Favorite restaurants in Vienna?
My wife and I will spend a week in Vienna this summer and are looking for some great restaurants. Fancy or simple is not important; the food is. Also, if you have a favorite dish at your favorite restaurant, I'd love to hear about that, too. Many thanks.
If you search for Vienna you'll find a TON of information. There are a few travelers who are very passionate about Vienna here (like me) who chime in with their favorites, plus at least one very knowledgeable Viennese poster who has seemingly tried every great restaurant in the city.
I know, I know, just kidding...
On the other hand I almost wrote the same reply you did, but then hesitated. Dojeagle requested something special: a FAVORITE place and a FAVORITE dish !!
For me this really is a difficult task, since I really eat anything when it is excellent quality and like to try new places, as you mentioned. But still: there ARE of course special memories....
I am now thinking really hard and will go into detail later this week...
Well, in an effort to be more helpful I'll give my far-less-comprehensive answer: Wieninger. Many people outside Austria are unaware of the Heuriger concept (winery-owned taverns that serve their own wine plus a selection of traditional Viennese food, but of the ones I've been to Wieninger is the best. Their kitchen is capable of food-as-high-art as well as rib-sticking rustic homecooking. And their wines are among my favorites.
My other favorite is Phoenixhof, a local, casual Viennese restaurant that we've somehow managed to go to three times in two visits. The pork cordon bleu was awesome as was the spinach and bacon stuffed chicken schnitzel.
And, of course, the Naschmarkt. And Tzeniewski/Duran/Zum Schwarzen Kameel for little sandwiches/canapes. And and and... !!!
I would start the other way round: My favourite dishes, Viennese style:
Beuschl is a typical dish from southern Germany and Austria. I is a sour-salty stew made from lung and heart and can be made from veal as well as from pork. It is served with bread dumplings and some topping of either Worcestershire sauce or goulash gravy. I like to eat beuschl at Kutschker44, where it is on the menu all year round, but I also have had great beuschl at Steirereck, the number one restaurant in Vienna !!
Another Viennese classic is boiled beef. Tafelspitz is one variety of boiled beef, and it was the favorite dish of Emperor Franz Josef, who ate it almost every day. It is served with fried potatoes, horseradish-applesauce and chive sauce, as well as some boiled vegetables. Plachutta is the local master of boiled beef of any kind, but there are smaller places serving great Tafelspitz as well, such as Restaurant König von Ungarn or one of the many beisl (Huth, Scherer, Beim Czaak, Pfudl, Ofenloch) in the city, or Altwiener Gastwirtschaft Schilling on Burggasse.
Tomorrow more, on Wiener Schnitzel and else ...
Sturmi, I have been lurking on this board as I plan my trip to Vienna, and have culled many ideas from your previous posts. Thanks for taking the time to seriously consider this particular question. I'm hanging on your every word!
I would suggest that visitors planning to eat Tafelspitz in Vienna might like to prepare for the experience by reading Joseph Wechsberg's essay "Tafelspitz for the Hofrat", originally published in Gourmet Magazine, and later reprinted in "Blue Trout and Black Truffles - The Peregrinations of an Epicure".
Thank you very much for the suggestion to read Joseph Wechsberg. He was one of the ambassadors of Viennese life, who in his essays preserved so much of the old ways lost after the wars...
And now more about Wiener Schnitzel (WS). There are three kinds of WS:
- the classic version is veal escalope, breaded with flour, egg and breadcrumbs and fried in lard fat. The veal is hammered to be very thin, and for best taste the WS is fried in a pan, not in a fritter. It is served either with boiled potatoes rolled in butter and parsley (Petersilkartoffel), or with green salad, or with a mixed salad, mostly potato salad combination with field salad.
- Viennese mostly prefer the version made from pork, although this is no more called WS, but „Schweinswiener“.
