Streetfood-Festival Köln
Dine your way around the world? No problem at Cologne's Street Food Festival. Photo: Street Food Festival

Dine your way around the world at Cologne’s legendary Street Food Festival

Currywurst with chips - that's how street food used to be. Today, food trucks serve real delicacies. This is also the case at the Cologne Street Food Festival.

Gravel crunches underfoot, bunting flutters between brightly painted food trucks and bistro tables are set out under the open sky. Ahead, you can smell the waft of grilled chorizo, tacos are being filled with black beans and guacamole to the right and around the corner bao buns (Asian burgers) and shakshuka from Israel lure passers-by. If it’s a trip around the globe you’re after, it won’t take you long in Cologne: visitors to the city’s Street Food Festival can dine their way around the world, all within the space of a few square metres.

Promoting the street-food trend

The Cologne Street Food Festival is the brainchild of culinary entrepreneurs Till Riekenbrauk and Vincent Schmidt – pioneers of street food in Germany. “The idea came about eight years ago when Till came back from a trip to Asia,” explains Vincent. In Bangkok and Hanoi, there’s fresh food sizzling and simmering on every street corner, it’s an integral part of Asian food culture. “There’s no reason why that shouldn’t work in Germany too,” Till thought, but it proved not to be that easy.

The concept of selling foods from mobile kitchens didn’t exist in Germany back then. Fast food mainly meant cheap, hot and greasy. “We made umpteen phone calls, trying to find regional food suppliers for the first event,” Vincent remembers.

But the project’s success proved them right: there were queues of visitors at Germany’s first street-food festival in the autumn of 2014. And it didn’t take long for the concept to go through the roof. With street food taking off as a trend, food entrepreneurs from Berlin, Holland and France contacted the pair, wanting to get involved. The festival expanded to Karlsruhe, Düsseldorf and other major cities and is now an established part of the food scene in Germany.

Birthplace of Germany’s first vegan burger bar

The informal, laid-back, market-style atmosphere is popular with guests (the small tables make it easy to find someone to chat to) and with chefs and traders because it gives them a useful platform to pilot new ideas. There’ve been quite a few culinary success stories that started in a street-food truck, including Germany’s first vegan burger bar.

Quality is the main criterion when choosing vendors. “All of our food truck teams cook to restaurant standards, using freshly prepared ingredients. Even the conventional fast food is all handmade, from burger patties to sauces,” Vincent tells us, adding that, after a long break caused by the pandemic, he’s pleased the event is making a comeback with 15 to 20 stalls this year.

Next festival: 16–19 June,

Getting there: The organisers recommend coming by public transport, foot or bike.

Address: Oskar-Jäger-Str. 192, 50825 Cologne

When the temperatures start to rise in Cologne, head for one or our five favourite ice cream parlours for families for a yummy way to cool down.

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