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Sep 10, 2012 12:20 PM

First Impressions of Vienna, and Emergency Recommendations!

Hi! I've posted a thread before long ago regarding my pre-college foodie jaunt around Europe, and am currently on my first day! I'd just like to share some first impressions, as well as get some advice.

After touching down, I headed to Cafe Pruckel, because it's a name I've heard around here and also wanted the WiFi to do some googling. The pastries looked fantastic but I was famished - I did not have breakfast and it was nearly three by the time I reached the cafe, so I ordered a main instead. Bad choice, and perhaps my hunger affected my first impression - I ordered the tafelspitz and was quite honestly floored by the small size of it. I mean, I do have quite an appetite but there were only two rather small slices of beef and while it was all quite tasty, I had expected more for 10.50 Euros. I had initially thought Europe would be an awesome place for me because I adore my meat...maybe the cafe just wasn't a good place to have a sit down meal.

I tried my luck with sweets instead and struck gold! Adored both iterations of the mini sacher torte at the Aida chains and Cafe Demel- an idea I thought was brilliant, frankly, so that I could stomach more choices. BTW, any other stuff worth trying for someone new to European pastries? Everything at Demel was foreign and looked fantastic. From my search I understand the strudels are also recommended. The many gelaterias seduced me and I went with a triple scoop of chocolate, a cream-rocher blend recommended to me and a rum and raisin at gelateria hohr markt which I remembered reading about here. Incredible! And ridiculously cheap, considering that in Singapore a similar deal would fetch at least twice that. So I was pleasantly surprised that Zanoni and Zanoni just down the corner was even cheaper. Out of interest I tried a roadside stand of the same triple flavours and found the quality quite good as well. Its just a pity they use the sugar cones which aren't quite as good as a waffle. Are there any other gelaterias worth trying, or any flavours recommended? Apart from the common ones I can't even tell what the flavours are, so I just asked for recommendations. I stay near the Naschmarkt and so am going to ty the ones by the Schoko company next.

Lastly, and this may seem strange, but are there any foods or groceries in Vienna that one cant find in London at reasonable prices? I say this because I come from a place where such European products are normally extremely limited at sky high prices. Quite frankly even walking into the supermarket has me excited to no end - I'm tempted to blow all my money on the cheeses, aspiks, sausages and pickles and cart them all in my luggage. Heck, thanks to Singapore's vice tax even alcohol seems extremely cheap here. That said, I'll be based in London for four years so I don't want to bring stuff back just to find them as available there' though I've got half a mind to buy 20 different bars at the Meinl shop.

Forgot about dinner! That was settled by some exotic pickles i bought earlier and a visit to a wurst stand (budget trip) which quite frankly I found more satisfying than lunch at Pruckel. While the weather isn't quite right for hot chocolate, I'm quite the chocolate fiend and will be going out for z&z's hot chocolate after typing this post - must get my fix when I'm still here, and it was highly recommended in a Google search. Any others I should try?

I'll be heading to brunmemarkt tomorrow, followed by the chocolate museum, and then lunch at the Phoenixhof cafe. Hopefully it won't be another disappointing lunch. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Brunnenmarkt is better on Saturday, when Naschmarkt is too crowded ! On Saturday there are many farmers on Brunnenmarkt/Yppenplatz, and Wetter is open for lunch...

    For similar greal selection of groceries as Meinl am Graben, and lower prices, try one of the Merkur markets, the one on Mariahilferstrasse in the basement of Gerngross is recommended.

    Our favorite gelaterias are Eisgreissler on Rotenturmstrasse and the Italians on Hoher Markt , Tuchlauben and Schwedenplatz. Zanoni actually is the lowest quality icecream available ...

    For great Viennese Tafelspitz or Wiener Schnitzel try Altwiener Gastwirtschaft Schilling or Phönixhof, or any of the many beisl, such as Gasthaus Pöschl, Rudis Beisl, Ubl, Kolonitzbeisl, Zum Recnizek, Heidingers Gasthaus etc, etc.

    Best chocolate of any kind at Xocolatl in Palais Ferstel passage on Freyung !