- The third version is the one served by Figlmüller. And now the world is split in two parts, one – mostly visitors to Vienna - honoring Figlmüller with the mark „Best WS in the World“, the others – mostly Viennese – saying that this is anything, but not a WS. Why this disagreement ? Figlmüller has perfected the procedure by making an extremely thin veal escalope, which in the process gets also extremely large, and producing a very thin breading which is then fried in a special way to produce a very fine and even crust. I like the Figlmüller WS, but at their traditional location in the narrow passage between Wollzeile and Bäckerstrasse they do not serve any beer, only wine. Because Figlmüller is a traditional „Weinhaus“, not a beisl...
- But WS without a glass of beer for many Viennese is just incomplete !!
This interesting fact now invites me to share an equally interesting observation: Vienna is maybe the only city in the world which has a 2000 year old history of wine growing as well as a centuries old tradition of brewing. Lager beer was invented in Vienna. Viennese love their Ottakringer and Schwechater beer, and there are a lot of microbreweries in town. Some beisl even serve 8 kinds of beer from the tap ! And this in a city where wine growing was introduced by the Romans and has never stopped since, and where vineyards are part of the cityscape !!
But: there are Heurigen and Weinhäuser and there a other restaurants. The places serving wine used to serve no beer, and even now many heurigen will NOT offer any beer !
Back to my favorite Viennese classics and to the not yet finished WS topic:
Where do we eat WS ?? Actually, we eat it everywhere we dine at a Viennese beisl or restaurant, because my wife loves to order a WS, eat just half of it and take the rest home, where I eat it next day, cold with some mustard and/or cranberry sauce, for lunch or for supper. We have not had a bad WS in years, and most beisl manage to serve a decent WS. Sorry, no favorite place, because it is a sure hit almost everywhere (at least at the places we visit).
But there is more, of course:
What I order when my wife eats WS is sometimes a Zwiebelrostbraten. This is a braised roast beef, served with braised or fried onion stripes, a heavy gravy, fried potatoes and pickled cucumber. Definitely a heavy dish, but so tasty ! The meat usually is minced for a few days, and therefore has a different taste in every beisl. Beuschl and Zwiebelrostbraten are the standards by which I test a beisl´s quality...
I recently had a great Zwiebelrostbraten in a real basic, down-to-earth beisl just between the Hotel Triest and the University of Technology on Karlsplatz: Gastwirtschaft Rohrböck on Rilkeplatz.
Another great address for Zwiebelrostbraten (and WS) is the Kolonitzbeisl on Kolonitzplatz, another neighbourhood beisl with excellent traditional beisl food at ridiculously low price levels.
Which finally leads us to the beisl evergreen: Wiener Gulasch.
Gulasch in Vienna is quite different from gulyas in Budapest, where the Viennese gulasch would be called „pörkölt“. It is of course a meat stew made with a lot of onions and powdered red bell pepper (paprika). It is not too spicy, and gets better from recooking. Our daughter is the gulasch aficionado in the family, and she prefers to eat gulasch in the Kolonitzbeisl, where it is served with potatoes, a pickled cucumber, a fried egg and a Wiener sausage as „Fiakergulasch“, but we have had also great gulasch in many other places, especially the famous „Gulaschmuseum“ in the Schulerstrasse, right in the city center !!
Of course there are also vegetarian dishes typical for Vienna: Geröstete Knödel mit Ei und grünem Salad (bread dumplings fried with eggs, served with grean salad) or Eiernockerln (egg-fried small dumplings made from pasta dough), also served with green salad.
Another not so vegetarian favorite of mine is Blunzengröstl. A blunzen is a black sausage, made of blood and lard. This sausage is cut and fried with some bacon and potatoes. I recently had a wonderful Blunzengröstl at two places: siiting in the garden f the Flein restaurant in the park of the Palais Clam-Callas on Währingerstrasse and – of course – in Gmoakeller.
Gmoakeller ist a favorite restaurant for all the Viennese classics mentioned above. There you can have all these dishes and more, the only drawback is, they do not have a nice outdoor dining area...
Lets get back to the favorite Viennese dishes: we have now enjoyed all kinds of meat and some vegetarian dishes, but what about poultry ?
Viennese for centuries loved to eat breaded food, and so they also like their chicken breaded: the Backhendl. You will get backhendl everywhere, but there are important variations: the traditional Backhendl is made with skin and bones, and of course the meat will be much more juicy and tasty this way, but of course all the fat will be there, and the bones are a cumbersome detail. So in some places you can decide wether you like you Backhendl with or without skin and with or without bones...
