The craze surrounding Street Food Thursday makes me wonder why people choose the claustrophobic crowds at Markthalle 9 over one of Berlin’s authentic street food experiences (I mean one that actually occurs in the street), available almost 24 hours all over the capital. There’s nothing like being beer-hungry, and messy from a night club, joining the whirling humanity, the night-creatures of Mehringdamm, or the kebab scavengers of Kotti––or some other portrait of nocturnal debauchery worth of a painting of the Neue Sachlichkeit.
Come and fire yourself with hot sauce at So So Angry Chicken (recently moved to a new location on Skalitzer), when you’re angry, so so angry, because you’ve lost at pinball at Bohnengold, or accidentally touched the walls (infuriating, unnerving!) at Roses. Auto-oral incineration is just the trick to forget forget forget. And so—absolved in the the flames––you can plunge directly into your next late-night adventure at the Soju Korean nightclub hidden behind the boiling oil.
Or if you’re looking for a Kirchner painting, but one that smells of bottled grease, watch the real fat cats, ermine-lined and exiting KaDeWe, licking mustard from their furs at Witty’s on the eponymous Wittenburgplatz. Look at that old lady bring the sausage to her lips, watch that old man stare at her and squeeze the bio-mayonnaise. Never was organic so naughty.
Then, again, if you like your meat a mystery, choose darm or ohne darm (skin or skinless), and ponder the multiple mysteries of Curry 36: why do people like this food? why do people think fried sausage covered with ketchup and curry powder an urban symbol? You can blame British soldiers who brought the ingredients with their occupation, and the hungry Berliners who would eat anything in the city’s ruins. You can join in the ceremony of mass touristic pilgrimage and ritualised poverty until 5 am any night, and it really doesn’t taste that bad when you are properly addled with Berliner Pilsner.
Next door is the nec plus ultra of Berlin street food: you can tell by the lines that stretch down Mehringdamm even on the most pitiless of winter nights: Mustafa’s Gemüse (Veggie) Kebab. The mix of hipsters and pumped up Turkish-German youth stare derisively at the Curry 36 crowd across the way: idiots! Now, who’s in the know? Gemüsekebab might sound healthy, but this is a grand deception. Look closely and you’ll discover the tricks of their trade: their chicken kebab is laced with deep-fried vegetables and a little soya sauce. Cheap tricks, good kebab.
Finally jump the U-Bahn and go farther East, into deepest Neukölln, for the best falafel and hummus of the city at silly prices at Azzam. A Palestinian family, with a remarkable odyssey from Palestine to Lebanon to Romania, finally brought their kitchen wisdom to Sonnenallee: the city’s best Levantine food. Israelis and Palestinians mix regularly here, and perhaps, warm with disco snacks, make their way to Mitte for some peacemaking at the un-kosher gay Jewish night at Meschugge.
Because the pleasure of street food is the part that’s unplanned: the cold walk between bars when someone says, ‘hey who’s hungry, let’s go in here!’, or the cute guy who asks for the senf and ends up at the bar you’re going to, or the nighttime strangeness of 4 am and a room full of laughing tables as the winter snow beats outside.