The Aisle Seat: Vienna, Austria
Posted on 2008-02-11 00:00:00 by David Hartogs
Europe | Vienna, Austria: I have been to Vienna each of the past three Aprils and I have grown very fond of this city. This will not be a blog about how great Mozart is, or how beautiful the Vienna Boy's Choir can sing, and you can bet that I will not have gone to the Opera. As these were business trips, I only really had time to experience the food, wine and beer. I stayed in the inner Strasse, very close to the U-bahn station Schwendenplatz, which is incredibly efficient and a great way to get around. The places listed below are all doable by foot if you are staying in the inner Strasse.
My hotel, the Mercure Zentrum at 1a Fleischmarkt. While the hotel is ok, I use it as a landmark for getting around. The hotel was right in the Bermuda Triangle, where there are countless bars, clubs, kabob shops, pizza joints and young folk. I did find a gem though; the sausage stand right in front of the hotel. You can get a couple of different types of sausages, sodas, and beer at affordable prices. The best is a cheese-infused sausage. As I don't speak German, I won't even attempt to spell it on here. What they do is take a roll, and cut off the end, then stab it to a spike with a hole big enough for the sausage to slide into. Before they slide in the sausage they put mustard in the hole. While these are delicious, limit your self to one every two to three days. I have been to many sausage stands but I found this was the best one, by a long shot. Cheap lunch, anyone?
Now for the restaurants that I highly recommend if you are interested in traditional Viennese cooking. Biesl it the type of home cooking that you should be looking for. If you go to any restaurant that says Biesl, then you know you'll get home cooking. Below are three of my favorites in order. I traveled alone to most of these places and felt very comfortable at all of them. Tipping is about 10% but always ask if is included in the price before you leave a tip.
Kern's Biels at Kleeplattgasse 4 is great. They have menus in English. This is a smallish place a short walk from Stephansdom. Smallish inside with outside seating on nice nights on a pedestrian street. The food is great. They have monthly menus featuring regional cooking from all of Austria. The waiters are helpful. I had the best chicken dish of my life here. It was roasted chicken with pumpkin seeds and other great stuff. I can't remember exactly. I ate there twice on my last trip. The first night I got a mix of different things, sausage, meets, salads, it was all good. The wine list is great too. I got 1/4 of wine for about 5 or 6 euros. Both meals, with wine, salad, entre, and dessert cost about 27 euros. The atmosphere inside is very homey and authentic. The best part is the urinal, there is a little soccer goal on the urinal cakes with a little ball dangling, aim for the ball and score some goals. Please note when presented the pepper shaker, do not twist this. Save your self the embarrasment and push the button. It is electronic and even has a light bulb. I know this because when twisted it, like a standard pepper shaker the light bulb flew one way, the batteries flew into my soup, and pepper corns ended up all over the place. Good times.
The next place is Biem Czaak, address: Postgasse 15. This is where I had my first meal in Vienna, and have had about 5 total. This is very traditional cooking and a very popular place with locals. The menus are not in English; however, the staff is incredibly helpful. There is a waiter who has a very noticeable mark on his face. He is a very nice guy. He read the entire meal to me in English. I've had several items from the menu, stuffed schnitzel, meats, salads, you name it. The beer is delicious and the wine is cheap. There is usually a wait but the bar is a great place to hang out and get beer.
You can't go to Vienna without getting wiener schnitzel, you just can't, unless you are a vegetarian but that's a different story. If you are going to have just one then you have to go to Figlmuller: Wollzeile 5. (English menus) There are two locations around the corner from each other. They are the same exact thing but the one in the small alley is always packed to the gills while the other one is not. Go to that one, and there is a great little wine bar right by that one. The plates here are very large, and the schnitzels are bigger than the plates. Order it with the salad (potato and green) and you are good to go. Though the schnitzel is top quality, for a better experience, get the salted one. It has two smaller pieces (still large portion) that are just a bit tastier. They have a good selection of homemade wines (stick with the whites) and local beers. The waiters are ok, a bit hurried, but it's such a busy place. The food is fast though, and the meal will cost you about 19 euros.
I could go on about Vienna and talk about the wine houses (called Heurige, look them up there are two in the inner strasse), which are fun and cheap and have decent grub but I am getting long winded. The beer in Vienna is outstanding. Wine is fresh and local. I am more familiar with the whites rather than the reds but they are good. The Rieslings are going to be a bit drier than the ones most people are used to. The coffee, I do not drink coffee but in Vienna there are too many good shops and pastry places to count. If coffee and pastries are your thing then you will be in heaven. I have gotten many a pastry for breakfast on the way to the convention center and am always happy. It's a very economical way to do breakfast rather than at the hotels. Around Stephensdam there are always street festivals, with beer and wine tents. Grab a drink, sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.
As always if you are headed there feel free to get in touch with me and I can give you more detailed information. For side trips from here, it's only 1.5 hour train ride to Bratislava, which is worth a night. Trains take 6 hours to Ljubljana, Slovenia, which is a nice train ride and a neat city. More on those in future blogs.