A variation of Backhendl is the Backhendsalat. Backhendl usually is served with a salad. But a Backhendsalat is different, the main dish is the salad (again potatoes and some green salad), and a cut backhendl is just the topping of the salad. The special taste of this dish is the oil used for the salad: a pumpkin seed oil from Styria: Kürbiskernöl !! This oil tastes better than olive oil and is also more healthy, and so you can compensate for all the bad fat from the chicken skin ...
Recently I ate great Backhendl wih skin and bones at Gasthaus Pöschl (former Immervoll) and a decent Backhendlsalat with Kürbiskernöl at Cafe Landtmann, the most distinguished Viennese Kaffeehaus.
And by the way: at Altwiener Gastwirtschaft Schilling there is always a small carafe with Kürbiskernöl at every table, just beside the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar...
Kukubura, thank you so much !
I had some time to write this post while travelling by train from Vienna to Tyrol for a meeting, and found that the wonderful trainride through the peaceful Austrian alps really made me go into detail. And there was not even a restaurant on the train...
Travelling back from Tyrol to Vienna by train I just had the pleasure to eat a nice Backhendlsalat with Kürbiskernöl, and I did not even have to leave my place and visit the restaurant car, the waiter serving food and drinks to all First Class passengers, a real pleasure ride...
I am adding three fotos, the first showing the Backhendlsalat sitting in front of the window of the First Class car, the train station Kufstein visible in the window. The next foto shows the delicious fried chicken (bone- and skinless) salad, and the last the generous serving of pumpkinseed oil left after I finished the salad. There was no other vinaigrette, just the oil and the two slices of lemon. A perfect Austrian delight, especially when eaten in combination with a glass of beer, in my case an alcohol free „Null Komma Josef“ from Ottakringer brewery in Vienna. And I paid 14 Euro for the Backhendlsalat, the bottle of beer and an espresso...
Train restaurants are a lottery. The trains from or to Switzerland usually are the best, the swiss train restaurants are definitely recommended. German and Austrian train restaurants can be quite lousy, but well, you always need some kind of adventure when traveling.
I have great memories abour traveling by train in the former Eastern Bloc countries. I remember a train ride from Vienna to East Berlin in 1973 when I had a delicious menu of oxtail soup, braised beef with pasta and some nice chocolate cake in an almost empty restaurant car, since you had to pay in Western currency for these delights. I think a paid for the whole lunch including a bottle of beer a sum which would be now 2 Euro and was also not much then. I also remember a Czech restaurant car in 1983 which was full of beer-drinking Czechs until the Austrian border, where Czechs had to leave, then waiters removed the Czech menu cards and presented menues printes in German, with a great selection of Bohemian specialties and beer at quite inexpensive rates. Austrians entering the train flocked to the restaurant and consumed great quantities of these specialties with even greater quantities of Pilsner and Budweiser beer on the short ride to Vienna...
Of course the best part of riding a train in central Europe is the view from the window. The trains cross the most scenic parts of the countries, and there are much less ugly sights bothering your eyes than along the highways. Nowadays it might be less expensive to use a plane, but the pleasure of riding a train is still the same as in the old days, whereas traveling by plane or by car gets more unpleasant every year ...
I have to apologize to all CH interested in Wiener Schnitzel: I have made a serious mistake: Figlmüller does NOT use veal escalope for his WS, he uses pork !
I found out because there is a new "best WS" in town:
Plachutta has opened his Gasthaus zur Oper in Walfischgasse, and his point is that HIS WS ist the best in town, since it is made from veal (as it should be) and NOT from pork, like the "inferior WS served elsewhere".
I have not yet tried Plachuttas claim, and chances are low that I will do so soon, since the Gasthaus zur Oper does not serve Beuschl or Blunzngröstl...
Figlmüller. Best schnitzel on the planet.
