Food and Drink in Vienna

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Food and Drink in Vienna
Classic dishes of schnitzel, roasted pork, and wild game are hearty and satisfying. Vienna also has plenty of upscale restaurants, as well superb Italian and Asian cuisine. And the water is piped in straight from the Alps.
Photo by Paul Gillingwater
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    Vienna’s Iconic Cafés
    Visiting a café is essential to understanding the Viennese way of life. Details differ, but traditions do not: Your coffee will come with a glass of tap water, and you can linger at your table for hours. Hawelka, open since 1936 and one of the oldest cafés in Vienna, was once a haunt of artists like Andy Warhol. The walls are covered with old posters announcing art exhibits; the seats are dark red velvet. Café Central and Café Sperl are also quintessential coffee houses. Alternatively, try a Sachertorte, possibly the world’s most famous chocolate cake, at the Sacher Hotel or its rival, Demel.
    Photo by Paul Gillingwater
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    Local Beers and Microbreweries
    Austrian beer culture rivals its European neighbors, and Vienna has several microbreweries where you can try local ales. Pub 1516 is ideal for home-brewed seasonal beer, slightly loud music, and a lively mixed crowd; it also serves excellent pub food. Salm Bräu and the Stiegel Bräu both have beautiful copper brewing vats and their Austrian cuisine is mouthwatering. The cozy Gasthaus zu den drei Hacken serves traditional comfort food, and claims to be the oldest tavern in Vienna. Austria produces some excellent commercially available beers, too, including Gösser, Hubertus Bräu, Stiegel, and Villacher; at least one of these will be available at most restaurants.
    Photo by Paul Gillingwater
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    Naschmarkt for Food Lovers
    Naschmarkt may be touted for its flea market and antiques, but it's also a destination for food lovers who want to be spoiled for choice. The market, which spreads over several city blocks, has a number of small restaurants representing a wide range of cuisines. Here, you can find a Viennese wine bar, Mediterranean, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisine, a perfectly seared steak, and plenty of fish. If your accommodations include a kitchen and you prefer to cook for yourself, browse through the stalls of fresh vegetables and fruits and buy ingredients for your own homemade meal.
    Photo by Bildagentur Waldhaeus/age fotostock
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    Excellent Vegetarian Food
    Austria is a renowned pioneer and trendsetter in organic farming, priding itself on growing fruits and vegetables without pesticides and genetically modified organisms. There are plenty of excellent vegetarian restaurants to choose from, all of which offer vegan dishes as well. Viennese vegetarians rave about Loving Hut, the upscale Tian with its multi-course tasting menu, Asian-inspired Xu’s Cooking, and Yamm!, with its extensive buffet. For dessert, try Veganista Ice Cream, which has 18 flavors of vegan ice cream on offer. Be sure to pop into a bakery, where the sheer variety of whole grain breads will delight you.
    Photo by Eduardo Grund/age fotostock
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    Exquisite Dining
    The culinary scene is well developed in Vienna. Exquisite table settings, vaulted ceilings, and a range of tasting menus await you at gourmet restaurant Silvio Nickol, not to mention the selection of over 5,000 wines. DO & CO boasts an international menu ranging from goose liver to sole, and has a spectacular view of Stephansdom Cathedral. At the other end of Graben stands a stately building with elegant statue work. It is a grocery store whose second floor is the site of Julius Meinl am Graben, serving gourmet meals of fish and meat. Fabios, with a minimalistic interior, is the place to be seen; it serves a lighter, more elegant version of classic Austrian cuisine. Vestibül uses only organic ingredients; the lobster dishes are sublime.
    Photo by Michael Turek
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    Vienna’s Wine Bars
    Vienna has plenty of charming spots to sip local wines. Zum Schwarzen Kameel, a restaurant and wine bar in 1st District, features domestic wines. If you need a nibble, its ham with horseradish comes highly recommended. Weingut und Heuriger Christ Rainer is another good choice. Wein & Co—part wine bar, part retail shop—serves wine by the glass, but if you prefer a bottle, purchase one and they'll open it for you at the bar. Full of sumptuous wine choices, 500-year-old Villon Wine Cellar offers narrated tastings with a sommelier. Pub Klemo has over 3,000 wines to choose from. And don’t forget the true wine taverns of Austria, called heurigen and located in Grinzing in the 19th District, which serve young local wine.
    Photo courtesy of Lukas Beck/Vienna Tourist Board
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    Traditional Austrian Cuisine
    Though many Viennese restaurants feature menus with international influences, classic Austrian fare is still easy to find and worth seeking out. Go to Vienna's 19th District to eat and drink at a traditional heurigen, a restaurant featuring young wines—aged less than one year—served with cold dishes such as potato salad. If it's schnitzel you're seeking, Figlmüller and Rudi's Beisl both do it exceptionally well. Excellent family fare is at Pürstner and at Schweizerhaus, located in Prater Park. For more upscale eating try Zum weissen Rauchfangkehrer. Not to be missed is Café Central, opened in 1876, once the hangout of Trotsky and Freud. It has an impressive interior, great food, and even more impressive cakes.
    Photo courtesy of Peter Rigaud/Vienna Tourist Board
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    Trendy Bars and Cocktails
    Sky Bar, atop Steffl shopping center at Kärntnerstrasse, overlooks the rooftops of Vienna, and pairs good music with its tasty cocktails. Another favorite is Loos American Bar, designed by Adolf Loos, an Austro-Hungarian architect prominent in the art nouveau movement. Built in 1908, and loaded on all sides with dark marble, brass, and onyx, Loos’ use of smoky mirrors makes the interior appear much bigger than it actually is. Nightlife begins around 11:00 p.m. and ends around 4:00 a.m. or when the sun comes up. Babenberger Passage mixes cocktails and club music. Take Five features disco and lots of Viennese society types and Russian millionaires. Both places are upmarket venues and well suited for a night on the town.
    Photo by Paul Gillingwater
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    The Viennese Obsession with Italian Restaurants
    The Viennese take to Italian restaurants in droves, and while there are many where you can just walk in and get a table, you should book in advance at popular places like Da Capo in the 1st District. If you can’t get in, don’t despair; check out the delicious pizza cooked to perfection in wood burning ovens at Danieli or L'asino Che Ride. Ristorante Firenze Enoteca in the Hotel Royal was once frequented by opera star Pavarotti. It has a large variety of antipasti and its menu often features wild mushrooms and wild boar. Find fast, high-quality Italian food for a low price at one of the Vapiano locations. Potted herbs on the table are there for you to add to your meal if desired.
    Photo by Bart Sadowski/age fotostock
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    Wine and Song Cafés
    Viennese cafés aren't just for coffee. Visit Bellaria Café on a Monday night and you'll feel as if you stepped back in time to an older and more refined Vienna. Several large crystal chandeliers illuminate professional opera singers as well as talented opera students, who take turns interpreting classics and delighting the crowd with comic cabaret. Nowhere else can you eat, drink, and be merry with such impressive piano concertos and live opera. Seating is limited, so forget about occupying a Stammtisch—a table reserved for a local. Just sit in the back and enjoy a glass of wine or some schnitzel and apple strudel. Diglas Café and Café Central are also popular, atmospheric cafés that feature live music events on weekends.
    Photo by Paul Gillingwater