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sturmi

      Thanks Sturm! I didnt have the gelato at z&z's, it was at the gelateria called gelateria hohr market about a short way down. I did try the hot chocolate at z&z's, but it was kind of bad, actually. I've tried eis greissler and tuchlauben, both fantastic! What eisgriessler lacks in variety they make up in quality and sheer volume. I've also tried the schnitzel at schilling on your recommendation, and i'm just about convinced that Viennese sweets are more for me than the mains. It seemed big but was pounded rather flat, and while good I didn't quite get the appeal. Topfenstrudel at Aida was awesome; the chain restaurants in Vienna seem fantastic for chains, and I'm looking forward to the other tortes out there. And I didn't realise I was lucky enough to just be in time for Sturm! Quite refreshing but also rather expensive by the glass instead of getting a whole litre. Pity it can't be stored.

      Finally, I know I've mentioned this, but Vienna is my first stop, and I'd just like to know if most of the cheeses, cured meats and pickles can be found in other places like Budapest, Krakow and Prague. I'm close to blowing a whole lot of Euros on such groceries because I've never had such an immense variety available to me before! So is it worth it to buy such goods in Vienna? Thanks a lot!!!

      1. re: shubashuba

        Cheeses, cured meats and pickles are quite typical for central Europe and available in all countries, although their taste will differ !

        Just eat all these things wherever you are, taking home usually is quite cumbersome, and these foods perish fast ...

    2. How's it going? Where else have you gone? Any heurigen?

      2 Replies
      1. re: kukubura

        I'm waiting for my dinner to be marinated, so in the meantime...

        Where to begin? I'm in Krakow now, but I suppose I'll start with Vienna. I quickly realised that my trip was going to be mainly about street food and sweets, because for a person on a budget that's the best thing to do - proper food in restaurants are a little too expensive whilst good quality sweets are reasonably cheap. I covered most of Vienna in my post above, but what came away with me the most was the awesome gelato. After Vienna, Budapest and now, Krakow, I realised gelato/ice cream is BIG in this part of Europe, though those in Vienna/Krakow proved to be the best so far. Vienna has the most creativity, with the best being from Eis Griessler and Tuchlaben or however you spell it. Demel Cafe had extremely good sachertorte and topfenstrudel, though the ones in Aida were also comparable, so I think it's more for the atmosphere. Needless to say, I enjoyed a lot of the sausages, taking turns to try out all of them. I did try tafelspitz and schnitzel, though it didn't leave much of an impression.

        That said, I can't recall much of Vienna apart from experience of Budapest started at Bouchon restaurant, which became my one and only really expensive meal. The pork tenderloin stuffed with foie gras was fantastic, of course, and the staff were incredibly friendly, though I expect they must have felt strange with me being a lonely kid eating there myself. I pretty much followed the dining guide on the website by chowhounder John, trying the fried chicken as well as steam tables on the Central Market Hall (goulash and langos were great!). I must say, though, I suppose Europe must have an extremely high standard for bread and pastries because I thought everything smelt awesome and looked tantalising! I guess in Singapore, apart from the ridiculously overpriced Paul and Maison Kayser, we don't have much of this sort of bread available. Ice cream in Budapest was far more shoddy, with the exception of the extremely good Gerbeaud. I must say, I find it quite cute that in Europe, they make it extremely tempting to order more scoops with 1) ridiculously small scoops, 2) extremely cheaply priced scoops and most annoyingly 3) sugar cones if you order a small quantity. In Budapest, some don't even offer waffles, with the exception of Gerbeaud which has an incredible waffle cone which quite honestly makes even their average orange caramel and vanilla taste awesome. I also tried a royal chocolate, which had average tasting layers but worked very well together. I was also fortunate enough to make it for the Budapest Wine Festival, which resulted in lots of tokaji and palinka being downed on a quite empty stomach because the food was overpriced while the alcohol was free flowing and extremely affordable.

        However, the best part of Budapest was self-catering. While I still burst my budget overall for the trip so far, I managed to keep it down thanks to cooking my own main meals a lot of the time. In Budapest, this meant lots of foie gras, delicious seared with paprika and quite honestly I stuffed myself. There's no nice way to say this.

