There’s a hustle, a bustle and a rush to hit some Berlin nightlife. But first there’s a surprise in store, and Manuel, our Swiss expat tour guide, is beside himself. He whispers the address of wherever it is we’re headed to the cabdriver and then turns and flashes us a smile.
“You’re going to love this.”
It’s rare in life that the things someone assumes will make you fall in love actually make you fall in love, and when we pull up to a sidewalk queue of people sidelined by a velvet rope, it’s looking dodgy. And then we hear a phrase that can make a world traveler cringe.
The speaker looks to be about 45 years old, blond, solid. Like a San Diego surfer.
“Welcome to my place. Screw this line.”
Whisking us past the waiting patrons and into the innards of a place that looks like something straight out of an early Hollywood take on Fu Manchu’s den of Oriental iniquity, Wally Potts drops us booth-deep in what he announces is “the White Trash Fast Food Café!”
It’s an absolute collision of styles reminiscent of red-lacquered Chinese eateries, tiki bars and Studio 54, topped off with a menu that is heavily redolent of the Waffle House chain that populates every truck stop south of the Mason-Dixon line. But better. Much, much better.
“I was in the Navy and just hanging out in San Diego surfing,” says Potts, now fully fluent in German. “Went to visit my brother in North Carolina and then afterward visited my other brother in Berlin.”
In Berlin he had a Eureka moment, and plans were cooked up to open the White Trash Fast Food Café. None of that’s surprising in and of itself. What IS surprising is that it’s become huge. How huge? A second location, the addition of live shows, events and reservation books filled weeks in advance — not to mention being hard to get into under the best of circumstances.
And if the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, how’d it taste?
A plate of hominy grits and eggs and an iced tea steeped in brown sugar with a hint of molasses had us rubbing our bellies in satisfaction. Elvis would have been right at home here.
“If you had told me 12 years ago that I’d be running one of the best cafés in Berlin, I’d have thought you were crazy. But sometimes crazy works.”
And works well.
Why you should care
Because sometimes you never appreciate home, and a good tater tot, until you travel far, far away.