Map at end of post
German street food
Generally speaking I am skeptical of street food markets in Germany. I see too many burgers, hot dogs and other American style food which certainly does not match the original. Often it demonstrates the lack of innovation in food, but I am also aware that it is an economic risk to focus on dishes outside the mainstream. Bratwurst still rules. Saying so, I also had the chance to eat good street food in Germany as well.
A great place
So I had mixed feelings when checking out the Thursday evening market – 4pm to 9pm – at the Rudolfplatz in Cologne (see map below). The first thing which stroke me at this sunny evening: a very relaxed crowd. Under the large trees people were sitting on the typical German beer garden benches, enjoying each other with drinks & food – no Pokémons apparently. It was easy to have conversations with strangers. Great way to turn a public place into an enjoyable one.
So what kind of food was available? First there are also a few food stall as well. Cookit my favorite from Bonn is there, then a cheese monger who offers also great wine by the glass, and a butcher. All in good quality. But I guess most of the visitors were more into “meet & eat” as the management company of this market calls it – I think they forgot the drinking part in their tag line.
My list of foods available is not comprehensive, I’ll give it a try: empanadas, burgers, bratwurst, cakes, handmade potato chips, ice cream, Lebanese, Peruvian, Thai, Reibekuchen (German potato pancake, a must eat for foreigners), wraps, steaks, currywurst (true German culinary invention), pizza and more which remains to be discovered. I guess in total there should be 15 to 20 stalls.
I could not eat my way through all the stalls, but I got great support by Nicola – Thanks!. The journey started with a glass of Italian white wine (Lugana) from the cheese monger, best choice amongst all the others we drank afterwards. Then I could not resist the Peruvian stall.
I am aware that there is a certain hype around the Peruvian cuisine since some years, so I had to see the light by myself. The stall was selling ceviche, a fish dish were the cooking is replaced by curing the fish with lemon juices. It was accompanied with some little salad, roasted corn all beautifully spiced. Great stuff to be honest. Just to make sure: it is completely different to sushi! A young couple standing at the same table, having traveled to Peru several times, told us that it was the best ceviche in town.
Then I saw a strange juice being sold, so we had to go for it. I forgot the name, but it was corn based, fruits and spices were added. At the end it tasted like a mix of sangria and mulled wine, but cold and without alcohol. Great stuff I have to say.
Next dish: a beef heart skewer. Oh my god, really really delicious. The marinade was so great, and the heart just provided a nice firm but not chewy background. I had to share this with the people on the table who were first scared by the beef heart, but then surprised by the good taste. As my portion got smaller this way, I had more space for other goodies. By the way I have only pictures of these dishes on Instagram.
More for the stomach
We went on and I saw this VW bus mounted pizza wood fire oven. The pizza was thin, with the right texture and a good tomato sauce. Nice. We had to queue for a while to get our share. The young couple from Bonn making the pizza were under high stress, as the day brought in more customers than they expected. But they love their job: an honest product with instant customer feedback (mostly positive obviously), and when the job is done they go home without having to think to much about the day.
Time for dessert: ice cream. The guy just started his business this year, but he really understands it. He warned me that his grapefruit sorbet might be a bit bitter, but this slight bitterness was exactly what gave the right kick. At the end I tried pistachio. Wow, I cannot even remember that I had an ice cream with such a real and intense pistachio taste, nothing artificial or superficial, a must buy, no regrets.
The pistachio ice cream was the last course as two city workers rang the bell walking through the aisles of the market to end this wonderful evening. As we are in Cologne, authority is one thing, time another one, so it still took a little while for the traders to stop selling and people stop drinking.
It was really a wonderful evening with good food, good company and nice encounters with strangers – joy & happiness.
A bit of background
The market itself is operated by Agrarkonzept a company which manages a few markets – mainly organic – in Cologne & Bonn. What I understood is that they are very strict in the selection of the vendors, the waiting list is long. Still they do not run the market at full capacity, as they cannot find the right quality for this market. Assuming that this story is correct, I only can appreciate this vigor, especially since it helps me to gain trust in German street food 🙂 Furthermore the opening hours until 9pm help to get new people into markets, the crowd was different to the one which usually visits markets, a nice mix of generations and languages as well.
All in all: This street food market is certainly a role model with its’ quality offering. Great ambiance, worth to be revisited more than one time
A little link list: