Once the center of the European empire, Vienna’s diverse cultural roots set the stage for a modern culinary capital. While the scene is constantly evolving with new iterations and creations, tradition still holds strong in Viennese cuisine, especially during the start of the holiday season. Here are some bites we recently savored.
After landing in the airport, we pretty much made a straight beeline for Naschmarkt, Vienna’s largest and most popular open-air market. Naschmarkt stretches a kilometer and a half long with selections ranging from vegetables to dried fruit to meats and cheeses. There’s a heavy emphasis on the city’s international eats, such as various kinds of Baklava and an astonishing array of curry powders. On Saturdays, there is an accompanying flea market next to the food market full of vintage digs.
There are also many food stalls and one of the few fish stalls caught our eye. A seemingly seasoned woman was grilling herbed filets of salmon and whitefish on a large grill. The sandwiches, dressed with only mayonnaise, were fresh and simple.
Viennese coffee is probably the smoothest we’ve tasted in Europe. The Wiener melange and the extended espresso are both must-tries and the perfect creamy energy boost for the afternoon lull. We enjoyed ours inside the extravagant Kunsthistorisches Museum, well worth the slightly steep price just for the atmosphere.
A trip to Vienna wouldn’t be complete without the Wiener schnitzel. Traditionally made from veal, there are now many iterations of the schnitzel, all delicious. We scoped out a cozy restaurant tucked away on the cobblestoned streets behind the bustling MuseumsQuartier.
Goulash is yet another distinctly Austrian dish. Originated from Hungary, goulash in Vienna usually consists of chunks of beef stewed in a spiced sauce. We opted for the goulash soup at the legendary Café Central, once a meeting place the likes of Trotsky and Freud. The dish, bits of beef stewed with potatoes and other vegetables in a flavorful soup, was the best goulash we tasted in Vienna.
An original treat of the Hapsburg Empire, the apple strudel can be found in many shapes and forms in Vienna. Again, the strudel at Café Central takes the cake with a crispy outer shell and tart and soft, not mushy, apples.
Breakfast and brunch are big meals in Vienna and we grabbed ours at the aptly named café, The Breakfast Club. A John Hughes reference in the heart of Vienna is not uncommon on Schleifmühlgasse, a street in the Freihausviertel neighborhood ridden with quirky bookshops, quaint cafes and trendy bars. The Breakfast Club has a mind-boggling number of breakfasts that are ethnically-inspired with an Austrian twist.
The birthplace of the Sachertorte, Hotel Sacher remains the best place in Vienna to enjoy the exquisite treat. The Sachertorte has a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle of two layers of dense chocolate sponge cake so that even the least enthused fans of chocolate cake can enjoy its mild sweetness.
As winter sneaks in, few things are as comforting as a warm batch of roasted potatoes. Kiosks with large ovens dot the streets of Vienna, each slinging various kinds of roasted potatoes and even chestnuts for a cheap and fulfilling snack.
It’s nearly impossible to walk past a chocolate store and not take at least one peek inside. Especially around the holiday season, candy and chocolate stores have treats for every kind of sweet tooth. Besides the inevitable Mozartkugeln, we picked out some marzipan and other nut-infused chocolates to try — a delectable and sweet ending to our culinary tour of Vienna.
Denise Lu is a junior at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University where she studies journalism and economics. She is currently studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark while also hopping around multiple countries in Europe. She loves strange music, street photography and wholesome food. With a love for entertainment and culture writing, she maintains a personal music blog at the omelette chronicles and does amateur food photography at eat your jams. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseDSLu.
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