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Oct 13, 2010 12:59 PM

Vienna in late November: Restuarants & cafe recommendations...

I'm a German-speaking native New Yorker in my late 20's heading to Vienna with my wife in late November for some performances at the Volksoper. I'll be there starting early Thursday morning and leaving Sunday morning (staying at the Imperial). We're looking for a good mix of off-the-beaten-path, non-tourist places as well as "classic" Viennese places with a mix of both tourists and locals. Obviously, good food is a criterion for both. We're not really interested in Asian, non-Austrian cuisine for this trip. Also, I'd like to do Saturday night at an haute cuisine restaurant (Steiereck?.. I'm not so sure). Based on posts from Sturmi and others this is what I've cobbled together:

Thursday: Julius Meinl for lunch, followed by kaffe u. kuchen at Demel, followed by pre-opera dinner at Zum Schwarzen Kameel, followed by Sacher Torte after the performance (sorry--have to do that).

Friday: Wander around the Naschmarkt for breakfast, lunch at Rudi's Beisl, kaffe u. kuchen at Cafe Sperl, drinks in the Esterhazy Keller before dinner, and then a big meal at Walter Bauer's, and then perhaps a nightcap somehwere (suggestsions?). No opera Friday night.

Saturday: lunch at the restuarant in the MAK (apparently Kurt Guttenbrunner likes this place.. he's a big hit in New York). and then a big dinner AFTER the opera. Was thinking Schnattl but was hoping for something more luxurious. Finsteren Stern? I feel like Steireck is the wrong move here. Thoughts?

So, in short: is the restuarant in the MAK still as good as before? What's a good "fancy" place for after the opera on Saturday night? and any after-dinner drink spot recommendations for Friday night? Wein & Co. seems a little uninteresting given it's a chain.

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  1. First, thank you for basing your itinerary on my posts. I really appreciate this. I hope you feel the same after leaving Vienna !

    Then a few comments:
    - Julius Meinl is now no more a fancy restaurant. It is just another cafeteria with just about average food. In the past I would have suggested to go for lunch in the wine bar in the basement of Julius Meinl, where you would get their plate du jour at a reasonable price. But, with their chef de cuisine Gradwohl gone, it might be best to use Julius Meinl just for an after lunch espresso in their coffee bar...

    - So what alternative for lunch on Thursday ? You might get lunch at Demel, they usually have also a plate du jour at lunchtime, or at least used to have. But you could also take lunch in one of the Kaffeehäuser, such as Landtmann, Diglas, Tirolerhof, Mozart, Bräunerhof etc. All these traditional Kaffeehaus institutions offer a nice lunch menu at reasonable cost. And you get the traditional athmosphere as well. You might even stay for Kaffee and Kuchen, and visit Demel just to buy a few Katzenzungen...

    - Breakfast at Naschmarkt: the only breakfast you get there is of the falafel/humus/and other mezze type, and not the Viennese kind of breakfast you might prefer. But: get into Schleifmühlgasse, there you will find a few places offering breakfast right through the day, or drop into Cafe Drechsler, or in the newly reopened Theatercafe ...

    - Rudi´s Beisl on a Friday is a must, but almost impossible without a reservation in advance. The place is so small, and regulars are there every day, so that you either come in very early or very late or get a reservation a few weeks in advance (if possible, I never tried. We always drop in after 2 p.m. and wait a few minutes for a table to clear).

    - the MAK is what it was since opening: a great location with a large variety of Viennese classic cuisine. The service is variable, the food OK. Nothing spectacular.

    - Walter Bauer is definitely recommended. A real gem, and one of the last high-end places still in existence. The same is true for Schwarzes Kameel, but we prefer Walter Bauer...

    - Steirereck is an experience. Their menu is not without pitfalls, and we had there great and disappointing dinners. Check their menu online before you go...

    - Finsterer Stern is nothing spectacular, it is a no-frills souterrain hole-in-the-wall with great inventive food. But the location and setup are NOT luxurious. If you want a luxurious after opera dinner, why not at Anna Sacher in the Hotel Sacher ? Seems they have now a new chef de cuisine worth their location...

    But wait: you are at the Volksoper, not at the Staatsoper: why not trying Kutschker44, just two blocks from the opera ? Their food is excellent, Viennese with an international twist and always some vegetarian options. The setup is upscale lounge style, quite agreeable for after opera. But Schnattl is also a good option, of course.

    - After dinner drinks: Viennese like wine bars, and Wein&Co is always crowded, as well as Julius Meinls wine bar, or Unger&Klein and others. For an American bar, try the Loos bar, or the bar upstairs in Hotel Ambassador. We also like the Reiss champagne bar.

    - Wein&Co is a chain, but their wine selection is great and their food is quite good, although more of the mediterrean type. If you want to sample Austrian wine it is worth a try, and you could always just take a selection of cheeses with the wine.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Sturmi

      Thank you for all your help Sturmi. I think we'll do a kaffeehaus for lunch on Thursday (is there one you think is the best?) and Cafe Drechsler for breakfast on Friday morning after we walk around the Naschmarkt. For after the volksoper on Sat night Kutschker44 looks great but I'm worried that it's too modern and not luxurious enough (I was thinking this would be the night for some over-the-top Habsurger kitsch). It also sounds like Steiereck might be worth "experiencing" : ). But if you think Kutschker is a better call, then I'll go with that. I'll look into Anna Sacher as well. Thanks again.

