People with Turkish roots are the largest migrant community in Germany at present so, as might be expected, there is no shortage of Turkish or Kurdish food. German history paints a conflicting picture regarding attitudes to the eating habits of its guest workers who arrived in Germany on the back of the German-Turkish recruitment agreement of 1961. It was only after doner kebabs established themselves as the quick and tasty meal of choice for an entire generation that other elements of Turkish cuisine found a place in everyday German life.Good Turkish food can be found all over Cologne, even though Turkish restaurateurs often have trouble shaking off the image of the typical kebab takeaway.
The Turkish community is particularly strong in parts of Cologne where work was once plentiful and accommodation affordable, like on Keupstrasse in the Mülheim district, where the Felten & Guilleaume cable plant was once located. Keupstrasse gained tragic notoriety in 2004 when it was the scene of nail bomb attacks by the far-right terrorist group NSU. The many Turkish restaurants, kebab places and bakeries are well worth crossing the Rhine to visit.
Even though many former sources of work have since disappeared, the Turkish workers remained, sharing the district with their Italian colleagues, students and veteran Cologne locals.
Weidengasse, a street in the inner-city Eigelstein district, was another attractive option, particularly as rents were relatively low. Here, where the first Turkish shop opened for business in 1962, there are meanwhile many thriving greengrocers and butcher’s shops. In the 1980s, this was also home to the upmarket Bizim restaurant, known all over Germany for its creative yet traditional cuisine.
Mevlana The ideal place to get to know another side of Turkish cuisine.
What to eat: Iskender kebab with yoghurt and tomato sauce
Mülheim, Keupstr. 47, Mon–Sat 6 am–2 am, mevlanakoeln.de
Inci Charcoal-grilled fish — all there is and all you need.
What to eat: Uskumru (mackerel) with salad
Buchheim, Wichheimer Str. 2–4, Tues–Fri 4 pm–11 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm–11:30 pm, closed on Mondays
Yee Doy Simple but tasty food on a busy shopping street.
What to eat: Patlıcanlı kebap (aubergine and mince) and ayran (yoghurt drink)
Kalk, Kalker Hauptstr. 119, Mon–Sun 7:30 am–midnight, yeedoy.de
Nimet Traditional grill dating back to 1978, with adjoining artisan bakery.
What to buy: Pita bread and simit
Kalk, Kalker Hauptstr. 84, open all hours, nimet-grill.de also Südstadt, Chlodwigplatz 15
Mangal Flagship of a whole family of grill restaurants, kebab shops and burger joints.
What to eat: Cağ kebabı (lamb kebab cooked on a horizontal rotisserie)
Eigelstein, Weidengasse 62, Mon-Thurs 10 am–2 am, Fri–Sat 10 am–3 am, Sun 10 am–1 am, mangal-restaurant.de
Bizim Kasap Charmingly old-fashioned butcher’s shop.
What to buy: Sucuk (a dry, spicy sausage)
Eigelstein, Weidengasse 38, Mon–Sat 8 am–6:30 pm
bona’me Kurdish-Turkish cuisine in a modern atmosphere, where customers collect their food at the counter.
What to eat: Sucuklu pide and pomegranate sherbet
Deutz, Kennedyplatz 2, Mon–Sat 11 am–midnight, Sun 10:30 am–midnight, bona-me.de also Rheinauhafen, Anna-Schneider-Steig 22
Kebapland Legendary kebab shop with a spectacularly small — but spectacularly tasty — selection of grilled dishes.
What to eat: Adana sandwich
Ehrenfeld, Venloer Str. 385, Mon–Sun 11:30 am–1 am
(by Johannes J. Arens | Photographies by Daniel Grünfeld)