Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Neun

Markthalle neun

I keep thinking that I’ll eat some great food in a regular restaurant but instead my best meals in Berlin have been street food stalls, food markets and festivals. I’m not complaining! I’m just pleasantly surprised because I did very little research before coming to Berlin.

I ended up in Berlin because I don’t live anywhere except hotel rooms while I’m working on tour. I have no home base and all my stuff is in storage so when I’m unemployed, I get to choose where to live. When I quit my last show I knew I wanted to live abroad for awhile. I picked Europe because i’ve already lived for long stretches of time in Central and South America and I wasn’t really feeling Asia or Africa. I hadn’t been to Germany or Eastern Europe, Berlin had a relatively low cost of living, for Europe, I love the musical Cabaret (my fingernails are currently green :) and it seemed like cool artsy city to hang out for awhile. So, I rented an apartment, bought a plane ticket and a guide book (which I didn’t open until I got into the city) and voila, Berlin.

Given that extremely unscientific, gut instinct driven, dart-at-a-map method by which I ended up here, I had no idea what to expect from this city and I’ve been pleasantly surprised around every corner. I didn’t expect the street art – though I might have if I’d done even a little bit of research – and I certainly never expected the wide range and availability of street food festivals nor the rabid enthusiasm this city has for ethnic foods of every description.

But even after attending several flea markets and casual Sunday gatherings in the city, I was still blown away by Street Food Thursday at Markthalle.

Markthalle Neun

The place was packed. PACKED. Probably 2000 people and upwards or 40-50 vendors selling every kind of food, wine and beer all crammed into a beautiful 19th century brick market hall. The event started at 5pm and was already crazytown when we got there at 6. That empty table you see in that picture was the last empty table we saw all night long.

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

People sat on the stairs, shared space with strangers, balanced plates on staircase bannisters, tucked bottles of beer in their pockets and wandered around with trash in their hands looking for an empty trash can for the next several hours. Fortunately there were so many vendors that there was never a long wait for food, we just had to be creative about where we ate it.

We started with the very first cart we saw selling kasspatzen because this description was simply too delicious to pass up


And then just as quickly decided we’d get one of everything and split it so we could try as much as possible.

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

There’s absolutely no way to go wrong with creamy, cheesy spatzle. And we got to watch the guy make the spatzle fresh over boiling water.

Half the fun of this event was watching the food getting made, like this genius performer hand pulling noodles. He needs his own act

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

And this guy’s beer tattoos while he rolls out naan bread

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Sadly, we didn’t try either of those dishes because there were just so many options! instead we next had a cheese empanada

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Which was cheesy but not that worthy of note. But since we were sharing everything, we just ate it and moved on.

Next up, something not made of cheese.  And also, some wine?

Street food thursday at markthalle neun

Firstly, that’s German white and rose wines that were really incredibly good and cost about 3 euro a glass. Secondly, those oysters were  – no exaggeration – the BEST oysters I’ve ever had in my life. They’re from Zeeland, the western most province of the Netherlands on the North Sea. Slightly salty, perfectly creamy and tender and tasted exactly like the ocean. I’ve never had any seafood that seemed so fresh and perfect. We each ate an oyster, we talked about how much we loved those oysters, we ate the other one and talked about it some more. Then we went and ate other things and we came back and ate more oysters. They were that good.

We loved these oysters so much that when two other guys joined our table and heard us raving about them, we convinced them to go buy a couple oysters themselves. Which they did. And even they admitted that they weren’t big oyster fans but those oysters were exceptional. Incidentally, those guys – Kristian and Alex – are American/Canandian expat craft beer producers who now live in Bejing and make a beer called Jing A. They were on a buying/crafting/brewing expedition across Russia and Europe, doing collaboration brews with other craft beer producers in moscow, oslo and berlin. Very intriguing conversation and exactly the kind of people I love to randomly meet. If I’m ever back in Beijing, I’m looking them up.

Anyway, the oysters: Top Notch.

Next up was a carne taco that looked really good

Street food thursday markthalle neun

And was only ok. Given my experiences with arepas last Sunday and the empanadas and tacos here, I’m ready to say that Central/South American food might be a weak point in Berlin but I’d love to eat anything that changes my mind on that.

After all the cheese and salt – not to mention the subsequent glasses of wine – we wanted something fresh so we went for a spring roll

Street food thursday markthalle neun

And the roll was great and the sauce was odd… I wanted clear and spicy and this sauce was neither of those things… But the roll was great and it afforded me the unique experience of formulating this sentence in my German class the next day:

Ich bin gestern zu Street Food Thursday gegangen und ich habe ein frühlingsrolle gegessen.

