Inside Hallesches Haus, A Berlin General Store Started by Two New Englanders
How does the concept of a New England general store translate in Berlin? At the newly opened Hallesches Haus, a general store and cafe with two lofty rooms and high ceilings inside a former turn-of-the-century brick post office in Kreuzberg, you won't be able to buy any live bait or hardware. Instead, you'll find ceramic vases in the shape of cacti or tin cups from Toilet Paper for Seletti.
One of the three founders, New Englander Jillian May, explains that she felt nostalgic for the general stores she grew up with in Maine. “I like the idea of a simpler time, when one could get all kinds of provisions, everything, really, from one little shop in the center of town. It's also is a place where everyone knows everyone, where one can go to buy something or eat something, but also to fulfill a need for interaction. At Hallesches Haus we want to bring an element of this communal feeling to our space, product selection and service.”
That communal element is fueled mostly by the cafe, which is now a small bar in the corner that serves coffee sourced from a tiny coffee bean roaster called Toms Kaffeerösterei with a cult following. By September, they will have a professional kitchen. (Currently, their two chefs are working out of a rented street food truck that is parked in the courtyard.) The menu’s focus is on breakfast and lunch dishes: egg sandwiches and paninis; a vegetarian dish like a spiced cauliflower salad with lentils and spinach; and American-style baked treats like brownies and scones.
May and her partners also like to throw a good party. They will celebrate the redesign of artist Olafur Eliasson’s solar powered LED light called Little Sun in mid-July (check their Facebook page for more details), and every Thursday night until the end of July they host an open-air cinema night in their courtyard with Mobile Kino. “We just screened Force Majeure, a Swedish dark comedy,” says May. “So we cooked and served our version of Swedish meatballs.”
The Hallesches Haus Founders's Local Recommendations:
Food & Drink
Markthalle Neun “This revived market hall is the hub of a dynamic food community. We love the sourdough bread from Sironi, the Sausage Man Never Sleeps, and the sustainable fish dishes at Glut & Spänne.”
Bosco “Friends of ours opened this Italian restaurant in Kreuzberg after closing their much-loved hideaway, Da Baffi, in the Wedding neighborhood. For a special and cozy truffle-happy dinner, it’s the best.”
Chipperfield Kantine (Joachimstrasse 11A in Mitte; no website) “When we worked for the design start-up MONOQI, we would frequently eat lunch with the architects from Chipperfield’s office in this sleek, Scandinavian-style Canteen. Food is hit or miss (it is a cafeteria after all) but the bread is always fresh and the atmosphere makes for a very civilized mid-week lunch.”
West Berlin “One of our favorite coffee and media shops. It's located on Friedrichstr, right beside Checkpoint Charlie—it’s so on the beaten tourist track that it’s easy to miss! But the coffee and magazine selections are superb.”
Yami Yami (Grunewaldstraße 60 in Schöneberg; no website) “I recently visited this unassuming Szechuan restaurant in Schöneberg and it’s now my favorite Chinese place in the city. I was presented with the authentic Chinese menu without even asking!”
Victoria Bar “They serve, in our opinion, the best classic cocktails in the city. It is situated on Potsdamer Strasse, a sketchy avenue that has some beautiful hidden backyards and spaces in the back courtyards, including Anna Jill Lüpertz Gallery, Circle Culture Gallery, and Gebrüder Berger Fabric store.”
Goldhahn & Sampson “The best cookbook selection in Berlin, along with tempting selection of provisions and breads. It’s where I go to get specialty baking products or gifts for food-lovers.”
Marille und Vanille “I think one of the best ice creams in Berlin, if you can bear waiting in line. Just off Mehringdamm.”
Naturkunde Museum “Berlin’s natural history museum. Well worth a Sunday afternoon visit. As long as you’re not squeamish when it comes to animals in jars.”
C/O Berlin “The newly re-opened, light-filled Amerika Haus location for this excellent photography institute is stunning for viewing photography exhibitions.”
Bauhaus Archive “We especially love the shop. It's perfect for contemporary as well as classic design objects.”
Soviet War Memorial (Treptower Park) “Such a quiet and peaceful, yet very impressive place, as if time has stopped.”
Kino International “The best place in Berlin to see a film in style. Amazing architecture.”
Kuhn Keramik “A cool little local ceramic company in an old Pharmacy.”
Gisela Williams is based in Berlin, and covers Germany and its surrounding countries for Travel + Leisure.