Local Scene & International Flavors at Street Food Thursday in Berlin
By the time this post goes live, it’ll almost be Thursday night in Berlin. And that makes me jealous.
Because I’m missing out on Street Food Thursday, by far the most truly local experience we had in Berlin. You see, every Thursday evening, Berliners gather at Markthalle (Market Hall) in Kreuzberg to eat their fill of food made by street food vendors who don’t have the financial means to open their own brick and mortar restaurants. Trust me when I say that these vendors give restaurants in Berlin a run for their money.
About 25 minutes and two buses away from our hotel in Mitte, we finally arrived to a residential area filled with apartment buildings covered in street art. As we walked, gawking at the wall art dimly illuminated by street lamps, we occasionally passed locals headed home or who-knows-where, and we wondered whether we were headed in the right direction.
After a few blocks, we began to see shops and restaurants, and were happy to see a crowd standing around outside a building unmistakably marked, “Markthalle.” We’d arrived.
As we walked inside, I was instantly infected by the energy emanating from the crowd of locals slowly shuffling around each other in an effort to get to the food stall of their choice. Not wanting to waste any time, I told Jave, “We have about 50 euros to spend. Let’s go nuts.”
With dishes at most stalls costing only 5 euros a pop, we loosened our belts and set out to try as many different international cuisines as our bellies could bear. Here are some of our favorite vendors from the night…
We saw a stall with a line of people waiting for some meatballs. A line of locals is always a good sign, and they didn’t lead us wrong. They were some of the best meatballs I’ve ever had. They came in four styles – German, Thai, Italian, and Indian. We tried one of each, and they were all amazing, especially the Indian flavored one. Accompanied by a side of warm, German potato salad, and our night of feasting was off to a good start.
As Jave talked food and spices with the stall owner, I chitchatted with a woman from Berlin who now lives in New York although she still has a place in Kreuzberg.
“Have you tried the pies?” she asked, pointing at a stall obscured by crowds of people.
“No, not yet,” I responded, mid-swallow.
“Well, you have to try the pies,” she continued. “They’re so good. You won’t be disappointed.”
Midway through our conversation, the hall erupted in cheers as a Mariachi band made its way behind us for an impromptu jam session. Mariachi in Berlin? Where was I, at home in L.A.? The music was a novel treat for the Germans, and a reminder of home for us. But we cheered them on along with everyone else.
Next up, we couldn’t pass by the Ghanaian lady rockin’ afro puffs without giving her food a try. I’d never tried Ghanaian food before, so Jave and I gave it a go.
Fufu, fried plantains, and black eyed peas – the comfort of Jamaica and Southern cooking on a plate!
As we stood around eating our Fufu, we scouted for our next food stall victim. We kept noticing people standing around eating ridiculously tempting-looking noodles, but I couldn’t figure out which stall was selling them. So I finally tapped someone on the shoulder and asked, and he pointed me to heaven where noodles were made fresh right before our eyes.
For dessert, we finally made our way to the pie lady that our acquaintance from the meatball stand had told us about. I opted for some sort of yogurty pie with granola-like crumbles on top while Jave got a slice of gingerbread pie stuffed with cherries. Each slice was delicious although I liked Jave’s more.
“Is anyone sitting here,” I asked a group of retiree-aged locals who were chowing down at a table with a few spare spaces.
“No, come sit and eat with us,” they replied. And so we did, making friendly small talk along the way as they asked us if we’d tried this vendor or that vendor and making recommendations for which stall to try next.
Usually, dessert marks a finale. And it did – for Jave, at least. But as for me, I had my eye on the Venezuelan arepas stall across the way.
“But you just had dessert, Carmel,” Jave said, judging my fit of greed.
“I know, I know,” I replied. “But we’re at Street Food Thursday in Berlin.” Made perfect sense to me. Plus, I have a history of having eyes bigger than my stomach.
After spending about fifteen minutes in line for an enticing-smelling arepa, upon taking my first bite, I realized that it lacked seasoning and that perhaps it wasn’t worth the wait after all. But I finished it anyway…because we were at Street Food Thursday in Berlin.
Made perfect sense to me.
- Street Food Thursday is located at Markthalle Neun (Market Hall 9); Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, 10997 Berlin-Kreuzberg; Contact: 030 577 094 661; Hours: 5-10pm
- Many vendors start to run out of food around 8:30-9 pm, so plan accordingly
- Most (if not all) vendors accept cash only
- For more details, visit the Markthalle website