Also you'll really like the fleischwine served in many restaurants and taverns. It is, translated, fresh wine, very young wine from local grape varietals. The closest thing you'd try here would be a Beajolais Nouveau, though Fleischwine is I believe even younger than any of the nouveaus you'd get here.
re: Scary Bill
Regarding Figlmüller and best schnitzel more tomorrow.
But "Fleischwein" ??
Never heard this word...
What you are talking about is the "Jungwein", or Junker, a white cuvee which is matured somewhat artficially to be ready and drinkable at the end of October. Especially popular are the Styrian young wines, called "Steirischer Junker". These come form a very interesting wine growing area in southern Styria, right on the border to Slovenia. The Junker is a cuvee from Welschriesling, Sylvaner and/or Sauvignon Blanc and is really fresh, fruity and with just a hint of "catty nose". Unfortunately these wines do not last long, they have to be consumed before the end of January...
One more thing:
Even younger wine than Jungwein is "Sturm" (storm).
This is fermenting wine, a definitely dangerous and really treife drink. The sturm is cloudy and full of the yeast which is busy transforming the sugars into alcohol, producing a lot of carbon dioxide, which makes the sturm so bubbly. It tastes terrific, but if you drink more than just a small glass you will get not only a headache, but also diarrhea !!
Nevertheless sturm wine is very popular in September and October of each year, and people will flock to the wine growing areas to sample the sturm ...
Sturmi, your expansive post on schnitzel will send me back to Vienna, sooner rather than later, thank you for the lesson.
I have to clarify-somewhat-my earlier comment on wine. The wine I was referring to was a red wine, looking more like a burgundy colored fruit juice than wine. It was I was told -and I should have referred to it as this in the first place-a "fresh wine". I did have it in several restaurants in the Vienna area, often served in a water glass rather than a wine glass.
re: Scary Bill
Thank you for this clarification. Actually, this is even new to me...
So far all the local young wines we have been drinking were whites, but - as you found out - there are now winegrowers who want to serve very young red wine...
So far I knew the young red wine not only as Beaujolais Nouveau, which IMHO is in most cases to sweet to be enjoyable, but also as "Novello" from Tuscany and other Italian areas, which are quite enjoyable in the pre-Xmas season.
The Austrian wine scene, on the other hand, is extremely complicated and split up in many small gowing areas with their local autochthonic wines and traditions. It is a science of its own and worth exploring. And of course, Google is your friend, and there IS a red version of Steirischer Junker, der "Rote Junker":
Just spent a week in Vienna. One of my favorite simple basic dinners was the very first night at Phoenixhof - it was walking distance, which was nice and the atmosphere is warm and comfortable and easygoing. I had roasted spaetzle, which was so good that it was all I wanted for the rest of the trip.
We had a fine fine meal at Palais Coburg (Silvio Nickol degustation), though maybe the food was a bit rich, but it was elegant and delicious.
And then just before we left we had a perfect lunch in the garden of Glacisbeisl - more than the food, it was just the perfect outdoor space on the perfect sunny day, arriving before the rush and the food was good too.
I have to say in genl I was not really in love w Austrian food - a little too bland for me. We went to Zum Reznicek and the food seemed very authentic, but I missed spiciness. We tried cakes at the big name places - Landtmann, Hotel Sacher, Demel - but I ended up liking the cakes in Budapest better. Never did find third wave great coffee in Vienna.
Thank you for all the help and suggestions here!
Many food photos here:
Debbieann, thank you very much for your feed back and for the link to your photos!
Let me just put a few things straight.
- There is no Austrian cuisine. What you were sampling at Phoenixhof, Reznicek and Glacisbeisl was basic Viennese beisl cuisine. This food is made to cost not too much, and therefore lacks sophistication as well as expensive tasty ingredients. But still, even in these simple beisl you might have had a Zwiebelrostbraten, a Beuschl, a Blunzengröstl or a Fiakergulasch and found that these dishes are anything but bland.
- Beside these down-to-earth inexpensive beisl cuisine dishes there is also a high-end Viennese cuisine, nowadays found only in a very few selected places such as restaurant Anna Sacher in Hotel Sacher or in Restaurant Eckel in Sievering. The Viennese cuisine served there is quite similar to traditional French cuisine with some local specialties such as Tafelspitz.
