Every Friday and Saturday, Kreuzberg’s Markthalle IX becomes a wonderland for Berlin foodsters
A young crowd wanders from stand to stand, sampling everything from Spreewald pickles to barbecued goat ribs. But the grand 19th century market hall isn’t just a shrine to all things local, organic and artisanal – it’s a testament to Berlin’s new foodie community spirit.
Originally opened in 1891 as the Eisenbahnstraße Markthalle, the market was home to a number of small vendors until the 1990s. But after the Wall fell, the hall emptied out and corporate discounters such as Drospa and Kik took over. Even as the neighbourhood around it gentrified, the hall lay half-empty, and in 2009, the city decided to auction it to the highest bidder.
Seeing an opportunity, foodies Florian Niedermeier and Bernd Maier teamed up with Kiez-activist Nikolaus Driessen to realise their longtime dream: to open a communal market for regional food in Berlin. They staged a demonstration to occupy the Markthalle, collecting 500 signatures. Ultimately, the city relented, selling the hall to the partners in 2010. On October 1, 2011, exactly 120 years after the original opening, the rebranded Markthalle IX officially re-opened its doors to Berlin.
In addition to their Wochenmarkt on Fridays and Saturdays, the three partners stage political discussions such as “Bauer meets Kiez” (“farmer meets ‘hood”) and special events such as the popular Sunday Nasch Markt, a four-times-per-year event showcasing Berlin’s best sweets. The hall’s also a location for the food-sharing charity Berliner Tafel, which collects supermarket food that is approaching its expiry date and offers it up to the public; no strings attached. In the mood for something fancier? Try one of the following.
Markthalle IX in V stops
They’ve torn a hole in the Markthalle ceiling to accommodate their massive “Southern Pride” smoker, but Anna Lai and Tobias Bürger, the Italian and German owners of Big Stuff Barbecue (main photo), don’t claim to purvey American authenticity: they’re just bringing back the German and Czech tradition of hot-smoked meats with their unique twist. Try the pulled pork, roasted for 14 hours until it’s glazed and juicy, or German-style beef brisket with a dry spice rub, on a Soluna Bakery bun with sauerkraut, pickles and tangy BBQ sauce (pulled pork €5; brisket €6, pork belly €7). Or spring for a “greatest hits” platter with a selection of meats, sides and sauces for €12.
Nestled in a corner behind Big Stuff is Glut und Späne, where rows of burnished, bronzed fish hang in a small smoker. Owner Michael Wickert carefully selects which species of fish to smoke based on the recommended list from the World Wildlife Fund, using only the best sustainable distributors. Smoked salmon fillet (€5) and whole trout (€7) come with homemade horseradish cream, onion confit and bread from the neighbouring Endorphina bakery. The fish, prepared one day before and smoked for two hours using beechwood sawdust, is so tender it melts in your mouth, with the full flavour of the brine – a mixture of sage, juniper berries and salt – seeping out in every bite. Or try his speciality, Scandinavian gravlax (sandwich, €5).
Open for lunch all week long, the Kantine Neun (photo) serves vegan soup and salad along with vegan, vegetarian and meat main courses. The two-course Tagesmenü will only set you back €7 (€8 with meat), but Zollhaus-trained chef Florian Klien serves his dishes with the attention to detail you’d expect at any classy Berlin restaurant. We tried the celery soup (€3 for a small portion/€4 large) – just the right temperature, lightly seasoned with pepper and a dash of apple juice. The texture was supple with a rich taste.
Sunday Burgers (photo), of Mauerpark fame, moved inside for the winter and offers tofu steak marinated in soy sauce and ginger, grilled to perfection and topped with a tasty mixture of lettuce, tomato, fried onion, fresh coriander and sprouts (€4). The bun is, naturally, whole wheat, and you can choose to cover your ‘burger’ with savoury pineapple or mango chutney or spicy chipotle sauce. Feeling thirsty? Complement your vegan meal with fresh-squeezed juice (€2.50-€3) or even better, a superfood smoothie (€4-€4.50). While the price is a bit high, they’re worth a try. The Purple Rose is a thick concoction of raw cacao, black chokeberry, maca, banana and coconut blossom sugar; full of antioxidants, it’ll quench your thirst while regulating your hormones.
If you’re craving something stronger than a smoothie, the Heidenpeters beer counter, with brewing facilities located in the Markthalle basement, opened just last December. Brewmaster Johannes Heidenpeter boasts that his top-fermenting process reveals a larger variety of flavours than your average Pils. Currently his selection consists of a fruity, aromatic pale ale and a sweet, rich ruby ale (€2.50/0.3l), as well as a winter ale (€2.80). Heidenpeters is set on changing their line-up as often as possible; currently, Heidenpeter is working on a porter and an intriguing recipe that involves smoking the wheat in Big Stuff’s smoker.
While the Markthalle offers a great variety of food stands and produce vendors, its real strength lies in the sense of kinship it has created. Walking through the hall and talking to the vendors, you can’t help feeling a familial ambiance vibrating in the air, a community of people linked through a love for quality food.
From April 11, Markthalle IX, in cooperation with Big Stuff and Kitchensurfing, introduces their Street Food Thursdays to show off the best sidewalk and deli food Berlin has to offer. Open from 5pm to 10pm.
Markthalle IX, Eisenbahnstr. 42/43, Kreuzberg, Görlitzer Bahnhof, Tel (030) 577 094 661