A tour of the flavors Vienna has borrowed from across Central Europe
Austrians love eating well, and while Wiener Küche (Viennese cuisine) is famous well beyond the city limits, some of its most popular dishes so proudly touted as local delicacies were brought over from neighboring countries.
As the multicultural capital of an empire of over 50 million in its heyday, immigrants flocked to Vienna from all over the realm, bringing their comfort food with them. Scrumptious strudels made their way into Viennese kitchens from Hungary (which was influenced by Turkish sweets), and also introduced Letscho, paprika chicken and Langos, while Italy inspired Risibisi (a risotto with peas, often served on the side) and various noodle dishes.
Czechia was the birthplace of Knödel (dumplings), Buchteln (sweet rolls made of yeast dough and topped with vanilla sauce) and various pastries like Palatschinken (pancakes), brought to Austria by Bohemian cooks over the years.
As with so many things that are brilliant, the origins of many dishes are sometimes disputed. Nonetheless, Vienna’s cuisine would not have the broad palette that has become so dear to foodies without its neighbors.
Wildly popular in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, Cevapcici are finger-sized minced meat rolls made from ground lamb, beef or pork and seasoned with paprika before fried or grilled. Served in the Balkans with Lepinja (flat bread) or salad, the local variation is usually eaten alongside fries and ketchup – a real sin in the eyes of Cevapcici connoisseurs.
For a true Balkan-style version, go to Café-Restaurant Galaxie.
15., Märzstrasse 1
Mon–Thu 9:00–0:30, Fri-Sat 9:00–2:00, Sun 9:00 – 00:30
(01) 982 30 41
No one really knows where this thin veal cutlet, breaded and fried in lard, was served for the first time. One legend suggests Field Marshal Radetzky brought the schnitzel to Austria from his Italian campaign to impress the emperor. While this story has been debunked, the schnitzel does share many similarities with the Italian Cotoletta alla Milanese, which was first mentioned in 1134 and may have influenced a local version. Whether the schnitzel was invented in Milan or Vienna, thankfully somebody did.
A relic of the 7th district’s pre- fashionable days, the Schnitzelwirt earns its name with enormous portions and a staggering amount of (mostly pork) variations.
7., Neubaugasse 52
(01) 523 37 71
An important part of a balanced Viennese breakfast, the Golatsche, a square pastry filled with cream cheese or jam, is heavily influenced by the Bohemian Koláč (Kołacz in Poland), which are round and filled with fruit puree or poppy seeds. Given as a wedding gift to the bride and groom in olden times, nowadays there is no need to commit to anyone for this fluffy piece of heaven.
Kurkonditorei Oberlaa is a temple to Austria’s enduring sweet tooth, proselytizing with scrumptious Golatschen and other treats.
1., Neuer Markt 16
(01) 513 29 36-0
A favorite at the Heuriger, the sandwich spread Liptauer is named after the Slovakian region of Liptów, where it comes from. Originally made with salted sheep cheese and butter seasoned with paprika, caraway and pepper, the Austrian variant substitutes the sheep cheese with Topfen, a kind of cream cheese. In the past, rich families added mustard, capers or anchovies, while Hungarian nobles preferred a version with caviar. Even Prince Charles had a taste on his visit to Vienna in April – sans caviar, but he did enjoy it.
The 10er Marie, Vienna’s oldest Heuriger, makes a mean Liptauer.
16., Ottakringer Strasse 222-224
(01) 489 46 47
A favorite in Hungary, Gulasch was popularized at the end of the 18th century when it was declared the national dish by the House of Magnates. Originally meant as an affront against Emperor Joseph II, the virtually unknown dish quickly warmed Viennese hearts and bellies and became a staple of Wiener Küche. While countless variations exist, this thick, savory stew is usually made from beef spiced with paprika and onions and served with potatoes, Knödel or bread. A particularly dense version only found in Vienna is Fiakergulasch: with a fried egg, sausage and pickles added on top of a very hearty meal, it’s perfect before a long hike.
Aptly titled, the Gulaschmuseum serves over a dozen variations of the dish, from the popular to the historical.
1., Schulerstrasse 20
(01) 512 10 17
The beloved snack and hangover cure, traditionally served with grated horseradish, mustard and a slice of bread is a mainstay of Vienna’s Würstelstände (sausage stands). Frequently called “Wieners” outside Austria, Frankfurters got their name from creator Johann Georg Lahner, a German butcher from Frankfurt who immigrated to Vienna around 1800 and was inspired by the sausages of his hometown. He sold his franks out of his little shop in Neustiftgasse, taking the world by storm; the business he founded remained open until 1967.
Just like its namesake, the Würstelstand Zum Kleinen Sacher offers five-star service and exceptional Frankfurters at (nearly) all hours.
3., Fasanplatz 3