Which basically means: I to Street Food Thursday went and I have a spring roll eaten.

See? Food is delicious and educational!

That spring roll was the end of our food tour. I kinda maybe wanted something sweet but at the end, we’d had enough. And there’s always next week… I will definitely be here again.

And that’s all I’ve got for you this week. I’m headed to Poland at the beginning of next week, if the trains are running. Cross your fingers for me.

Summer in Maine

I didn’t do many blog worthy things today so instead I’ll show you what Maine looked like last summer when I drove from Boston to Maine with my friend Hailei.

We stopped in Portsmouth NH for breakfast at Colby’s Breakfast and Lunch

Colby's Breakfast and Lunch

Very low key tiny place with handwritten blackboard menus and no real website but a hollandaise sauce to rave about.  Colby’s is the kind of small town joint that was localorganicfarmtotable long before that was a thing and they don’t need to advertise because they’re on a main road and everyone knows who they are and when they’re open. Breakfast and lunch. Obviously!  I had the corned beef hash benedict, two things that I’ve never seen combined before but that go together shockingly well. I think it was a daily special.

We got back on the road and drove slowly up Historic Route 1, the long 2 lane highway that runs from Florida to Canada. You can rarely drive faster than 40 miles an hour and you’ll hear GPS directions such as “stay on Main Street for the next 37 miles” as you drive through the interconnected main streets of 5 small towns.

It runs right along the coast

Coast of Maine

Past public beaches

Maine public beach

And gussied up houses because lots of people on the shore like to decorate with colorful old buoys

Buoy house in Maine

We drove up to Kittery and stopped at the Nubble Lighthouse I mentioned yesterday

Nubble Lighthouse

Very pretty but not open to the public, although there’s a big gift shop and several markers to tell you all about the history of the area.

We stopped for a sparkly beverage at Sun and Surf

Sun and Surf

Right on the water’s edge

hailei and her margarita

And then went to Fisherman’s Dock in York for a lobster roll

Lobster roll at Fisherman's Dock

As cold lobster rolls go it was a good one but I have discovered that I prefer hot lobster rolls, tossed in drawn butter. That’s where the money is! But if cold lobster rolls are your thing, Fisherman’s Dock has a wicked good menu with lobster by the pound, checkered tablecloths and outdoor seating and bottles of Moxie to wash it down. Super atmospheric and very Maine.

After our lobstah rolls, we rushed back to Boston to get to work. But if you don’t have to rush back, I’d recommend two different restaurants on your route back to Boston:

Lil’s Cafe in Kittery for lunch

Lil's Cafe

For  butternut squash bisque that’s like a bowl of creamy sunshine. They also have sandwiches, coffee, breakfast and a big spread of baked goodies. Lil’s is a right smack in the middle of town and connected to an art gallery so eat and browse and then do a little wandering around Kittery while you’re there.

For dinner, try the Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire

Portsmouth Brewery

I had the mussels, which were really fresh although I didn’t love the curry sauce. It was only ok. But the fries were spectacular as was the Chocolate Rye Stout I drank with it. Not quite the beer pairing a brewmaster would recommend, I’m sure, but I like mussels and I like stout so there you have it. This brewery is also taking a lot of steps to implement composting and recycling and reduce their carbon footprint so i respect them for that.

And there it is, Maine in the summer. Very similar pictures but with about 200% less freezing cold reality. I’ve loved cold wintery Maine too but I think I’m ready for Spring to really arrive.

Kid Friendly Boston

Boston has a lot to offer visiting families. It’s an extremely walking friendly city and the train line – the T – has an extensive web throughout the city. If you’re only in town for a short time, here are some of the high points your kids will enjoy.

The Paramount

Boston is a little bit short on good breakfast places downtown, unless you want to eat at a hotel. Fortunately, The Paramount is situated in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and is open 7 days a week. It’s a tiny place with an open grill so you can eat and watch the cooks at work and they cleverly control the crowds by requiring everyone to stand in line to order food  cafeteria-style before sitting down at a table. The food is fresh and delicious and even crowded I still enjoyed the experience and the breakfast sandwich. Parents can get a mimosa and the banana caramel french toast is pretty incredible.

The surrounding Beacon Hill neighborhood is charming with lots of shopping if you’re up for that; and if you’re staying at a downtown hotel, you probably walked through the Boston Common or the Public Garden on your way to The Paramount.

