An afternoon at the vast market known as Copenhagen Street Food is the purest of Copenhagen experiences. A sea of bicycles greeted me on the docks of Papirøen (Paper Island) and countless Danes were sprawled across the pavement, soaking in the rays. Across the harbor, I saw the architecturally jarring Experimentarium museum and the iconic Nyhavn district with its colorful row houses. I could hear the raucous echoes coming from inside the warehouse and smell the mixture of exotic spices. Upon entering, I immediately saw why the pop-up market is referred to by one local as “the absolute best in the city.”
Copenhagen Street Food (CSF) began in summer 2014 and continues to thrive thanks to its food truck/sustainable hipster vibe. Regular patrons enjoy lying back around the indoor and outdoor fire pits and sipping on local beer and whiskey in the aptly named Greenhouse, a space bursting with native plants and fresh herbs. When they get hungry, most patrons enjoy their worldly meal at the Cow Bar, which features a giant cow disco ball. But the best part, according to CSF regular Britta Baumister, is being able to pick an organically bred meal or beverage from one of 33 food stalls for around 50 Danish kroners ($7.50) — a great deal for one of the most expensive cities for food in the world.
Here are some of the best food and drink options at CSF.
The Silver Streak Coffee Club
This might be one of the smallest coffee shops in the world. Baristas have to duck their heads as they maneuver the trailer, preparing Americanos, espressos, and other fair-trade brews. They also serve tea and chocolates sourced from Denmark. It’s the perfect pick-me-up after the walk across the harbor.
The team at Brasa is constantly slicing made-to-order pork, chicken, and beef to accommodate the line that weaves around CSF. They offer a series of generously seasoned, succulent meats in quarter-pound rations with their amazing house-made chipotle sauce, served alongside a fresh salad. I couldn’t resist the pungent scent of Brazilian spices as I passed by, so I got seconds.
I fueled my Italian food addiction with authentic market delicacies at La Fattoria. Owners Cindy Romor and Johan Braad-Peterson, an Italian-Danish couple, drove their food truck from Italy to share their authentic imported charcuterie, paninis, cheeses, and more at CSF. Their truck has everything from high-end Calabrese salami to artisan cheeses from rural Tuscany. They even have some products I struggled to find when I lived in Florence.
The Danes tell me there are very few quality options for Asian cuisine in Copenhagen. Except for one: They’ve got Korean food covered with Bulko. The trendy and tangy Korean barbeque stall serves up flavors of Seoul with favorites like the spicy fried chicken, dumplings, and plenty of kimchi. The house pick is the South Korean staple called bulgogi, a rice and kimchi combo topped with the juiciest pork in town. It’s unreal.
I wasn’t quite in the mood for a drink yet, but a visit to Cow Bar to see the giant cow disco ball hanging from the ceiling was a must. I perused the selection of local and international wines and beers before realizing I wanted something sweet, so I sampled the organic juices from Anton’s, a local juicery. Fun fact: Purchasing a bottle of water at CSF supports the original red Danish dairy breed and the biodynamic farm Thorshøjgaard with a 5 kroner (73 cent) donation. Stay hydrated, support sustainability!
Calling all beer and rum aficionados. Stormly is the one-stop shop for organic Danish beer and rum from across Denmark. The stout and lager selections were divine, and I usually can’t stand stout. For rum lovers, a truly local product awaits. Several rums are made a mere two miles away from the market. Side note: While admiring the lettering on Stormly’s storefront, I was informed that they were made using recycled materials taken from demolished buildings in nearby Christiania. Again, sustainability.
I knew I was at the right place for a fresh Italian dish when I came upon wooden counters with flour powdered across the surface and pasta dough being pressed as I ordered. Il Mattarello spins out fresh pasta of all varieties all night, and they serve up some of the best Italian dishes I could find in Scandinavia. The Bolognese is seasoned to perfection — which, if you really know your Bolognese, you’ll agree is a challenge — and the pesto tortellini is some of the best I’ve ever had. Try the sweets, too!
Owners Joel Kondrup and Nagy Skov serve the classic open-faced sandwiches (smorrebrod) Copenhagen is known for. I found other great open-faced sandwiches at establishments like Aamanns in the city center, but the ingredients are fresher at Handmade. Homemade bread is topped with various cold cuts, smears, and produce to create a powerhouse of flavor. As is the theme for the Danish food scene, the menu changes weekly. I went with the three-sandwich sampler to get the most bang for my buck.
When I saw the name, my mind raced with images of the overloaded fast food joints in the United States. Luckily, there’s a burger renaissance happening in Denmark, and places like Fat Burger are using grass-fed beef to create some incredible new-age burgers. They start with homemade buns and add crispy-cool fixings like pickled red onions, marinated kale, cheese, bacon, and chile mayo. I thought I was going to unhinge my jaw with that bite of heaven.
After taking a pass through CSF, I recognized that dining in Copenhagen has gone completely seasonal. From the Michelin-starred restaurants to the food stalls, the Danes are calling on whatever is in harvest to dictate their menus, and it’s churning out some deliciously unique results. Nowhere is this exemplified more than Landkøkkenet. Chef Jane Bodholt Svendsen offers simple meats from free-range pigs and cattle in nearby Odsherred, topping everything with whatever vegetables are harvested that week in Zealand. It’s the freshest meal at CSF.