        And now I'm in Krakow, and while I've only been here one day, it's already my favourite place, and I'm quite willing to bet that it's the place I'm going to spend most of my money. Firstly, the hot chocolate is FANTASTIC. I gave up in Budapest and Vienna after a few tries at places like Zanoni and Zanoni and Aztek Chocolate, but at Krakow every place so far was a hit. I requested it thick, which seemed pretty much just like fondue chocolate. Pretty good, but made a lot better once I learnt my lesson and tried it with milk. I haven't even had those at places known for it like Nowa Prowincja and Wedel, and it's already been awesome (FYI i tried those at Karamello and another speciality shop which I can't recall. Karamello's was too sweet). I pretty much followed your (kukubara's) blogpost for street eats, trying the Bigos and Zapiekanka at Nowa Placy. Yes, sounds like a lot, but I defend myself by saying that breakfast was a small cup of hot chocolate, and I ate nothing until after the salt mines tour. And to top it off, Krakow's ice creams are incredible. I tried those at a place called fantane (I think) and the infamous ones at Starowiślna street, which was TOTALLY worth the trek. Incredible vanilla, average chocolate made good by the generous additions of mix ins and the nuts, which was mind-blowing.

        Krakow is also my favourite because it's extremely walkable. Friends often ask me how I eat so much, but it's mainly because I walk everywhere, literally. I haven't taken any public transport yet (not even from the Nepliget to my hostel, which took a little more than an hour and 3 scoops of gelato) except for the visit to the salt mines by an organised tour group, and Krakow is far more interesting to walk around. Stary Kleparz is also my favourite market so far, though I'm still not sure if I got scammed by the auntie at the oscypek stall. 1.50 for a small bit of smoked cheese sounds a little steep to me...

        Okay, this has been LONG. I suppose if anyone is still reading at this point, they must be a dedicated foodie and interested in Europe, so I will ask some questions here. I have long ago burst my budget by going slightly nuts over the mozart chocolate spirits in Vienna; foie gras, paprika, pick salami and duck, goose and mangalica lard in Budapest. Still, I feel that it's okay, having spent a little under 400 Euros including accommodation and touristy stuff (salt mines!) for 9 days. That said, I'm still tempted to go nuts in Krakow (and I have Prague left!!!) with groceries, and I've seen stuff that's tempting me already. What should I buy, or not buy? Any advice with the mushrooms, sausages and soup thingys (zurek?) I've been seeing in Stary Kleparz? I haven't even been to the Szabelan liquer shop, which is sure to empty my pockets. Of the polish traditional foods, I'm not really inclined to try the bagels (the quantity kind of makes me doubtful of quality) or the pierogi. Yes, because it just resembles cheap Chinese Jiaozi too much for me, which is pretty much a staple used to fill us up after eating the good stuff. So pretty much what's left for me on my 'must try' list are the hot chocolates and the famous kielbaz guy from the food cart. Oh, and I suppose the milk bars, but strangely I haven't seen any of those around. Come to think of it, I never saw any of the cheap Etkezdek places around budapest either. Not sure if I'm not looking hard enough...

        1. re: shubashuba

          Wow!! What a post! I love it.

          Zurek is really good. If you're cooking at home a zurek box would be great but put a hardboiled egg and some kielbasa in it.

          We weren't over the moon about the milk bar we visited. It's cheap but not exciting. We also didn't care for the "bagels" but maybe just the one we got was crazy stale.

          Definitely don't miss the kielbasa guys. Also pop in to the Wodka bar just off the central square for the vodka of the day. It's a cute little two seat bar.

          Also, near Stary Kleparz try the Kuchnia Polska restaurant (right next to the big Grunwald statue). We only had soup there but everything looked awesome. It's a local little pub.

          I loved visiting grocery stores in all the countries you're visiting. So many lovely things! Did you see the shrink wrapped langos? When you get to Prague you'll see big shrinkwrapped rolls of knedliky. So fun.

          When you get to Prague you're definitely going to keep on eating street sausages. Also there are pubs with great local food, like U Hospoda Novaka and restaurace u betlemske. They're slightly off the beaten path but still very close to major areas.

          Also, you could do the bus out to Sapa and eat fabulous Vietnamese food, although if you're from Singapore that may be of limited interest. It's a cool place to visit though.

          Did you make it to Phonixhof in Vienna? Any of the tiny sandwich joints? Heuriger? There are amazing cheap eats to be had in Vienna but I guess it's possible to miss them. Still, sounds like a great trip!