Following research, we loved what we saw about Santa Maria and asked to drop by to take some pictures. They were kind enough to provide us with the following meal, however all thoughts and opinions are – as always – formed independently and without agreement to be favourable.
If you think that we’ve currently got a thing for Mexican food then you’re not far wrong. In fact, I’ve only just finished a bowl of vegan chilli that Franca made with expert hands for lunch. Also, with plans to eat at a great burrito place in Berlin next week to, you could say we’re becoming addicted.
It wasn’t always the case though, back when we were still sharing a place in the UK prior to travelling together as a couple, we’d have some enchiladas every other month or so, but nowhere near as frequent as it’s become since we started our current trail period of living like locals in Berlin that has seen us eat at tacos in one location, burritos at another; not forgetting that great chilli that I’m still savouring the flavour of.
On of the main reason’s we’ve become some fond of Mexican food even though we’re actually so far away from being in the country of its origin, is that here in Berlin there are a number of restaurants all offering their take on authentic Mexican cuisine; sometimes as street food, most other times as a great fast food option either for a quick lunch or as something easy to eat on the go – especially in the case of burritos – which can easily also come prepared vegan.
There’s Always A Vegan Option
We’re both always quick to mention to people that Berlin is a vegan heaven, and with HappyCow putting the city first in their recent Top Five Vegan Friendly Cities In The World article; there are very clear signals that being vegan in the capital is remarkably easy, and not just because of the high quantity of purely vegan restaurants it has (one of the highest per capita in Europe). The clearest sign that a city is more open to vegan travellers like us is how many regular restaurants have a selection of vegan choices.
As one of the capitals it might not come as much of a surprise, but you’d be surprised just how many cities that you would think have a more forward thinking attitude to culture and differing lifestyles, can tend to be a little slow to adapt.
Though we don’t eat out more than once or twice in a ten day period, when the time does come we’ve really fortunate that we can just fire up an application like Foursquare (follow our personal recommendations), search for the nearest location where either the establishment or other customers have left tips to the types of vegan options there might be, and then simply choosing the most convenient option.
We really must thank our recent vegan travel tips for helping us find great places recently.
Santa Maria – Mexican Diner
In the heart of Kreuzberg – one of the centers of life in Berlin – is a restaurant with vegan options that has been a focal point and hotspot option for a Mexican dining experience. Santa Maria is open from midday until late and with tables and chairs on the street outside, it comes as little surprise that during the summer months of the year, many groups of all ages meet to sit in the sun and have something a little spicy.
Part of the reason we chose to get in touch with Santa Maria was that they’re a laid back style that, when we did more research before arriving, appealed to the design aspects of our minds. We wanted to see just how relaxed an atmosphere was created by their simple – yet smartly chosen – interior design.
Simple, Yet Smartly Chosen
The wooden floor, table and chairs that surround the bar mimic the same roadside Mexican bar feeling I have long imagined to be the common case in Mexico, purely based on films and dramatisations from the country, but there’s a unique dry and minimal style that is unmistakable. You certainly don’t see the pictures on the wall and think back to time spent in Japan or humidity of under the heat and Malaysia; the style is entirely Central American in every way.
Standing at the bar and talking over just what kinds of vegan options there are on the largely meat-based menu, you can almost imagine yourself ordering a shot of tequila, even if you’re not the biggest fan.
Our Choices From The Menu
The menu contains much of the typical Mexican fare, but with a few slight changes here and there. The staff were really helpful in pointing out on the menu just which items were safe for vegetarians and which were purely vegan. Whilst we decided to talk over and discuss our options we played it safe by ordering a plate of homemade tortilla chips with a scoop of fresh guacamole.
One menu item that caught the eye which could be ordered without the omission of its usual topping of crème fraiche was the, Tostadas de Hongos, a crispy fried corn tortilla topped with mushrooms, beans and a tomato sauce.
One precaution people often have with Mexican food is the level of spice. Some people can’t get enough of jalapeño peppers, where as others can’t take even the tiniest of tangy taste. I’m very much in the first camp. Thankfully the sauces that come as standard with the food at Santa Maria are the lowest on the scale of spice, making for an enjoyable taste for even the most cautious eater. Leaving the spices as a side option certainly makes it easier to enjoy the individual flavours that make up the tostadas.
Our ‘split and share‘ option was a vegetable stuffed burrito that was brimming with so much filling that it required a knife and fork to eat, which is certainly not a complaint. Again, the flavours of the individual vegetables were clearly distinct and enjoyable with each bite.
Needless to say that once the swap had taken place, I covered my share with all of the three varieties of spicy sauces.
Part of the reason we really enjoyed our meal at Santa Maria wasn’t only because of how good the food was, it was largely the sense of being within a cornerstone of the community as people started to fill up the tables as lunch time approached. There was a sense that for some it was a working lunch or perhaps the first time they’d been outside since waking up from a typically late night out in Berlin. The people were bubbly, maybe because that’s just the high energy that seems to fill up this particular neighbourhood; maybe it was because the light comes streaming in through all of the floor to ceiling windows that bring so much brightness to the colour in your plate.
Whatever the secret is, it brings an extra something to enjoying your meal that not every restaurant in the city has managed to replicate.
What’s your favourite Mexican dish?