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.

Getting Unstuck

Those who’ve known me a long time were surprised when I went on a road trip. Probably the most common question I got was “Doesn’t it bother you to do all that driving by yourself?” and they were even more surprised when I said “No. I love it.”

I didn’t get my driver’s license until I turned 27. And I’m not a New Yorker. Really I only got my driver’s license because I lived in Tucson, which is an almost impossible town to get around in unless you have a car. Between the weather, the abysmal public transportation and the lack of sidewalks on major streets, it’s dangerous sweaty work to walk in Tucson. So, I learned to drive. But I never liked it.

I reluctantly drove around Tucson after I got my license and bought a truck but made an effort never to go anywhere out of the city. Highway driving made me nervous. My best friends and boyfriends have always liked to drive so I took up residence as navigator/conversationalist/music changer/burger unwrapper in the passenger seat and loved every minute of the rides where I didn’t have to drive.

I’m not sure when that changed. Probably on tour because tour changed a lot of things about how I feel and what I like and what scares me.

The road trip I took in April was exhilarating. I loved getting in the car every day with only the idea of where I would end up but not the route I’d take. Getting lost was fun, making all the decisions was fun, driving down 2-lane highways in the mountains with really loud music on was super fun.

After 5 weeks of driving almost 10,000 miles, I got used to driving and learned how much it sinks into your body and frees your mind to think about other things. I got great writing ideas while I drove. I learned to drive and write quick shorthand on a legal pad at the same time (Dad, you didn’t read that. It was only for short periods of time and I was careful.)

Today I got incredibly stuck writing. I wrote and rewrote and edited and hated it and added things and started new drafts and looked at the blank white screen full of sentences I despised and didn’t know how to stop. How to unstick myself. But I remembered the experience of driving and hearing words play through my head so I grabbed my keys and got in my truck and just drove for about 45 minutes. I drove in silence. Then I put on some music. Then I got to the end of that album and I drove in silence again. And I started to hear those ideas in my head again. I could feel the logjam in my chest break up and let words out. And I thought, “thank God it worked.”

It’s crucial for me to figure out how to unstick myself. That’s crucial for anyone but I feel it keenly right now because I have a finite period of time in this golden hour where I have time and money and ideas and a place all at the same time. I have to make them count and I don’t have time to be stuck.

You know what else unsticks me? Spring rolls.

Spring Rolls

And Thai kha nang panang -red curry with chicken. The hotter the better.

Thai Red Curry What unsticks you?