Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Europe >
Apr 17, 2012 01:48 PM

A few days in Vienna - trying to narrow down board recommendations - looking for a list of the best

I'll be in Vienna for a few days in May (including both weekdays and weekend) and have been trawling old posts, but you've all been too helpful and there are too many recommendations for a short trip, so I need to narrow down. We're very much gastronomic tourists, so we'll travel around the city to wherever the best food is, and the emphasis for us is Viennese food, be it traditional or updated.

In a 2007 posting, Sturmi gives a list of "bests", which I was hoping you might update:
Best traditional Viennese place
Best old-style Beisel with Viennese food
Best inventive new Viennese cuisine
Best high end places (would be useful to know where on the traditional/ inventive spectrum they fall - and, indeed, to what extent the cooking shows Viennese rather than international influences)

I would also like to add:
Best pastisserie/ cake place
Best Viennese snack stand/ hole in the wall
Best breakfast
Best light lunch
Best wine list (looking for good Austrian wine, preferably with some age, and modest mark-ups)
Best coffee - in this case I've no objection to Italian or New Zealand!

Imagine I'm going to each type of place (apart from wine and coffee) just once. What would your top tip for a gastro-tourist be in each category? Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Best traditional Viennese place:
    Restaurant Eckel in Sievering. This old style / very bourgeois restaurant breathes the air of old Vienna, and service and food are perfect.

    Best old-style Beisel with Viennese food:
    Rudi´s Beisl. Simple food, low price, but the quality !! To die for...

    Best inventive new Viennese cuisine:
    This is more complicated, there is a short list of places with same, high quality:
    Gaumenspiel, Martin Stein, Freyenstein,Holy Moly and Zum finsteren Stern are our favorites, and I would recommend Freyenstein for an exquisite 8 course tasting menu for Eur 39. Two courses are always served side-by-side, very small servings. Unbeatable. But you have to eat what you get, no extras, no exchanges.

    Best high end places (would be useful to know where on the traditional/ inventive spectrum they fall - and, indeed, to what extent the cooking shows Viennese rather than international influences). There is now a single spot deserving this rating: Steirereck
    It is Austrian as well as very inventive. Take the 6-course tasting menu for dinner, it is worthhwile.

    Best pastisserie / cake place
    high end: Demel
    best price/performace: Aida

    Best Viennese snack stand/ hole in the wall
    Bitzinger at Albertina for hot sausages
    Trzesniewski for canapés
    Zum Schwarzen Kameel for canapés, sandwiches and boiled ham with horseradish.
    Porcus for everything made from pork:

    Best breakfast
    Haas & Haas Stephansplatz

    Best light lunch
    Wein&Co Stephansplatz. Christian Petz is the chef in charge !!

    Best wine list (looking for good Austrian wine, preferably with some age, and modest mark-ups
    )Best coffee - in this case I've no objection to Italian or New Zealand!
    Hard choice. Austrian wines are not that expensive, and all the better restaurants have a great selection. But since it has not yet been mentioned: Silvio Nickol in Palais Coburg is a high-end nouvelle cuisine place with the best wine list in town. The food is high end international. And the wine list is remarkable: All of Austria, and most of France...

    11 Replies
    1. re: Sturmi

      Thanks! Of the restaurants you recommend for food, which have the best wine lists? And what do you think of Meirei? It seems to have some of the less adventurous dishes on the Steirereck a la carte menu, but at cheaper prices and (presumably?) they're coming out of the same kitchen.

      1. re: goldilocks76

        All of these restaurants, even the small Rudi´s Beisl, have a great wine list.

        I have seen ordering people mature Bordeauxs and Riojas at Rudis, and of course he also offers great Austrian vintages. In all these places I would stick to Austrian wine, since the whites have always been world class and the reds, thanks to global warming, are now beating also the competition at tastings. I definitely recommend reds from the Burgenland region, especially the Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch wines, which are autochthonous single grape wines providing great taste without any blending. The red cuvees from Burgenland are the expensive ones, but they do not beat the mature Zweigelt from Umathum or the Blaufränkisch from Krutzler...

        If you want to sample wine by the glass in a wine bar, I recommend either the very crowded Wein&Co bars, but also the wine bar of Meinl am Graben and Unger&Klein on Rudolfsplatz.

        Regarding Meierei: yes, the kitchen is the one from Steirereck, but the dishes are not of the same class. OTOH, the location of the Meierei with a great view over the Stadtpark makes lunching there an experience of its own !!

