Wiener schnitzel is ordinarily the first dish on visitors’ culinary bucket lists in Vienna and apple strudel takes the limelight when it comes to desserts, however, there are plenty of lesser-known Austrian specialities to sample in the city – from kaiserschmarrn, a fluffy pancake-style dessert, to käsespätzle, a gloriously gooey, cheesy main dish.
Traditional Austrian food takes inspiration from an amalgamation of cultures, including Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Balkans. It is rich, hearty and more often than not, meat-heavy. Finding a restaurant in which to try Austrian cuisine is more difficult than it may first appear. While there are plenty around the 1st district claiming to serve the ‘best schnitzel in the city’, it can be tricky to separate the real deal from the ubiquitous tourist traps. From delicious wiener schnitzel served in cosy wine taverns in the Döbling vineyards to sleek and modern joints in the heart of the city, here is Culture Trip’s guide to the best Austrian cuisine in Vienna.
Hotel Sacher, one of Austria’s most glitzy and iconic places to stay, was founded in 1876, and the adjoined Restaurant Rote Bar is one of its most acclaimed restaurants, perhaps most famous for the dreamy chocolate dessert, sachertorte. Grandiose, calm, elegant and luxurious, diners can enjoy Austrian delicacies in one of two rooms. During the colder months, a dining room decorated with dark red damask walls and impressive oil paintings. It’s even better in the summertime, with a glass conservatory overlooking the unapologetically grand Vienna State Opera House, where the windows can fold up, revealing a spacious terrace. A live pianist in the dining room helps create a particularly sophisticated, and more importantly, Viennese ambience.
Tucked away on a street adjacent to the bustling Naschmarkt, this cosy and quintessentially Austrian restaurant is a true believer of real, traditional Austrian cuisine. The interior is charming in an antiquated way, with low lighting, an arched ceiling and old-style leather seating. When it comes to the food, there is the option of a two-or-three-course Viennese set menu with a beef broth starter, a wiener schnitzel for the main course and apfelstrudel for dessert.
Originally intended to open in New York, Skopik & Lohn is instead located many thousands of miles away in Karmelitermarkt, an artsy area of Vienna’s second district. This restaurant, serving Viennese fare with a twist, is both serious and playful about its food, drinks and atmosphere, cleverly combining the elegance of Austrian fine dining with the laid-back feel of a 1920s New York bistro. Designed by Austrian artist Otto Zitko, its interior is dramatic, with chaotic black splashes of paint dashed across the ceiling that lie in stark contrast with the neat, white-clothed tables underneath.
The Museum Quarter is the cultural heart of Vienna’s 7th district, Neubau, and is home to many stylish bars and restaurants that are perfect pitstops for those who have had a long day exploring the galleries. Tucked away behind the grey cube of modern art gallery MUMOK, Glacis Beisl describes itself as ‘a stylish and intimate venue for classic and innovative Viennese cuisine’. This inconspicuous restaurant is the perfect place in which to sample local cuisine and enjoy a summer’s evening, sitting out on the patio in one of the city’s most vibrant and exciting cultural areas.
Currently run by the fourth generation of the Figlmüller family and opened well over 100 years ago, this historic restaurant can be trusted to deliver an authentic schnitzel. The owners are rightfully confident in making their abilities known, boldly describing the Austrian eatery as the ‘home of the schnitzel’. They owe their success to a special recipe, creating the schnitzel thinner than most and using special ‘imperial’ breadcrumbs from a nearby bakery for the outer coating. Want to uncover if their schnitzel sensationalism is true? There’s only one way to find out.
Housed in an ultra-modern glass building in the city’s picturesque city park, Stadtpark, Steirereck has so far earned not one, but two Michelin stars under chef Heinz Reitbauer. The kitchen is inspired by the outdoors and flavours of nature and Steirereck takes a contemporary approach to Austrian cooking. Furthermore, the restaurant currently holds position 14 in Condé Nast Traveler’s pick of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Restaurant Eckel was established in 1901 and has been delighting diners with its traditional cuisine ever since. Located in leafy Döbling, it is a great place to enjoy a glass of Austrian wine alongside some delicious local cuisine, such as tafelspitz (an Austrian beef broth) and butter schnitzel (a modern take on the popular dish). The interior is a blend of modern and traditional design, with wooden panelling and contemporary paintings on the walls. In the warmer months, guests can enjoy the large, flower-filled garden.