I am back home from Vienna, and a little sad, a little relieved… happy to be home, but you know how it is when vacations end. I wanted so much to do a travel series when I was in Vienna, but clearly, I am a half-assed blogger, and never did, save a humorous post about the opera, which people may or may not be taking seriously. Plus, I think we were too busy walking around in circles and bumping into the same places over and over for me to write an effective travel series. I mean that quite literally: Vienna’s Innerstadt is a series of concentric circles with alarmingly similar-looking streets coming off radially. We would walk and walk and walk in a direction that was opposite of where we thought we went yesterday, and then be like, “Oh, crap, here’s the Hofburg again!”
Completely doesn’t help that the Hofburg is this enormous compound that takes up half the city, and you can approach it from 16 different angles and they all look different…
(Alright, I’m posturing a bit. The truth is, we’d be like, “Oh, crap, there is the Salamander shoe store again.” The problem is, there were like 6 Salamander stores and honestly, it was like the Blair Witch project…. especially after a few “trinken…”) Oh wait, is that Albertina? oh, Albertina, how I’ve missed you!
And then, the Stephansdom in the middle – you know how they say all roads lead to Rome? They’re wrong! All roads lead to Stephansdom in my experience!
We stayed very centrally, and it really seemed like whenever we left the apartment, we ended up at the cathedral. My topographical cretinism flared like no tomorrow while we were in Vienna!!
But anyway, since I am positive there are a million and a half posts about the beautiful sites of Vienna, I am going to write about something a lot more mundane. Food! All travelers have one thing in common: they all have to decided what they’re going to eat and where. You want to pick a place that’s popular but not too touristy, authentic but not weird, where the menu is understandable but not gimmicky… you know. And I’m in no way any kind of expert, but we all know word of mouth from a friend works better than expert opinion. So, here is a brief overview of all the places we ate.
1. Cafe Leopold Hawelka
This place was opened in 1939 by Leopold and Josefine Hawelka, and was managed by them until their deaths – Leopold’s in 2011. Their busts can be found in the cafe, in case you wanted to know what they looked like. The place is as it was when it opened, I am positive! It’s dark, hot, crowded, but full of local flare and flavor. Our waiter was very stern to the point of rude, and gave us a serious talking to when we up and switched tables on him – he just couldn’t keep up. The menu was basically him telling us: “Apfelstrudel or plum kuchen?” “Goulash suppe or beef suppe?” What we did get was delicious and the atmosphere totally worth it. By the way, careful when you order “goulash soup.” It’s a very very hearty stew with meat, vegetables, a thick broth. It’s not for every stomach.
It’s this little hole in the wall staffed by sturdy ladies in kerchiefs. It serves drinks and these little “broten,” or sandwiches, made of slices of rye bread and different chopped up salads: salmon and cream cheese, herring with onions, herring without onion, egg salad, pickles and sardines, liver pate (which, by the way, I said “liver” and the lady would NOT understand me and enlisted help from another lady, who was like, “Leber!” and then she understood. How is “liver” different from “Leber?” I don’t know, but the sandwich was delicious). Each one costs about 1.5 euro, and you can order as many as you want. Along with, order a tiny white wine or a tiny beer as pictured. Eat standing up outside.
3. Zum Schwarzen Kameel
It means “At the Black Camel,” and you can see the eponymous Kameel/Camel in the photo. This place is so cool! It has a menu where you can order actual food, and I’d say if you miss salads because you’re an American and you’re used to lettuce and can only eat so much pork… come here. You can also get similar sandwiches as Trzesniewski’s; you ask for them at the counter, and give the ticket to your waiter and they’ll add it to your bill. The same goes for the mini pastry bar. You can also buy vacuum sealed hunks of salted pig fat at the retail counter to take home with you – seriously, what could be better? I’d venture to say any man would love a hunk of salted pig fat for his birthday. And don’t forget the cocktails: they have a formidable menu, and they’re delicious. In the evenings, the place gets packed with all sorts of eclectic people, and the crowd watching is fabulous. But keep in mind, it’s not cheap.
4. Cafe Hofburg
Innerer burghof 1
This one is probably a little touristy – it is inside one of the plazas in the Hofburg Palace. But honest to god, the strudel was something out of this world, plus you can’t beat the atmosphere. It is so grand. I also had the famous Wiener Schnitzel, and don’t be fooled, “Wiener” means from Vienna and not that it’s a hot dog. A schnitzel is a thin cutlet of meat that has been beaten, egged, floured, and lightly breaded, then pan fried. A classic Wiener Schnitzel is made with veal. At this pace it’s served with this lemony potato salad. You don’t need anything else.
5. Salm Brau
You can’t leave Vienna and not visit a brewery. This one is not as central as some of the others. It’s nearer to the Belvidere, which is a walk from the Center, but it’s doable, and worth it. It’s a big place with a really nice patio, and it gets pretty crowded so get there early or be prepared to wait in line. Obviously, they brew their own beer, so go ahead and order the tasting menu and then decide. We sat next to the big copper tank thingie, the proper name of which I don’t know, but where I assume the brewing takes place. The food is phenomenal as well; really authentic Austrian cuisine. I had the boiled beef dinner, and my friend got the pig leg – seriously never seen that much frank fat on a plate, but he seemed to enjoy it. Atmosphere was loud and roudy, perfect!
6. Zum weissen Rauchfangkehrer
The name is like a caricature of itself, isn’t it? Who can pronounce that word, other than German speakers? But it means At the White Chimney Sweep’s. It’s a little upscale, so I’d do this one if you’re planning to have a nice evening dinner. The dishes are a tad hoity toity but with a definite Viennese flavor, and they only have Austrian wines in accordance with their philosophy, and I agree, that the food of the region must be eaten with the wine of the region. Request to be seated in the Stephen room, where you willhavean absolutely amazing view of the cathedral.
7. Countless hot dog stands
You’re going to be busy during the day doing the site seeing thing, or you’ll be stumbling home after cocktails curiously hungry – either way, you can’t avoid the street food. They peddle at least 4 different kinds of sausage, and with it, sour krout, pickles, horse radish, and beer – whatever your soul (or your stomach) desires. If you’re lucky, there will be a dude next to the stand roasting chest nuts and making potato pancakes too. Just do it.
I had a blast in Vienna, not the least of which was all the FOOD!!!