- There is also a "Neue Wiener Küche", which might be more to your taste and uses a lot of interesting ingredients, such as wild grown herbs or long forgotten types of vegetables: These places - with the exception of Zum Finsteren Stern - are mostly out of the city center and quite heavily booked: Freyenstein, Hohensinn, Gaumenspiel, Vincent, Kutschker44, Martin Stein, Mraz & Son and Feles - Zur Schwarzen Katze. These places are far from the high-end sophistication of Silvio Nickol in Palais Coburg, but still they represent a definitely new twist on Viennese food without any blandness.
- And then there is the regional cuisine outside Vienna: You will find a strong regional tradition in Styria, Tyrol, Burgenland, Salzburg, Carinthia, Lower and Upper Austria as well as in Vorarlberg. When tourism started 150 years ago, urban tourists from Vienna travelling to the alpine mountain resorts did not like this heavy and strongly tasting food and were always looking for inns with a sigh on the outside promising "Wiener Küche" !
- And of course you are right about the coffee...
We, my wife and I, would love to get some more refined coffee. There are a few local roasters, but there is nothing like the third wave coffee found elsewhere...
- Lastly cakes: When you talk about cakes in Budapest, you most likely talk about cakes at Gerbeaud ?
Again you are right: pastry of this quality nowadays is hard to find in Vienna...
Thank you for all the wonderful information. In retrospect I wish we had sought out "Neue Wiener Küche", - I think I thought I had to eat traditional first, but we should've changed. I also would not eat in that very inner city circle again. Also we tried eating at a wine garden in Grinzing that I did not enjoy so very much. We picked a place based on lots of other people eating there, but I think that just meant the food wasn't very expensive.
In Budapest we stayed on Raday street and just outside our front door was
Nandori Cukraszda, which was small, but had delicious pastries, and nice ourdoor tables and acceptable coffee.
I have been visiting Vienna for more than 10 years now, my favourites are as follow:
Trendy Italian: Fabios
Classic Italian: San Carlo, Procacci,Sole
Traditional: Plachutta Wollziele
Beer: Scwizerhaus (dark beer amazing), Salmbrau
Sausage:on the street next to Albertina and Opera))
Haut Cusine: Steirereck
I think that these are the best, at least from what i have tried over the years!)
I see contributors have made a lot of good recommendations for traditional and "new" Austrian cuisine, now I'll take it a bit outside that sphere.
I'll be in Vienna weekend of Aug 13th, coming in from Brno, CZ and I'm really craving good Chinese food, something that I just can't get in Brno and area where I currently live. Are there any Chinese restaurants that anyone would recommend as authentic or even just "good chow? If there is a chance to be even more specific I'd really appreciate some good Sichuan style (spicier) Chinese.
I am planning on Phoenixhof for the Saturday night, trying to secure a reservation now and will be hitting the Naschmarkt for lunches and possibly a dinner if there are no Chinese recommendations.
Sturmi has some Chinese recs. He steered us to Happy Buddha or Lucky Buddha for dim sum, which was very testy. There were a few dishes that we'd never had before (just interesting to see how cuisines change based on where they are) but we didn't order main courses, so I can't speak to the whole menu. Looking forward to another one of your detailed reports!
Yes, Happy Buddha, Lucky Buddha and Tsing Tao are owned by the same Chinese family and offer great cuisine Hongkong style with a lot of dim sum.
The best Sichuan style Chinese restaurants is IMHO Zum Kaiserlichen Thron, conveniently located in the museum of imperial furniture. If you call for a reservation you can also order a surprise menu, and tell them ind detail which kind of food you prefer.
ON and China Bar, both owned by Simon Hong Xie, a great chef, are also recommended, although his cuisine is not traditional, rather a new inventive kind, but NOT the usual Asian fusion chow. Especially the China Bar with its small outdoor dining area is a great lunching experience (and close to Phönixhof). I am sure you will like it there !
Simon started in a small corner place on Lederergasse before he opened ON, and another Chinese chef has now opened there: http://www.gu-asia.at/speisen.htm
The cuisine is Hangzhau and not Szichuan, but I am sure you might like it very much...