The Quest for a Good Reuben Sandwich

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‘It’s important to me that everything here is homemade and not from a box,’ shares Craig.
Everything took off from there, and the deli, in the words of its owner,
‘has been a crazy experiment that went very well.’


by Jeff Dingler and Jazmin Moore
Photos: J. Moore & Craft 19

A taste of New York City has made its way into Madrid’s very own Mercado Vallehermoso as Craft 19 bar and deli. The deli is not normally open on Tuesdays, but the owner Craig Kollegger opened just for us Guidepost folks to try his sandwiches, and he’s already had more business than he expected. Two tables beside us are filled with people eating his food, and more are coming.

Will the revitalized Mercado Vallehermoso give the enormously popular Mercado de San Miguel a run for its money? Looks like it!

Craft 19, named after its stand number and selection of craft beer, has been a part of the revitalization of Mercado Vallehermoso. Up and running since 1933, the Mercado seemed to go through a bit of a drought in the past decade as stands began closing and clientele began dropping. But after renovations and a few fresh businesses, including Craft 19, traffic has certainly picked back up.

Craft 19: “a crazy experiment that went well” for the computer engineer with a knack for food experimenting

“Really, the whole thing was born out of me not being able to find a good Reuben sandwich in Madrid,” Craig tells us while preparing one for us to try. When the computer engineer with a knack for food experimenting found the opportunity for a space in the mercado, the business venture “just felt right.”

Originally, Craig had wanted to pitch a “new-world pinchos” place, but when the management of the market found out that he made his own pastrami, they suggested he do a sandwich stall instead. And it’s not just the pastrami; the pickles, sauerkraut, and bacon are all made from scratch as well. “It’s important to me that everything here is homemade and not from a box” shares Craig. Everything took off from there, and the deli, in the words of its owner, “has been a crazy experiment that went very well.”

It certainly has gone very well. Craft 19 has only been open six months, but it’s already been mentioned in El Pais as one of 6 places to get a taste of New York without having to leave Madrid. Before the bar and deli, Craig had been involved in the tech industry, and that’s what originally drew him to Spain more than 13 years ago. He fell in love with Madrid and never left. But after more than twenty years of tech service, Mr. Kollegger felt he needed a change. He knew nothing about the restaurant industry, but he wanted to take the plunge because food was what he was passionate about. The biggest adjustment for him was just learning a new trade. “Being my own boss and managing my own supply chain. Dealing with physical objects instead of digital objects.” He says he likes this more.

“Socialness has been really nice—really rewarding,” Craig says serving up one of the thick sandwiches on rye. “The immediate feedback of serving someone and seeing their reaction, I like it.”

When it comes to clientele, there’s certainly a variety. Many are Spaniards who have seen enough of New York in the movies to brew up a curiosity for a real pastrami sandwich. Many more are regulars to Vallehermoso, and some are just people strolling through the mercado who have no idea what a pastrami sandwich is supposed to taste like, but they’re willing to try. As for what’s to come for Craft 19? Delivery, to go orders, and even a giant pastrami on the weekends.

Also, if you’re looking to beef up your Spanish or English skills, Craft 19 hosts Intercambios de idiomas between 7:30 and 9 every Wednesday, a chance for language-lovers to get together and exchange their knowledge and skills.


About Jeff & Jazmin

Jeff Dingler is a writer and actor who has won several awards including B-Metro’s B-published fiction contest (2015) for his short story “For Fred with the Rose-Colored Smile” as well as scholarships to the New York State Summer Writers Institute (2015 and 2017). He graduated summa cum laude from Skidmore College and Wallace State Community College. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY but has recently relocated to Madrid which may or may not be on a temporary basis.

For one so young, Jazmin has ample experience in the media. Currently reporting for Guidepost, she has done a stint at radio stations like the South Florida Journal and was Entertainment News Director at Florida Atlantic University’s Owl TV.