It’s Saturday morning at the Obor farmers’ market and there’s a humming and buzzing of people coming and going with their shopping bags full of fresh vegetables, fruits and meat. Most of the farmers are organised more or less according to their geographical area of Romania. The smoke you see right before entering the market, filling the air, brings flavours of spices and sizzling meat to your nostrils.
In one corner of the market you can spot people selling (at an improvised stall) Chinese toys, old books, plastic lingerie and weird objects that no one is using, while in another area you can fill your bags with the best produce the farmers have to offer.
It’s vibrant. It’s a place fuelled by people’s energy, where the farmers and local flavours are much appreciated.
Dating back in 18th century, Obor market was an entertainment hub and, and, when needed, a public execution place. The remains of an old fair are still here. Today, the market is probably one of the few places in the city that locals rediscover endlessly. You will see here seniors who survived the Communist period, when they were forced to queue for milk, bread and eggs; young people who value locally sourced food; curious tourists who have read about the place and want to taste those famous skinless sausage we call mic (plural: mici).
After a few walks around the market and shopping done, there is one ritual that almost nobody misses: having a portion of two sizzling mici, one soft bun, mustard and a glass of local tap beer at Obor Terrace.
The work here starts in the early morning hours, when the raw meat arrives, the grills are heated and the vendors prepare for a busy day ahead. It is always busy here. The skinless sausages are made of a mix of spices, beef and pork meat that have never been frozen. It takes about 12 to 14 minutes to grill them and given the queue outside, the vendors have to get started early.
And a queue, nowadays, is a good sign. The food must be good here. Inside the four-square-metre shack it’s hot as hell and one can hardly take a step. The BBQ chimney spreads the unmistakable smell of mici all over the market, while the vendor inside does three things at once: grills the meat, counts the money and takes orders.
Once you take your food from the vendor, you have to find a place to eat. Or catch a standing table and have your mici and beer next to a stranger who was kind enough to share his space. Most likely, he has been standing there with a beer in front of him for a few good hours. Tableware? There is no tableware here. The true way to enjoy a mic is by grabbing it with two toothpicks provided. After finishing your meal, you throw your leftovers into the box under the table and make your way home.
“You don’t have to exaggerate anything when writing about this place. We are a team of ordinary people, we enjoy life and we have adapted to the situation here,” says Adrian the owner. “Take a look outside, on the terrace. We have all kinds of clients here who come to enjoy our mici and beer. The music is not too loud and we try to make a mix of the most beloved Romanian performers.”
Tall, spirited and always keeping his eyes on things, Adrian is the one who knows how things work around here. His grandfather used to be a barkeep and he likes to say about himself that he is a man of the bars.
“Have you seen the prices?” he asks me while checking with his colleagues if they need something in the kitchen. “Prices are low here and we want to keep it that way. Why? Because people who come here need to feel good and forget about money just for a few minutes, while enjoying their mici and beer. This is our philoshopy.”
He continues, “Obor Terrace was born in the winter of 2011. At the beginning it was difficult. All the terraces from the market were somewhere else, then we moved here, around the corner where nobody saw us. But in time, people discovered us and now they come here with confidence. Obor market is the last bastion of farmers’ market in town.”
Hungry for mici? Sample this traditional Romanian snack (plus more!) on our Bohemian Bucharest tour.