As she savored the last bite of her burger, Michelle Forbes closed her eyes, savoring the moment.
“Tastes like my childhood,” she said, smiling at the memory.
The only difference between that burger and those of Forbes’ youth is that no animal was harmed in its making.
At Neukölln’s recently opened Dandy Diner, the simple menu of sandwiches and burgers is completely meat- and dairy-free, which is one reason it’s the first stop on our vegan foodie tour of the city. While the former "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star rarely eats such fast food fare herself, she says she’s happy places such as the Dandy Diner exist because they introduce vegan cuisine to a wider audience.
Forbes spent the last few months in the German capital shooting "Berlin Station," an espionage drama in which she stars as a CIA chief, opposite Richard Armitage and Rhys Ifans. And the actress has fallen in love with the city, despite the shoot occurring during the year’s coldest months. One huge draw has been the food, both in restaurants and at shopping options such as Veganz, Europe’s first vegan supermarket chain, which has been her go-to stop for groceries.
During her extended visit, Forbes has lived in Prenzlauer Berg, where she’s discovered several restaurants that have become regular haunts.
“Cafe Morgenrot has become my living room,” she said, as we both eyed the last piece of a Dandy Diner avocado sandwich. “Their vegan brunches are absolutely delicious.”
Near the top of her most-visited list is Lucky Leek, the upscale P-Berg joint where she brought the cast and crew for dinner.
“Everybody really seemed to love it,” she said. “They didn’t realize you could feel so full and satisfied without eating meat.”
She also highly recommends Bistro Bardot, a cheery Friedrichshain establishment whose pumpkin soup helped get Forbes through the gray winter months.
Next stop on our tour is Rawtastic, where Forbes once brought co-star Ifans, who quickly became a fan. The actress, who has been a vegetarian since she was 15, went vegan in 2011.
“I try not to live my life with regrets, but I regret not doing it sooner,” she said, while we sampled a platter of nut-based vegan cheeses. “I don’t want to be complicit with any sort of suffering ever,” she explained, distracted as the waiter delivers our 100-percent raw pizza, which consists of a gluten-free crust, raw tomato sauce, and cashew cream cheese. Although the pie holds little in common to the real thing, it’s nonetheless delicious, and before long, only crumbs remain. “Superlecker! (Delicious!)” she said, repeating a phrase oft used during our day.
Forbes is perhaps best known for her roles in "The Killing," "24," "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2," and "True Blood," in which she played Maryann the maenad, a role she says was the biggest stretch for her. Although Maryann was a hardcore carnivore and relished the chaos she created, pushing people toward their vices and encouraging violence and gluttony, Forbes remembers the character with fondness.
“She was a helluva lot of fun to play!” she said, with her characteristic hearty laugh.
With our day wrapping up and her final day of shooting just hours away, Forbes reminisced about her time in Berlin. She said she’ll miss how vegan-friendly the city is, even though she lives in Los Angeles, one of the other world capitals of compassionate cuisine. She notes how much the German capital has changed since her previous visit two years earlier, calling the city “a real revelation” on account of its changing culinary scene and progressive stance on a plant-based lifestyle. Asked to sum up Berlin in one word, Forbes smiled mischievously before responding, “Superlecker!”