      1. re: die Dollo

        Landtmann surely is the top Kaffeehaus right now.

        OTOH, Bräunerhof, Frauenhuber , Prückel and Diglas might offer more morbid fien-de-siecle chic, and Tirolerhof and Mozart are conveniently located close to the Albertina and the Staatsoper.

        And there is also Cafe Central for a peculiar historic ambiente and the Cafe Havelka as the bohemian Mekka.

        Tough choice...

        And if you want decadent Habsburg style luxury: go to Anna Sacher for dinner and then in their Blaue Bar for drinks. You will feel Sigmund Freud looking over your shoulder !!

        1. re: Sturmi

          Immervoll could also be good for Thursday lunch, no?

          1. re: die Dollo

            Yes. definitely.

            OTOH you might have to get a reservation, and the food is also just a good choice of Viennese classics, nothing spectacular. In one of the Kaffeehäuser you might get a table any time without reservation, only the lunch menu will offer maybe at a few places slightly less variation than at Immervoll.

            So, if you just stroll around in the city and get hungry, visiting one of the mentioned Kaffeehäuser might be a more convenient solution, since you need no reservation...

            Here are a few more Kaffeehaus tips for places in the inner city:
            Cafe Korb, Cafe Markusplatz, Cafe Engländer and Cafe de l´Europe.

            1. re: Sturmi

              My wife and I just got back from a magical trip to Vienna and wanted to share our thoughts with you. Overall, our restuarant experiences were pretty spectacular. Thank you so much for your suggestions!
              We arrived the morning of Thursday, Nov 25th and started off at Caffe Prueckl on our way to see the Hundertwasser Haus. We had a light breakfast consisting of a softboiled egg and some bread with honey. The perfectly preserved 1950's decor and authentic atmopshere were a great way to start our trip. That afternoon, we visited Immervoll, which took some trouble finding, but once we found it, we were received graciously. Our waiter recommended an interesting dish of shredded veal-stomach lining served over polenta (and mint?) and a seared veal cutlet with basmati rice. Both were quite good--the veal stomach & polenta dish was particularly interesting and different from anything else we had on the trip. Immervoll also seemed completely empty of tourists, which was nice. That night, after seeing a performance at the Volksoper, we headed to Der Schwarze Kameel. In terms of atmosphere, this was my wife's favorite. The maitre'd was a wonderful character and our dinner of seared goose-liver foie gras with figs, venison and the tradional tafelspitz was impeccable, especially the amazing sides--such as the creamed spinach. I was not crazy about my tartar appetizer with truffles and goose-liver foie gras on top. It was a bit much, with too many things going on, and the flavors of the truffles and the goose liver foie gras were overshadowed by the saltiness of the capers.
              However, the maitred's suggestion of a passion fruit sorbet/prosecco after dinner drink was inventive and charming. (and effective!)
              Our favorite lunch occurred the next day at Rudi's Beisl, where we had pre-ordered a goose (for one). We started with an amazing, large salad consisting of potatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce with a classic white vinegar dressing. My wife enjoyed a veal dish with fried potatoes and incredible red cabbage. We shared a great bottle of local white wine. We were both a little skeptical that the goose would be good (any time we've had it at a friend or relative's house, it's been dry and uinteresting) but it was really succulent. Juicy and crispy at the same time! Rudi's was very special and by far our favorite lunch. Having a reservation proved critical.
              That night, after drinks at the American (Loos) Bar, where we had an interesting discussion of the "mixology trend" in New York with the bartender, we headed through the alleyways of the old town to Walter Bauer in the snow. The service here was incredible--absolutely perfect, and after an amuse bouche of leberkaese with terragon mustard, we knew we were in for a treat. We opted for the tasting menu, which began with foie gras, moved on to spaghetti and white truffles, followed by halibut with a chestnut foam, and ending with a course of beef cheeks. Everything was perfectly prepared and all on the wait staff were very professional. The presentation was highly original, right up to the complimentary sweets of homemade marshamallows hanging from skewers in a sugar-filled mini-vase. They suggested local wines by the glass with each course, all of which were superbly paired.
              The next day we hit a bit of a speed bump with our lunch at the MAK. As you had noted, the food here is "just OK.. Nothing special". However, my wife who's an architect really appreciated the chance to see all the design exhibitions at the museum (for which, on Saturdays, admission is free) after our mediocre lunch. Our last dinner, which you had pointed us to, more than made up for the disappointing lunch. After a walk around the Christmas markets in the Freyung and an Der Hof, we enjoyed apertifs at the Blue Bar follwed by an outrageously sumptuous (and, in the end, suprisingly affordable) meal at Anna Sacher where we split the duck for two. Our incredible waitress brought out the duck, which was carved tableside--where they explained that the legs would be served with a second course. After the first course of duck breast, baked apples and cinammon stuffing, potatoes and the most incredible jus we've ever had, we wondered if the second course was really going to materialize. Just as we were beginning to have serious doubts, our waiters arrived with duck legs over a delicate carrot mash and parsnips. We are both long-time New Yorkers and eat duck very frequiently, and yet we both feel certain that we will never have better duck in our lives. Our trip to Vienna was authentic, delicious, decadent and unforgettable--no small thanks to you. If you ever visit New York in the future, we hope to have the chance to return the favor. All the best, Die Dollo

              1. re: die Dollo

                Thank you so much for your report. It was a great pleasure to learn about your experience !! And yes, I will come back to you quite soon for some info about eating in the big apple.