A Vienna Wiener on a Budget
Two days is not a lot of time in the confection capitol of the world. I took one in the diabetes gut and tried to make up for my short stay by making it as delicious as possible in a short amount of time. There may have been a three dessert day. Vienna is not a cheap city, but much like my stops in Hawaii and Singapore, my stomach wins out over tightening my wallet too much. Even on the internet, the cheap restaurants seemed to be around 10 euros, which is about 13 dollars. Not very cheap at all! A street sausage would set one back enough for me to stay a night in a private room guesthouse in Asia. This all took a little getting used to and some extra research to see where I could eat. Returning to Budapest after this will look a lot cheaper.
Seen at Mozart’s mass grave cemetery: “Those who eat pigeons, eats rat!” I guess squab hunting must be a problem here, but it wasn’t what I was eating.
I ate rather well on this short trip and had to be rolled back onto the train. The first order of business after arriving in the evening was to find some eats. I found a decent and relatively cheap (under/around 10 euros with drinks) gastropub that served me a delicious cold fish with warm boiled potatoes in a sour cream based sauce. I enjoyed a Gruner Veitliner, the common white wine of Vienna.
Eating on the street means meat in tubes. In this case, currywurst! A sausage with lots of ketchup that has been doused with curry. I could definitely eat more of this.
Peekaboo! The Bitzinger stand has delicious dogs with a snappy casing. Unfortunately I found their service brusque and this bun that was toasted on the inside not much different from a normal bun at all. Maybe the cranky guy could put all his energy he spent scowling into lovingly handling the food instead.
The rest of the food was relegated to hamburgers, hot dogs, and kebabs for the most part. While I love all those foods, I’ve seen them in every country so I’d prefer to try some Vienna specialities. A mish mash of Asian food also appeared to be popular with restaurants serving a mix of fast food sushi, chow mein in round boxes, and teriyaki.
My second dinner took me to Cafe Phonixhof which is a delightfully bright little cafe that sometimes has live music. I’ve come post fall grape harvest so this is the time to try a drink known as sturm, a mix of all the different phases of wine making. I tried must, just the grape juice before fermentation, in Hungary and now onto the next phase. The portions here were huge as good a deal as one gets in Vienna.
Quite different from their Hungarian counterpart, Austrian goulash is the variation I am used to seeing. This is a thick stew full of meaty chunks and little vegetables. The giant ball is a bread dumpling that is reminiscent of a matzo ball.
One of the best deals is that on weekdays most restaurants in Austria and Hungary have a set menu of multiple courses for a fixed price. Sometimes, particularly at tourist places, this involves a drink as well. In Hungary, you can just say “menu” to order it and the word for a menu is something else entirely.
Lunch on my last day involved me walking into pig heaven and seeing a soft yellow light bearing down angelically on a hearty looking woman slicing into a huge ham leg. Or maybe she needed the lamp to see better, either way it was off by the time I snapped a shot.
The lunch special that day translated into something like lumberjack mess. There were pork chunks, pork skin, and smoked ham all mixed with vegetables, overcooked noodles and accompanied by a cold sauerkraut to cut all that grease.
After lunch I looked about as happy this a pig in… well, cut out of wood. As I sat munching on lunch at Porcus I saw many office workers come in for a sandwich of artisan ham and bread to go. Seems like a good deal to me for 3,5 euros compared to the wurst you’d get otherwise.
At the train station I caught up to one of the many canapés stands dotting the city. Though adorable looking I find the pre made sandwiches dry and the spreads to not be all that delightful after being exposed to too much air. They were also recommended on budget eating boards but enough to fill one for a normal sized meal was more expensive than many meals at sit down restaurants. I’ll pass thanks.
Those were my savory adventures but let’s be honest about what Vienna is known for.
Look, a bakery zoo! I wonder if I can pet them! No, this is the workshop of the famous Cafe Demel full of delicious looking chocolate cakes.
Instead of Vienna’s famed sachertorte I tried the annatorte, a lovely chocolate cake with folds of chocolate fondant everywhere. The cake was a smidge dry but the rest made up for it, fixing all the chocolate longings I’ve had the last few months.
Seen on what feels like every other corner in Vienna is the Aida chain. The place is decorated in bright pink with friendly looking diner looking ladies serving up pastries and cakes half the price of the fancier, older cafes. The cheese strudel was ok since I’d been walking in the rain for hours and being inside was enough to cheer me up. Otherwise I found the cheese itself quite dry. I hear the cakes are good though.
In a city full of ancient cake shops I could hardly try just one. This is Heiner and it may be my winner for best dessert I had in the city with this moist chocolate cake.
In both Hungary and Austria it is common to see crepes that they just call pancakes filled with jams or chocolate. This one is full of apricot jam and was delicious.
Hungary has Marka soda and Austria has Almdudler. It tastes kind of herbal-y and looks like a ginger ale. I think I prefer sour cherry Marka. Really, I’m pretty sure both of them are ghetto and the general populace prefers the international Cokes and Pepsis.
The desserts and sweets of Vienna really were pretty great. However at three to four times the price of neighboring Hungary, I’m not sure if I felt like the cakes were three to four times better. As a whole though, this is a pretty delicious if not so budget eating town. I’m glad I only stayed two days or my wallet would be crying as I continued inhaling age tested confections all over town.