        You will find that Vienna is a great city for chowhounds. And: my list is hugely subjective, the choice of places to go is large, and you will find bad food and poor service in high end restaurants, and great food, wine and service in simple neighbourhood beisl. Vienna currently is spared the more aggressive consequences of the economic troubles found elsewhere, unemployment is low, consumer spending is high. Tourism is just a minor trade in town, and only a few restaurants are catering only to tourists. But still, most waiters will speak some English, and you will find waiters speaking English fluently in places you would not expect.

        Enjoy you stay !

        1. re: Sturmi

          So many thanks to Sturmi. Our close friend in Vienna died, in a most old Viennese scenario, but I must get there.

          I do hope the restaurant staff will bear with my shaky spoken German - I can read even very serious intellectual/theoretical stuff in German, but opportunities for speaking it are limited in Montréal. I'm relatively familiar with Austrian and Bavarian variations...

          The old Beisl sounds great. How about goulasch? The Hungarian culinary influence has been strong in Vienna for centuries.

          1. re: lagatta

            I am sorry to hear about Sturmi. I was just about to post a trip report, with thanks to Sturmi because I ate very well. I have left the thank you too late, but I hope the report will be of use to others, and also serve as a sort of memorial.

            My first night I went to Martin Stein. It was a mix of traditional Viennese (e.g. superb Beuschel) and modernized deconstructions (e.g. a clever and tasty asparagus starter). I thought the food was very good, with two caveats. First, there were a couple of savoury ice-creams in the early courses, one in the asparagus dish and a lemon ice-cream in a pea and mint amuse bouche. I have nothing against savoury ice-cream if it really is savoury, but these were both very sweet, which was particularly jarring in the asparagus dish. Secondly, the house-made bread was overbaked. This was particularly disappointing in a city with such a high general standard of bread. In fact, it seems like a waste of the kitchen’s time to bake such an underwhelming loaf when they could buy in fantastic stuff. And you don’t need to bake bread to impress Michelin inspectors. The bread at the 2* Steireck is bought in, as are two out of three of the breads at the Ledbury in London. But these are small quibbles about a restaurant that was both good and good value for the price. My advice to the Viennese is, “Use it or lose it”. On a mid-week evening, only myself and one other couple were dining.

            I would have liked to go to Freyenstein but, due to the long tasting menu, you have to arrive relatively early and my partner’s flight was getting in quite late. We went to Zum Finsteren Stern instead, and ate outside on a charming street. The food was more modern European than Austrian, and was the sort of thing we could cook at home ourselves. ZFS filled our needs but, if you are more interested in food than location, then I would recommend Martin Stein over ZFS.

            We had an excellent lunch at Meirei, which we seemed to rate more than Sturmi, maybe because we stuck to the Viennese classics which are also on the menu at Steireck. Meirei offer small portions of some dishes, so we took those in order to sample more of the menu. Our assumption that these would be starter size was incorrect. They were plenty big enough for a main, if one is ordering multiple courses, and the full size Schnitzel that we split as a main was certainly enough for two. We also took some cheese and strudel away for a picnic, and we enjoyed the strudel so much that we went back for more another day.

            Steireck itself is just behind Meirei, in a lovely location in the park, perfect for al fresco dining. We had the set menu. As described on the menu, the dishes sound like they are going to be really busy, but everything works on the palate.

            For our Biesl experience, we couldn’t get to Sturmi’s faourite, Rudi’s, because it is shut at weekends, but we went to Gasthaus Poschl, which has received good reviews from Sturmi and others. We enjoyed our experience at Poschl, simple food in traditional surroundings. But note that Meirei is operating at the same price level as a Biesl, it does some traditional dishes, and the cooking has more finesse. The one dish that we ordered at both Meirei and Poschl, and hence gives a direct comparison, was the kaiserschmarrn. At Meireri, they warn you that this dessert takes 30 minutes, and the pancake was light and fluffy. At Poschl, the pancake was heavier and dry, and came rather quicker, which leads me to suspect that the pancakes had been pre-cooked and heated up, rather than being freshly made to order.

            I couldn’t find any good espresso style coffee in Vienna. We went native and ordered großer brauners everywhere. This was by necessity, rather than choice. For wine, we went native by choice and had some nice riesling, gruner veltliner, zeigelt and blaufränkisch, mainly in restaurants but also at Wein & Co, another good recommendation from Sturmi.

            1. re: lagatta

              Wait, are you saying that Sturmi has passed away? Or someone else? Just trying to be clear.

              1. re: kukubura

                Sorry, but any rumors about my passing away are slightly exaggerated.

                Lagatta just messed up his posting, by first thanking me for some recommendations and then mentioning in the next sentence that he visited Vienna because an old friend had passed away...

