This market does not have a good reputation but is still successful – for some vendors.
This outdoor market is right in the city centre of Bonn – former capital of Germany and city of Ludwig van Beethoven. This is the main shopping area, thousands and thousands of people are walking by everyday.
Those who make the money – they are at the right location
Some fruit and vegetable vendors benefit heavily from the many shoppers. How so? Well, they are located along the pedestrian “highway” which is the sort of North to South trajectory across the city centre. Nobody can escape these vendors calling out their produce and prices like on an oriental bazaar. The constant flow of pedestrians allows them not to rely on the loyalty of customers. Instead they focus on deals and focus on produce in high demand: it is now the season of asparagus (white & green) and strawberries. With these dominant colours the stalls look like flags.
This section of the market is the one which contributes to it’s bad reputation. Often you will hear complaints that when unpacking the merchandise at home, there will be a couple of “bad apples” in the bag. There are many stories about its origins. Some say it was mainly one stall owner responsible for the situation, who had even to give back his license, some say it is still valid. I would not wonder if the focus on price is the main reason. As a result the vendors who mainly get their merchandise at the wholesale market in nearby Cologne, cannot afford to buy the best quality. So bargain rules and finds its demand.
Some time ago a vendor at the “highway” started to prepare bags with mixed fruit, e.g. a pineapple, a few oranges, kiwis etc. and to sell them for 4€ each. Very practical when you are in a hurry and have to save money. Therefore quite a lot of his customers are students who then purchase their weekly stock in one go. He does this mainly in off-peak times when he has some time to prepare the bags. I think it is a nice marketing idea and service, it reminds me of farmers who deliver produce boxes to subscribers’ doorsteps.
The street food stalls
Some food carts benefit from the same location as well. Amongst them is the obligatory and popular bratwurst and currywurst one. Some years ago the vendors changed as the licenses were renewed. I have my doubts on how the process was managed, for sure it did not improve the quality of the offering. Still it is hard to resist a brat.
A bit uncommon is the wine stall, where you can share a glass or two. Potato pan cakes, fruit juices, stews are available for a quick lunch. Employees of the nearby offices and shops take advantage of it. So no worries to leave the spot hungry.
So where is the quality?
Some stall are worth being visited regularly. They are not so easy to discover and they do not present themselves as something special – I will come to the exception a bit later.
Two stalls focus on products from specific culinary regions: the Swabian and the Alpine one. Unfortunately both are not everyday on the market. The Swabian cuisine of Germany’s South West is a hearty one, capable of doing nice stuff out of poor peoples’ produce as the region once was. The “Maultaschen” – similar to ravioli – are certainly one of the better known products as well as Spätzle.
From the Alpine region, in this case Vorarlberg (Austria) and South-Tirol (Italy), another vendor offers a large variety of smoked hams, sausages and mountain cheeses as wells as bread. Basically everything which can be stored for a week or more. I am a particular fan of the vendor’s butter, very smooth and refined in taste. All the products are being sourced from traders with direct links to small producers, who are capable of ensuring a high product quality. The philosophy of the vendor is that only small producers can ascertain this culinary level.
A stall with vinegars, oils and spirits displays his merchandise very nicely: little bottles marked with handwriting, larger glass containers with oil to fill smaller ones. Only own branding, everything looks handmade and cute. First I thought it could be a franchise as the stall label looked professional, but the owner sources his merchandise from different small producers of the larger region, some of them quite experimental and interesting. Apparently the stall is also popular by those look for a birthday gift – like me.
My highlight – an innovative stall: CookIt
Since a couple years CookIt is on the market with a small dark green cart different in appearance to all the other ones and much nicer or more modern – see photo gallery above. The two brothers and a companion have started the idea to propose simple recipes and pack only the ingredients needed to cook it. The produce are mainly regional and truely fresh. The price of the ingredients is by portion for one person and depends on the needed ingredients for the recipe. Asking the owners how big the portions are, they answer that it fits their appetite – they are not the thinnest bunch.
I chose a chard-bacon-pasta with ricotta. All the ingredients were included, I needed only to add olive oil, salt & pepper from my pantry. Even though the recipe was neither very sophisticated nor complicated, the fresh ingredients made it a great meal.
As they started the brothers thought that the clientele would be mainly a younger crowd. But apparently the offer is welcomed by retirees as well, who do not want to store too much at home to reduce waste. And with one time cooking they have enough for two days.
Besides having a created a unique offer, CookIt is also active on social media where they present their newest recipes. For those who are not on Facebook, they have a web presence as well. When we talked a bit about the Bonn market and the lack of social media presence they believe that it rather depends on the vendors and their affinity to modern stuff. Themselves they see it as a tool to stay in contact with their clientele, to announce new recipes and make customers consequently come back to their stall. It certainly helps to avoid unnecessary trips when the recipes on offer aren’t the right ones.
The praise of the Cookit stall may sound like paid sponsorship – but I just like their idea and their product. For your experiences: tweet me.
Managing the market
The market is not anymore managed by the city of Bonn, but by Marktgilde, a professional market management company working across Germany. I heard several times that they are trying to improve the quality of the market, but seem to have hard times to do so. One quality fruit and vegetable vendor who is at the nearby Bad Godesberg market, refused their offer to join this high foot fall location. Well, let’s hope for the better.
All in all: a few stalls are interesting, some are fine for a bargain, but it is no jewel of the city of Bonn.
A little link list