London, Madrid, Milan, Lisbon, Boston, both claimants in DC and one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Paris … Clearly, this is a genius marketing ploy to snag food-obsessed tourists like me.

In Berlin, you need a reservation to eat at Zur Letzten Instanz, even though it’s a glorified pub. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fabulous place – heaping plates of food, carefully drawn beers, rows on ancient beer steins and busts of Friedrich der Grosse lining the walls. It’s a site, and a sight and a fun place to pass the evening.

We sat at “the best” table in the restaurant, according to our host. I think he meant we were the last reservation for the evening, which is why we sat across from the door. On the plus side, we got to watch our host – I named him Claus – draw pilsners with care and draw dark beers even more slowly. My guess is he’d been drawing beers since the time of Kaiser Wilhelm. We watched him turn away guests politely – do you have a reservation? Ah … we are booked. Perhaps tomorrow?

G ordered an asparagus soup to start – not sure why he needed a starter, but okay. My pork knuckle – I know, it sounds gross – was delicious. Think of it as a oversized osso bucco. Terrifically tender and about half the size of a bowling ball. I would only imagine how ecstatic my dog would have been for the caveman-sized bone.

Zur Letzten was founded in 1621 by a former servant of a knight of the Elector. No doubt the Elector ate well, because everyone in the place was eating heartily, from the group of grad students in the corner – there for their one meal of the day, no doubt – to the two small Asian women who downed two beers each and huge plates of meat and dumplings, to the random groupings of tourists, families visiting their study abroad kids, businessmen and others.

The best part of the night, though, was when our server asked if we wanted anything else, and I pointed to a table in the room: what is that? Schnapps, she said. We’ll take two. The look on her face was priceless. On the other hand, I had just accomplished two of my key goals – dining at the oldest restaurant in the city and ordering schnapps post-meal. Neither disappointed.

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