                Never mind, I am alive, had a big laugh and will celebrate a friends birthday today at Rudis Beisl and will report tomorrow whether Rudi is still worth a visit !

                BTW: I am sorry to say that the Martin Stein restaurant mentioned by goldilocks had to close. Their high-end cuisine did not make enough money, and so they had to give up. A real shame !

                1. re: Sturmi

                  That's kind of what I thought but then goldilocks' response threw me for a loop. Sturmi: Glad to hear that we may yet get to toast some neuer wein some day!

                  Still, sorry to hear about lagatta's friend.

                  1. re: Sturmi

                    And here is my report about Rudis Beisl:
                    When we arived at 7:30 it a was already full, and when I say full, I mean that there is almost no room to move between the few tables ! Nevertheless the friendly waiters immediately took our coats and hid them in a corner. The menu had their classics like Wiener Schnitzel from veal and pork, Tafelspitz and other variations of boiled beef Backhendl, Zwiebelrostbraten etc., but the specials of the day were quite interesting: they offered three dishes with goose liver: a pate as a starter, a breaded and deep fried version served with potatoe mayonnaise salad and a simply braised one with rice.

                    As starters we had a chestnut soup, a beef carpaccio with truffles and a smoked fish terrine. Then as main courses my wife had the real Wiener and a mixed salad, I had the Zwiebelrostbraten with fried potatoes, my friend hat the gebackene Gänseleber and his wife had Schweinsmedaillons mit Pilzen (pork filet with mushrooms). We drank a wonderful Kremstal DAC Grüner Veltliner, which was not to dry and fitted all of the main courses. For dessert we had each a single crepe with apricot jam and a glass of Blauer Portugieser from Tattendorf (a dry and light red wine from south of Vienna).

                    The food was perfect, as always. The only point my wife raised was that the salad dressing was of the very sweet kind with balsamico and sweet mustard. This kind of dressing is like the plague, you will get it everywhere. And in all of Vienna no one is asking you what dressing you would like !! This is one of the main deficits of the local cuisine, there is no "salad dressing option". We always are planning to ask next time for a simple vinegar and olive oil dressing, but always forget to do so...

                    I final important point is that Rudis Beisl is a "smoking only" restaurant. It is so small that they were able to decide whether they would be a non-smoking or a smoking place, and decided pro smoking. There will be just one or two people actually smoking, and you will only notice them when one sits close to you, since the ventilation is OK, but if you are afraid of passive smoking you should not go there (and maybe stay away from Vienna at all: many restaurants have smoking sections, and the door to these rooms are wide open, so that you might smell the smoke in the whole place...)

                    On the other hand Rudis Beisl is still worth visiting, the price/value ratio is excellent, and the service is very helpful. The have a generous outdoor dining area in summer, and then you can decide what bothers you more: the smokers or the diesel exhaust from the passing cars...

                    1. re: Sturmi

                      Nein! Never met Sturmi. I am talking about an actual friend in Vienna named Werner who taught us a lot of Austrian cooking and sent me a copy of "Die gute Küche. Das Beste aus dem österreichischen Jahrhundertkockbuch" to help me in my German and culinary studies.

                      Oh well, Sturmi, at least you know you are appreciated. Rather a shame to waste funeral elegies on the dead, no?

                      Lagatta is a female though. That means die Katze in Italian... If I were a he, it would be Ilgatto (der Kater, but meaning a tomcat, not a hangover...).

                  2. re: lagatta

                    @ lagatta:
                    Try the gulasch at Cafe Engländer in Postgasse. Maybe the best in town !
                    And easier to visit than Rudis, because it is open all day, seven days a week !

                    1. re: Sturmi

                      I got the wrong end of the stick. Sorry to have caused confusion, but pleased to hear that Sturmi is alive and kicking. Thank you, Sturmi, for the excellent advice!

                      I'm sorry to hear that Martin Stein closed, but not surprised. Everywhere I ate in Vienna was busy except for Martin Stein, which was dead - metaphorically speaking.

            2. Dear goldilocks76,

              I know it's a bit random, but I've met up with other chowhounders in London and it's been great, so let me know if you'd like company for some of these places. I will be in Vienna alone for work from the 6-18 of May and sadly only be able to do dinners. I'm from NYC but live in London. I've been to Vienna before and grew up on Hungarian food b/c that's my family background, so am very enthusaistic. Thanks!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Foodie94

                Finally getting round to replying, sorry it's been a while.

                Foodie94 - how did you know I'm from London? I would be interested in meeting up. I've seen that there are occassionally chowdowns in London and was wondering how I get on the invite list?