3 Days Vegetarian Eating in Vienna, Austria
I’ve always looked forward to eating foreign foods. Having friends who come from international backgrounds allowed me to grow up trying new dishes and enjoying new tastes. While on study abroad in Vienna, Austria this was no different.
As a vegetarian for nearly ten years it felt disappointing to know that dishes like schnitzel were popular to the region and yet I couldn’t even taste it. It was almost intimidating to know their popular foods included meat so I wondered if I could get the true Viennese experience without eating meat. Ultimately I saw it this way: even though I couldn’t have staple dishes like the schnitzel I can still experience how the locals make other meals that I have or haven’t had before.
I found great alternatives for meat-less meals while still enjoying Viennese cuisine.
Random Mom and Pop Shop ~10 euros
Admittedly it felt as though my dining experience was off to a rocky start. The first day in Austria our hotel rooms at the A&O Hotel Wien Hauptbahnhof were not yet ready so we dropped our luggage off at the hotel luggage lock up and popped into town. Knowing hardly anything about the area we Google mapped a random restaurant with good reviews yet ended up stopping into a random mom and pop shop we discovered in transit. Funny enough we ran into the rest of our travel group in the same restaurant even though there were several restaurants around that street. I found the menu had very few vegetarian friendly selections. I wanted so badly to try what felt like a Viennese dish but instead I was pressed to order something familiar and close to home: baked cod fish with potato salad. I didn’t expect it to taste so good! The fish turned out to be what I would characterize as fried however… No complaints either way. In addition, it was hard to do any meal in Europe without a glass of wine. So, an order of white wine followed. In all I paid about ten euros.
Der Ringsmuth ~18 euros
Day one ended with a welcome dinner with my study abroad travel group at Der Ringsmuth. The restaurant had a bit of an upper class dining atmosphere. The vegetarian friendly dishes were few here as well yet I found a great pick once again. This time dumplings with greens were calling my name! Much like the “baked fish” that was actually fried, the dumplings also felt like a bit of a misnomer as I expected dumplings more like those I’ve seen back in the States along with Asian dishes. The dumplings I received had a much different appearance than expected but it opened my eyes to how the Viennese do dumplings. They tasted great!
The accompanying greens were kale and cabbage which tasted just as amazing. The dumplings and greens were a perfect combination. A great entree was followed by a dessert that I wasn’t totally crazy about though the ice cream was a nice mix. It contained poppy seeds which are popular in tons of dishes in Hungary. There were a lot of raspberries which I am not too keen on. The pastry dessert itself was a more of a hard sort of breaded texture but the flavor was nice. Without the ice cream I don’t think I would have liked the dish very much. I am an ice cream junkie and not so big on pastries and other sweets so the ice cream acted as a bit of a saving grace for me here. It acted even more so as a texture to counter act the dryness of the pastry with the powdered sugar.
Hotel Breakfast – Free
Hotel breakfast became the standard during this trip (which is most ideal for me cause, um, freeeeee!) A&O had a pretty good selection of breakfast items: yogurt, boiled eggs, toast/rolls, cereal/granola, fruit, vegetables, coffee, tea, juices, etc. It was not Americanized with the pancakes, scrambled eggs, oatmeal and such. As a person who often tries to opt in for healthy selections my daily breakfasts usually composed of something like a boiled egg, a wheat bread roll, an orange, yogurt with granola with water and coffee. All items I chose were tasty. I have heard from others in the group to stay away from the plain yogurt however. Luckily for me I chose the strawberry yogurt every morning.
Cafe Bräunerhof ~ 8 euros
After touring the amazing Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) we had a nice lunch/coffee break at Cafe Bräunerhof. Upon walking in you feel as if you’re in a traditional Viennese coffee shop. It is a bit of a time capsule in that the the furnishings and lightings are all dated in its design – not its quality.
