Matthias Classen

We had the privilege of engaging in a conversation with the visionary behind BERLINS. This culinary endeavor masterfully intertwines the essence of Berlin with the vibrant fabric of LA's dining scene, creating a seamless fusion that delights the senses. Let's dive into the journey of founder Matthias Classen and discover the flavors, inspirations, and connections that have made BERLINS an LA establishment.

Can you provide your background in Berlin and why you decided to move to LA in 2013?
I am a mechanical engineer by trade and worked for BMW in sales at that point, with my brother, who also worked for BMW in Munich. My brother got offered a position in California and immediately moved out here. We were thinking about what we could possibly do together in Los Angeles. We both love it out here, have been here on many vacations and the one thing that he noticed right away was that there was no real original Berlin döner kebob place, which was my favorite food back at the time. I flew out in January 2013, and we scoped out the area. I got a little better understanding of real estate and everything. In April of 2013, I moved over, and we started working on BERLINS. By August, we were in our first festivals, and in April we opened our first location on west third street, that is now almost 10 years ago.

Why did you land on the name BERLINS for your restaurant? Were there any other names you were considering?
There were a couple of other names, but I had just come from Berlin at that point. I really wanted to bring the culture of Berlin to Los Angeles. When we opened the first place, we had a lot of stuff that would remind people of Berlin. When we opened, we would sell Club-Mate, we played electro music in our store with a really good sound system. Most people that worked there were from Berlin, so we really transported that Berlin vibe to our little restaurant.

Is there something specific you love about LA that you miss from Berlin?

That’s another one of those questions where we could talk for hours. I’m such an aficionado for cities. I would probably be the best travel guide for any city. I go really deep into what a city has to offer and what to do. I mean, the biggest thing that I miss from Berlin is kind of the vibe and the energy. I do miss that you can walk everywhere or take public transportations.

What was your biggest challenge when opening BERLINS? How did you overcome that obstacle?
Well, the biggest challenge was getting all the food together. In Berlin, that would have been a 20-minute operation, because you can find everything there. Here, it’s much different. You can’t find the bread; you can’t find the meat. Lots of the herbs and spices were hard to find. So that was a very, very long process of finding everything and carefully working with different bakeries, with different meat providers, until we finally had it right. That’s why the time at the festivals was so important for us. At that point, we didn’t have our BERLINS flag up above us so we could experiment without people knowing who we are and what we would be. That was really important for us to actually learn. We had many bakers, we worked with many people that helped us with the meat, until we actually came up with the perfect döner.

What is your favorite part of owning BERLINS?
I love dealing with the customers. Like I mentioned before, I used to be a branch manager for BMW and the big customers back then would buy cars that were upwards of $200,000. For those guys, I would come in and sell the cars. A lot of those guys, they come in, they buy a $250,000 car and there’s not even a smile or anything; they get in the car and drive away. It just seems like another day at the office.

What we’re doing right now brings people happiness. And it’s amazing to see how you light up people’s eyes, with a $14 sandwich, and especially somebody who has been to Berlin, or who is from Berlin, or who is just trying something new. It is mesmerizing how happy you can make people with simple good food. I love that part. That’s why I still work there a lot. I love cashiering, I love to talk to the people about how they liked the food, if they’ve been to Berlin, and all that part of the restaurant industry. It’s just wonderful. You make people happy with very little.

What are your future plans with BERLINS? Are you planning on opening more locations around LA?
Yes, we are opening new locations under a different brand name. This is already happening. I am also thinking about franchising BERLINS the way it is, and this is something that’s in the making. I don’t think I’m going to open branches myself, but franchising BERLINS is doable. I will make sure we will provide more and more döner kebab restaurants in Los Angeles.

To end, what BERLINS menu item would you recommend to a new customer?
Always the sandwich, the sandwich is always number one. That’s the original thing that makes BERLINS as big as it is and it’s the best seller.

Matthias Classen opened BERLINS in 2014 and has successfully brought the döner kebab to those in the Los Angeles community.


Instagram: @eatberlins



Related Stories

Related Stories


all stories
all stories