Boston Common

Take some time before or after breakfast to enjoy this park because it’s small enough to be thoroughly enjoyed in a short time and provides a shady respite from the sun during the Boston summers. The landscaping is lovely, the children’s carousel and the swan boat rides each cost $3 and last about 15 minutes and if your kids were into the book Make Way for Ducklingsthey’ll enjoy seeing the duck statues commemorating the story.


After breakfast and the park, I’d recommend visiting one of Boston’s great museums. Perhaps the Museum of Science?

Science Museum

That’s a huge kinetic sculpture designed like a mousetrap with balls that roll down sliding boards, dislodge clock gears and start chain reactions. It’s also one of the few non interactive exhibits at this Museum of Science, which was designed with elementary and middle school kids in mind. The interactive exhibits include an exploration of nanotechnology, a wind lab, fossils and skeletons to touch and put together, scientific studies on perspective and light projections, a butterfly garden, live animals, map creation and so much more. There’s a lightning show several times a day where high voltage lightning is simulated to demonstrate the principles of electricity. With the IMAX theatre and the planetarium as potential add ons to your admission ticket, it would be easy to spend the whole day here. However, you can also spend a couple of hours, see some highlights and catch a lightning show and be on your way. Tickets will run you between $20-55 per person, depending on how much you want to see, but you get a lot for your money.

Alternatively, you could spend the morning at the Museum of Fine Arts


The MFA is vast with gorgeous curation, I especially loved these red walls, and a collection of world renowned works by Jackson Pollack, Renoir and Van Gogh. It’s not an easy museum to navigate in a short period of time, however, with stairs and elevators only in a few designated spots; so, if you go, be prepared to spend a couple of hours wandering the floors. Kids under 17 get in free and adult admission costs $25 unless you go on Wednesdays after 4pm when all admission costs are voluntary.

How about lunch?

Back Deck

I like this restaurant called the Back Deck. It’s right by the Boston Opera House, their salmon cobb salad – above – is fantastic as are their grilled chicken wings and their macaroni and cheese. They have an extensive kid’s menu with small salad options and a whole alternative gluten-free menu as well as gigantic windows that they open in good weather so it feels like eating in the open air.

Alternatively, if you want to eat somewhere that’s classic Boston and on a lot of tourist “must see” lists, you could check out this place:

The Union Bar

The Union Oyster House is one of Boston’s oldest restaurants, it’s right on the Freedom Trail and in a beautiful old building . To be honest, I think the main appeal of this place is historical. The building is on the National Historic Register and and they claim to be America’s oldest restaurant, established in 1826. However, their raw oysters come on a plate with no frills and not a lot of care in the preparation (chips of shell in the oysters…) and I haven’t heard many good things about the rest of their food either. I would recommend this place as a novelty visit only or perhaps for a beer in the late afternoon so you can try the Samuel Adams Colonial Ale brewed only for them.

In the afternoon, try one of Boston’s biggest attractions, the Duck Tour:

Duck Tour

You’ll see these rolling boat/trolleys all over Boston, run by two companies, the Duck Tours and the Super Duck Tour. Each company does a driving tour of some historical sites including Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, Copley Square and Qunicy Market and then the trolleys splash into the Boston harbor and become boats so you can continue the tour from the water and see sites like the USS Constitution. We had a great guide on our Super Duck Tour and it was novel to see Boston from land and sea. The tour takes about 90 minutes and tickets range from $22-23 for kids and $33-35 for adults. Check each company’s website to see their itineraries so you can decide what you’d like to see.

Either before or after your Duck Tour, go to the Marriott’s Custom House Tower for the best aerial views of Boston

Clock Tower

There’s a “donation” of $3 to go up into the tower unless you’re a guest of the hotel (the money goes to the Children’s Miracle Network), but the views are worth the price, especially on a sunny day. If you go at 4PM there’s a tour of the clock tower and some historical information included, but you can go up into the tower at any point in the day just to see the city.

I recommend one of my favorite Boston restaurants for diner, the Barking Crab.

Barking Crab

Set in a red and gold striped tent right on the edge of the water, the Barking Crab serves gloriously fresh seafood at long communal picnic tables with rolls of paper towels and paper plates. I had a warm lobster tossed in drawn butter and served on a roll and it was incredible. Families can order whole lobsters, buckets of crab legs or clam bakes that come with chowder, potatoes and corn. This is a super casual restaurant with views of the harbor and it’s one of the best places in town to eat fresh seafood.

Boston has a lot of attractions and this blog features just a small portion of what’s available in town. It’s the perfect city for a families who like historical monuments, buildings and activities and in the summer the weather is beautiful and the water activities are great fun.