Like so many things in Berlin, the humble ice cream shop has undergone something of a transformation in recent years, a kind of trendy yuppie-fication, if you will. Think: minimalist design interiors, fancy espresso machines, and ingredients like tonka bean, gorgonzola cheese*, and artisanal cocoa sourced from some far-flung corner of the Caribbean. But for a taste of classic Berliner Eiscafé culture, far away from hip Yoga-Muttis and their offspring, a visit to Spandau’s historic Florida Eiscafé is well worth the journey out West.
*Fräulein Frost makes a gorgonzola-pear flavour. Really.
Berliners love their ice cream–of that there can be no doubt. This Spandau institution claims to draw up to 11,000 customers on summer days. There are three other Florida Eiscafé locations in the city, but this one on Spandau’s Klosterstraße is the original, having been here (in various forms) since 1927. This makes it one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Eiscafé in Berlin–there is quibbling amongst two other contenders as to who really set up shop first.
Anyway, click here for a brief history (in German) of how this café first came to be in the Roaring Twenties. The current owner took over in 1984, which is pretty apparent once you lay eyes on the café’s gloriously kitschy interior. It made me think of the lobby of a 1980s Key West motel: striped pastel wallpaper, upholstered seating nooks, fake plants, framed ocean scenes. It is utterly unpretentious, unabashedly kitsch, and completely charming, in my opinion. The American influence is clear: Employees wear diner-style uniforms, and the ice cream counter had the well-worn look of a small-town Dairy Queen somewhere in the Midwest.
If you’re going to head this far West for the sake of ice cream, do yourself a favour and come in the mindset of gluttony. For the full-blown experience, you’re going to have to bypass the to-go counter, take a seat in the full-service café section, and order one of the Eisbecher, or sundaes. (I’ve never seen so many adults eating sundaes until I moved to Germany.)
If the classic Spaghettieis (squiggles of vanilla ice cream topped with strawberry sauce) doesn’t strike your fancy, there’s a sundae menu with names like Uncle Sam or Route 66–or build your own. The in-house brand of Florida Eis may not be organic, artisanal, or gourmet, but it’s good; damn good, even.
Florida Eiscafé: Klosterstr. 15 | S5 or U7 Rathaus Spandau | Open 12.00-23.00 in the summer | Website