The Culinary Reasons To Visit Vienna

There's so much more to Austrian cuisine than goulash and strudel

What’s known about Vienna is that it’s a city that offers impeccable architecture, exquisite arts and it’s been rated the No. 1 city (in terms of quality of living) for eight consecutive years. While that makes it sound like it’s easy on the eyes, it satisfies the other senses too. 

Vienna has a blossoming food scene, which not only focuses on the quality of ingredients but also pushes the boundaries of creativity. Much of that is headlined by Steirereck, which is now rated the No. 10 restaurant in the world. If you thought Vienna was all about schnitzel and goulash, you’d be wrong. We visited Vienna and have an itinerary for you of all of the foodie stops you must try.

Heunisch & Erben

Heunisch & Erben is a new, trendy wine bar with a cornucopia of wines by the glass. There are about 80 options by the glass, which is incredible since most restaurants – or even wine bars – cap the by-the-glass options at about 20-25. 60 of those are in the prices range of about $4 to $19, which is very reasonable given the selection.

The menu offers refined dishes with a focus on Austrian and regional themes. Some of the highlights include the Greenland Halibut and Veal Tartar. The three-course menu at 37 euros ($43 USD) is excellent value.

Cooking Class In Vienna

One of the best ways to get to know the local culinary culture is with a cooking class. Bianca Gusenbauer offers cooking classes right from her dream of a kitchen. You can go out and shop together to gather the ingredients or if you prefer to get straight to business, you can go directly to the session at her home. The menu is also flexible, so you can choose to be as creative as you like, but I opted for the traditional tastes like goulash and apple strudel.

Bianca's a great teacher with all sorts of fascinating stories, which really heightens the experience. I'm not alone in that thinking; 56 (out of her 57) reviews on TripAdvisor are five-star!

Coffee Shops

Coffee is a completely different activity in Vienna. Forget the paper cups and the bustling baristas, and think of Friends. That’s what coffee culture is in Vienna: a social experience. Buy a cup and you’ll find yourself immersed in a relaxing event that last for hours. It’s a place to catch up, reconnect and spend the day. The whole experience is elegant with crystal chandeliers, stylish seating and sumptuous sweets that tempt you. It’s so integral in the culture that UNESCO has added the Viennese coffee house experience to their list of protected cultural heritages.

There are many shops to visit but two recommendations are Café Frauenhuber, which is the oldest coffee shop in Vienna, and Supersense, which – aside from serving as a coffee shop – offers all sorts of old services related to analog technology like Polaroid cameras, letterpress prints and vinyl records.

Tian Restaurant

There are only four Michelin-starred restaurants in the world that are fully vegetarian and one is located in Vienna. If you’re a meat-lover who is skeptical of all-vegetable tasting menus, allow Tian to convert you. Not only will you leave satisfied, you’ll be wowed by the creations of plant-friendly chef, Paul Ivic. The dishes are sophisticated and vibrant pieces of art that you (briefly) admire before you absorb. And the flavors are there too, breaking the misconception that vegetables have to be boring.

Bluehendes Konfekt (Blossoming Confection)

If you’re interested to see (and taste) one man’s epic effort towards confectionary creations, head over to Bluehendes Konfekt. It’s a specialty store where owner Michael Diewald goes above and beyond the call of duty for desserts. He himself goes out into the wild to pick different flowers – often rare ones – and then returns to the shop with various bouquets. He then uses egg whites, sugar and dehydration to preserve the flowers, and uses them for bite-size sweets. You’ll end up with fun concoctions like Elderflowers & Giant Lemon or Winter Honeysuckle and Orange. Many of his sweets offer dazzling photos for those craving something unique for Instagram. And, of course, they taste good too!

Schnitzel

Any visit to Austria must include a proper schnitzel. The operative word is ‘proper’ as you can land on some tourist traps, which offer greasy, over-breaded preparations. What you’re looking to taste in the deep-fried, flat-meat is a crisp in the crust, a light seasoning and a moist meat. Often times you’ll find a wedge of lemon on top to add some pop to the flavor.

Some recommended spots are Lugeck, which is a Viennese Taven that specializes in a lot of comfort food; Skopik and Lohn, which has more of an inventive menu; and Rote Bar at the Sacher Hotel, which offers more of a refined setting and version of the schnitzel.

Wurstel Stands

Street meats of every culture have different nuances. You can’t visit Vienna without getting one of these to go.

Like the North American versions, they’re sausages are hot, juicy and offer a great snap to them. The difference is that you get spoiled with variety. You can opt for debreziners (paprika, garlic and marjoram), käsekrainer (filled with cheese) or your basic brats. Once you’ve narrowed the variety and flavors, you move on to customize the sauces.

Many do a good job with these but Wurstelstand is one spot that stood out during our visit. It’s rumored to be the longest-running sausage stand in the city.

Farmer’s Markets

While it’s true that Austria doesn’t get a coast (it’s surrounded by countries like Germany, Slovakia and Hungary), fish and seafood are an integral part of the culture. As is fresh (and preferably not industrially farmed) produce, which is pesticide and GMO-free. That being the case, Vienna is filled with farmer’s markets from Brunnenmarkt to Karmelitermarkt to Naschmarkt. The latter is the best-known market in the city and you’ll find everything from stalls with local treats to stands offering international flavors. It’s a big market and there’s lots to see, so a tour guide or walking tour is recommended, so that you don’t overlook the delicacies.

Schoko Company (Chocolate Shop)

One must-see in Naschmarkt is the Schoko Company, which specializes in chocolate. What you’re looking for is the big wall of Zotter chocolate bars, which are incredible chocolate blends. We’re talking off-the-wall ingredients, like the Marc de Champagne, which is chocolate accentuated with fine Fleury Champagne. Or the blue poppyseed, whose start ingredient comes from the Waldviertel forest. Or my personal favorite, the Grube aus der Steiermark, which is a dark milk chocolate filled with pumpkin seed nougat.

Zotter is a real-life Willy Wonka and if chocolate is your thing, the Schoko Company is your stop.

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