I found out about the Stuttgart Street Food Market about a month ago on Facebook. Even though I never grew up in a city around much street food, I've loved eating at food trucks on our trips to places like Amsterdam and at festival stalls around Stuttgart. There wasn't much information about this market leading up to the event, but I was pretty excited to try it nevertheless.
The website details said it would be at the Nordbahnhof from 11:00 until 18:00. While planning for the event, I had every intent on getting there early, but when we left the house around 11:30, it was such a beautiful day that we decided to walk there to work up an appetite. As we passed through the city center, we saw a huge antiques market stretching from the Rathaus (town hall) all the way up to the Altes Schloss (old castle), as well as some kind of bike festival in the Schlossplatz. It's odd for two events, let alone three, to be going on at once on a Sunday, and I wondered if there would be enough people left to attend the Street Food Market.
We made it to the Nordbahnhof area a little over an hour later and approached from the side of the S-bahn station. There weren't any signs up that we could see, and so we were a bit confused as to where to go next. Luckily, a rather large group of people were exiting the S-bahn just as we walked up and seemed to know where to go, so we followed the crowd. The group led us up a hill, down some stairs, over a metal bridge along the train tracks, down some more stairs, and along a construction site! At first I thought we were all lemmings walking to the middle of nowhere until I saw a laminated A4 sign with the Street Food Market's logo to confirm our route.
Once we got to the front gates, it was around 13:00 and already there was a line of about 200 people deep. While there wasn't an entrance fee, security guards were checking everyone's bags before they entered and limiting the number entering until enough people had left. I was shocked by how long the line was but determined to check out the festival.
We finally entered around 13:30 and were able to get in line at our first stall: Burrito Bande. It's hard to find good Mexican food in Stuttgart, and I wanted to try them to see if they were any good. Matt was dubious when he saw that the beef burrito came with BBQ sauce and the chicken burrito came with a mango chutney, however, we'd finally agreed on the chicken after waiting 20 minutes. Then, when we were 10 people from the register, we noticed several others were leaving because as it turned out, they'd run out of both.
Luckily, I'd spotted a few friends in the crowd. They'd been there since 11:30 when it was much less crowded and recommended we try the pulled pork at the giant yellow school bus called The Rolling Grill from Gastro Helden in the corner. Again, we stood in line for about 20 minutes or so, but this time we were able to get something to eat. The pulled pork was tender and juicy with a good amount of sauce, though the coleslaw could have used a bit less mayo.
We only just shared the sandwich because as we discovered, most of the trucks and stalls were serving full lunches rather than small bites, and I wanted to try a lot. Afterwards, we headed to the back of the venue to see what else was available. Again, we saw huge lines at the L.A. Taco truck, the Fork & Fingers pulled pork stand, and the Nippon Noodles dim sum stand -- basically any international food stalls. The typical German trucks and stalls, however, had much shorter lines.
Since there were two of us, we decided to try dividing and conquering. I stood in the line for Nippon Noodles and Matt headed off to Running Mhhh. One of our friends who we ran into suggested the Maultasche burger with bacon and onions. Matt waited in line for about 10 minutes, but when he found me again, he had the vegetarian Maultasche with pesto and parmesan on a ciabatta roll. They had run out of burger buns for the other one and wouldn't sell it anymore! The vegetarian option was still tasty and different than the usual Maultasche, but I only had a bite as I still hoped that we'd be able to try several food options.
At this point, the line for Nippon Noodles still hadn't moved and I was thirsty, so I headed over to the drink stand to get a bottle of Proviant ginger lemonade that I'd seen people walking around with. While the drink stand hadn't exactly run out, the fridge was nearly empty and they were handing out bottles straight from the plastic cartons. They weren't able to restock the fridges fast enough to meet demand.
Back in line, Matt had hardly moved. In total, we must have waited for almost 30 minutes and were nowhere near the front. That's when we realized we had the patience for one more line and that was it. I decided if I had one more meal option, we'd better try the L.A. Taco truck and leave the dim sum for another day. And so, we switched lines.
Once in the L.A. Taco line, I was closer to a food stall called handicap (spelled with a backwards c). They seemed to be serving some kind of pulled pork and roasted, sliced beef. Though I'd already eaten pulled pork, the presentation looked awesome and the line was moving fast. I left Matt to hold our place for tacos and jumped in the line at handicap. They had a great assembly line running for the register and food, so I was in and through in maybe 15 minutes. I decided on the pulled pork because it was served on cabbage slaw inside of Yorkshire pudding -- a different presentation that was totally delicious. The pudding was flaky on the inside and crispy on the outside, and the pork was even more tender and juicy than the first pork we tried, plus this time the sauce was clearly homemade. I was very impressed by the quality and presentation of the food. When I paid for my food, the cashier handed me a pamphlet for their restaurant in Künzelsau just north of Stuttgart. If their street food is anything to judge by, we might just have to make a trip up their for dinner sometime soon.
Back in the line for L.A. Tacos, we still were no closer to the front after 30 minutes, and it was starting to pass 15:00. I'm sorry to say that we just couldn't take anymore lines, and decided after just three dishes that it was time to leave. I had intended to get some mango-chili ice cream that I saw at Speiseeis VW on the way in, but once again the line must have been a 20-30 minute wait.
Walking out of the venue, the lines were somehow still longer than when we'd entered. I can only imagine that some people must have waited 60-90 minutes to get to the front, and I wonder how many of the trucks still had food to serve at that point. It was crazier still to see hundreds of people waiting to get in at the entrance. I wonder if the event organizers had anticipated so many attendees, though if the accepted invitation number on Facebook was anything to go by (38,000 people -- and those are just the ones on Facebook!), then perhaps they could have been better prepared.
It was much easier getting home. As a side note, we walked in the opposite direction where we discovered a monument to the deported Jews of Stuttgart that we had not known about. Seeing the dates and numbers explained why so many of the Stolperstein (stumbling stones) we see around the city primarily have Riga as the destination. The monument was well done, and I'm glad we stumbled upon it. From there, it was an easy five minute walk to the Milchhof U-bahn station, from which we took the U12 home.
Of course I'm kicking myself for not arriving sooner, and I wish the lines hadn't been so long. Still, I hope this is a sign to the Street Food Market organizers that there's a huge demand for this sort of event in Stuttgart. I hope next year they'll be able to hold the event in the Schlossplatz over a couple of days. Or better yet, maybe Stuttgart can join the ranks of other European cities and have a regular spot for food trucks on the weekends. Wouldn't that be nice?
Did you make it to the Stuttgart Street Food Market? What did you think?