As if Thursdays at Markthalle IX weren’t proof enough that the “gourmet street food” trend has descended upon Berlin like a plague of crispy Thai-spiced locusts, along comes Bite Club, a food fair held on and around the Spree-parked boat Hoppetosse every other Friday evening through September 27. The brainchild of London expats Miranda Zahediah and Tommy Tannock, it’s the sort of event that’s long been commonplace in American and British hipster enclaves: a sanitised version of an Asian night market where all the vendors have economics degrees and Twitter accounts.
For those of you who didn’t Instagram your breakfast this morning, here’s how it works: 12 trucks and stands serve smallish handheld bites in the lot beside the boat. You’ll recognise many of them, like Käsespätzle wheeler-dealer Heisser Hobel, from Markthalle IX; others are outposts of trendy brick-and-mortars like Spanish deli Azafrán and new burger on the block Rundstück Warm; still others, like plucky okonomiyaki duo Konnichiwa, are completely new to the scene. You’re meant to choose a vendor, wait in line, wait in line some more – ‘artisanal’ fare takes time, after all – then, if the stand hasn’t run out of food by the time you reach it, consume your hard-earned edibles (€4-6) on the Hoppetosse whilst listening to live music and sipping a mai tai (€5) from suddenly ubiquitous rum purveyor Pampero. Then it’s back in line to repeat the process.
“We noticed a hunger for this kind of thing in Berlin,” says Tannock, a food writer (of course!) – a hunger sparked, he claims, by expats in the startup scene. One look at the mostly-English-speaking, DSLR-toting crowd was enough to back him up. What’s the matter, guys, döner not cutting it for you anymore? Why not just move back to Brooklyn? Or, if you’re going to spend €10-15 and wait a half hour or more, why not just go to a restaurant?
The answer is to be found in the food itself: Vietnamese chicken buns from bun.bao are a winning combination of fluffy, crunchy and spicy; achiote-marinated cochinita pibil tacos from taco Kween have moisture and depth of flavour to put even Ta’Cabrón’s to shame. And really, where else are you going to find okonomiyaki (grilled Japanese cabbage pancakes) in Berlin? By all accounts, the barbecue rib roll from newbies M&Gs is a must-try: filled with slow-cooked pork, topped with tangy homemade sauce and reinforced with potato chips, it’s a picnic in a bun. If it hadn’t been for the queue, we’d also have tried their ice cream roll – a large scoop of caramel Eis sandwiched between two palm-size homemade chocolate cookies and drizzled with caramel sauce – the mere sight of which made us salivate.
Our verdict? If Kreuzberg is destined to turn into Brooklyn-on-the-Spree anyway, you may as well get on the boat.
BITE CLUB | Hoppetosse, Eichenstr. 4, Treptow, S-Bhf Treptower Park, Sep 13 and 27, 18-24:00