Food concept stores in Cologne
The league of extraordinary concepts
Food hypes tend to come and go: bubble tea, frozen yoghurt, ramen noodles – nobody knows which trends will stay on the table and which will disappear into obscurity as quickly as they appeared. Faced with this situation, more and more food outlets are opting to multitask with fresh ideas to thwart mealtime monotony. I visited five different concept stores for you – from a café featuring Scandinavian design items in the southern part of the city to a permanent pop-up restaurant. Everything but ordinary.
Frau Nora und Herr Max
This pretty little café in the heart of Cologne’s south exudes good taste in both senses of the word, combining Scandinavian homeware with excellent coffee. Manager Nora picks the items herself, ranging from stylish concrete lamps, quirky crockery, dainty jewellery, cups, cushions and cosy blankets to delightful products for children. Barista Max serves a selection of superb coffees to complement the concept.
Quality, in terms both of flavour and aesthetics, is all important to this wonderfully warm-hearted couple. The coffee beans come from “roestbar” in Münster, the designer items are from Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Add to that the croissants, pains au chocolat, apple tarts, Portuguese custard tarts and music from the turntable, and you have the perfect recipe for a breakfast that lasts all day long…
Frau Nora und Herr Max
Merowingerstraße 20, 50677 Cologne
Pulle & Stulle
The popularity of craft beer is more of a revival than an innovative trend, in a move away from big breweries’ mass-produced beverages towards the diversity of flavour offered by smaller producers. A former bookseller, Sandra Pollach discovered the joys of craft beer through a friend and then there was no stopping her! She stocks around 140 different bottled beers plus out-of-the-ordinary soft drinks, ciders and bottled cocktails.
With so much to choose from, customers might be forgiven for feeling a little lost but Sandra is at hand to answer all their questions. There’s even a range of snacks to pair up with the drinks: sardines and other tinned fish from Spain and Portugal, rillettes and bacon jam from Berlin and Black Forest beef jerky. Lovers of the malt and hops beverage can also take part in one of the tastings offered every three weeks. Run by beer sommelier Axel Rosenbaum, they last three hours and cost 35 euros. Axel presents eight beer styles, along with sandwiches to complement. And every Friday and Saturday there are different beers on tap to take away in a “growler”.
Pulle & Stulle
Steinbergerstraße 5, 50733 Cologne
The whole idea of a pop-up is that its temporary nature increases people’s curiosity and makes them feel they have to get there before it’s gone. So a permanent pop-up restaurant sounds like a bit of a contradiction but that’s exactly what Vincent Schmidt and Till Riekenbrauk have set up – Germany’s first.
The concept is simple yet brilliant: “Laden Ein” provides the facilities and professional support and the hosts change every fortnight. So far, more than 50 restaurateurs have taken part. Often, they’re from the street food scene and they come to try out their ideas before looking for their own premises. The main benefit for guests is the resulting variety – from the cuisine of Senegal to Hawaiian poke and hummus from the Middle East to Berlin dumplings. So actually, the principle of “curiosity + time pressure = hurry or else they’ll be gone” still holds true. Which means you need to be fast!
Blumenthalstraße 66, 50668 Cologne
The Belgian Quarter is very much “anything goes” – with galleries, boutiques, barber shops, vegan cafés, esoteric bookshops and jewellery designers, it’s a hipster’s paradise. But Pierre Severin has managed to find a niche for his new concept – without the need for a man bun or tattooed knuckles. His “as/if” is a cosy café, indie record store and second-hand shop rolled into one.
The coffee is from the “Van Dyck” roasting house, breakfast is served between 11 am and 3 pm and the cheesecake in a glass is so creamy that it’s almost a cheek! Bagels, home-made cake and salads complete the menu. Boss Pierre describes the vinyl section as a “small but superb selection of guitar-based music”. It consists of between 300 to 500 records, all new and mostly from Cologne labels. Pierre’s girlfriend, Marie, is in charge of the second-hand shop in the basement: a treasure trove of garments, retro bags, fashion jewellery and vintage shoes.
Be warned though, dear reader, it’s easy to while away a whole day here!
as/if: RecordStore Café SecondHand Wohnzimmer
Brüsseler Straße 92, 50672 Cologne
Flakes Corner is definitely the most offbeat of the concept stores – a little place, almost frozen in time, in the southern part of the city. The walls are adorned with images of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, David Hasselhoff, the characters from the “Dinosaurs” series, the cast of “Full House”, Darth Vader and every Marvel hero that ever donned a cape. And there’s a Nintendo 64 next to the counter for anyone who’s feeling lucky.
The menu includes a huge variety of milkshakes, plus fresh waffles and, of course, breakfast cereals. Guests can choose between a whopping 120 different international products plus extra toppings and flavoured milks such as coconut or strawberry. Flakes Corner is a Mecca for fans of American candy: Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Pop Rocks, Hershey’s and Oreos in every version available can all be had here. The perfect place for (would-be) children of the 90s to relive their younger days and get a sugar high while they’re at it.
Bonner Straße 69, 50677 Cologne