The schnitzel wins, hands down.
The latest food survey reveals, yet again, that Vienna's favourite dish is the schnitzel. Fortunately you can find it in nearly every food place in town, as long as you head somewhere that serves Viennese cuisine, no challenge there. Luckily I like a good schnitzel too, so, on my “Where to eat in Vienna” list, I've included those gasthauses (inns), coffeehouses and heuriger where I've had one, and enjoyed it. The classic schnitzel is a veal cutlet, but pork is generally the more flavoured and favoured. Figure conscious patrons are opting more and more for turkey and chicken schnitzels. Prices, size and side dishes will vary quite a bit – a potato salad is the usual side, in some places they'll serve a leaf salad instead, if you ask them – allow for anything from 7 to 17 euros.
Apart from schnitzel, Vienna's cuisine is a colourful mix that goes back to the days of the empire, so you'll find lots of food on the menu that has its roots in Italy, Hungary and Czechia. Meat is a staple part of the diet and more often eaten than fish. And, as Austria is landlocked, the fresh fish you can get here is either caught locally or imported frozen from abroad. Local fish is Saibling (char), Forelle (trout), Lachsforelle (salmon trout) and Zander (pike-perch). Very much in keeping with Catholic tradition you'll frequently find fish served on Fridays. And, of course, Vienna is all about pastries – you'll see them on every corner – Konditorei is the word to look for (pastry shop).
A few tips
- Coffeehouses are not just for coffee and cake. These elegant institutions have a long tradition of serving food throughout the day until about 11pm. Whereas most restaurants serve lunch and dinner and close between 2.30pm and 6.30pm, a coffeehouse will welcome you from 8am until around midnight every day. Most cafés have their regulars, some of whom don't need to speak a word, the waiter knows automatically what to bring. By all means have coffee and cake, but check the menu for a daily special or the weekly menu for a good bargain meal at midday.
- Gasthaus (also known as wirtshaus) and Beisl food is comparable to Grandma's home-cooking. These are no-frills eateries, often casual, almost bare, inside. Prices are low - lunch for two should cost less than 25 euros.
- I've included a couple of trendy bistros too – one can tire of schnitzel and goulash at some point – and here you'll find Mediterranean goodies.
- Markets are the best place to find a multitude of multi-cultural cheap eats, either in sit-down-saloons or at the colourful, outdoor, hot-food stalls where you'll find take-away noodles, pizza and kebabs. On the popular street markets, Naschmarkt and Brunnenmarkt, competition is tough, quality is good and prices are low. One of Vienna's best chefs has her own saloon on Naschmarkt: Kim Kocht, Shop & Studio, Naschmarkt Stall 28 (www.kimkocht.at). See more on markets on my Vienna shopping page. Markets are open Mondays - Saturdays 6.30 am - 7pm, food often served throughout the day. Hot-food stalls and eateries close later.
- The heuriger is more of a cosy wine-drinkers haven than a full blown restaurant – I would compare it to a sort of pub/tavern where instead of beer, wine flows. The word heuriger is the name given to both location and the young wine served. Most heurige serve buffet food, but it's the wine that has to be good to keep patrons happy. Taverns usually open mid-afternoon till midnight during the week and from mid-morning to midnight at weekends. I have listed a few that are easy to reach. Most of these taverns are on the outskirts or suburbs, reachable by tram.