The cafe was not run down by any means. It just fashioned an antique aesthetic although it was located in the bustling city. The decor and atmosphere of the cafe does a great job of pulling you out of the hustle and bustle of the city and into the portal of its coffees and desserts in which we relished in. We ordered from an all German menu. Although our professor spoke German I chose to play it safe and asked for an apple strudel along with a Wiener Melange (Viennese Blend) coffee. Actually a melange became the staple coffee drank throughout my entire stay in Austria and mannn it was tastyyy! The strudel was actually not completely to my liking. Especially initially. It started off with a pastry that did not have the soft mouth watering texture that I love. Instead it was a bit rough and the taste wasn’t too exciting until toward the end. The ending contained the fruity taste I expected. While the atmosphere was delightful the pastry was not so much. However the melange was the saving grace. It livened me up in the middle of a day full of tours and adventure.
Another day of eating to highlight was eating at the Schönbrunn Palace and the dinner on the ferris wheel. These are two meal destinations I’ll never forget and would very highly recommend.
Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace ~16 euros
Schönbrunn Palace is an unbelievable piece of awe inspiring architecure. It boasts 1,441 rooms! If its size alone does not wow you enough the interior certainly would. Although it was only the summer residence of the ruling Habsburg family is was decked out in decadent decor with gaze-trapping gold trimmings, pulchritudinous paintings, and just the most magnificent crown moldings. I mean it was all just so extra but they were the royal family so I guess they had to do it big. Anyway. On to the food. Just to the back of the palace past the garden and up a rather steep hill lies a separate building. Not as massive but still fairly big and just as elegant in its own right. It was previously used as a dining space for guests of the royal family. Now it is a restaurant for visitors of the palace. The Gloriette restaurant sat at the top of the hill where you can see the local Austrian town and also overlook the massive Schönbrunn Palace along with its garden. The view was absolutely amazing. The interior felt a bit confined although outdoor seating is offered as well. I could only imagine visiting in the warmer seasons sitting on the patio overlooking the town and the palace over a nice meal or snack. The food was just as incredible as the view. While most others in the travel group only ordered dessert/patries and coffee I decided to go for a full lunch. I ordered a vegetable strudel that contained rice and veggies with a side salad. It tasted phenomenal accompanied and with the atmosphere of the restaurant it made for a lunch to remember for a lifetime. One of the accompanying professors on the trip ordered the cutest looking dessert item – a raspberry dessert cake. I just had to get a snippet of it. She said she loved it! The Gloriette not only has wonderful views of the surrounding town and palace but inside you’ll get great views of appetizing desserts or meals that are Instagram worthy.
Dinner on a Ferris Wheel at Wiener Riesenrad
At Wiener Riesenrad, the giant ferris wheel in Vienna, dinner was served in the car of the ferris wheel over candle light. And let me tell you… it was a whole vibe. Being in a large ferris wheel cart suspended over 60 meters in the air for a person who is not afraid of heights and openly welcomes adventure actually caused a bit of anxiety without me realizing it. As a person who often deals with anxiety daily I found that the anxiety that ensued from the ferris wheel was a different kind. It brought a sense of worry that something may go wrong – maybe we’d get stuck or maybe the car would somehow fall off of the ferris wheel. The mind can make up all sorts of scenarios when taken far out of the comfort zone. Typically, ferris wheels had never caused me any panic or worry whatsoever! It was all too strange to casually dine in a relatively small car so high up in the air…
I went to sip my drink and noticed my hand shaking a bit. My nerves were not the best. However, a large part of it also had to do with my excitement of overlooking city views so beautiful that I could have never imagined the scenery myself. It was just a surreal place to be and sight to see. The server gave our travel group the option of how we’d like to be served our three course meal. We opted in to have a meal served every rotation which is about thirty minutes to one hour give or take. First up we had bread and butter. The bread I will admit was not the best. I for some reason have not enjoyed pastry or bread items in Austria. The bread was not warm, it did not melt in your mouth, and it was a bit rough in the mouth. The views certainly made up for it. After going around the wheel once we received our appetizer which really came in the portion of a full meal! As a vegetarian they thankfully had a tasty meatless “meat” meal with veggies, cheese (from the Alps – faanccyy), and salad.
It tasted better than any meat substitute I had ever had to date. I completely finished this dish and had wished for more! Although the car moved extremely slowly and not at all in some spots it felt to be a bit of a rush to finish my meals. The rush was admittedly self imposed as we were allotted plenty of time to eat as well as to soak in the views. After another rotation our main course came out. I had the spaghetti. I absolutely hate olives but trying to fully immerse myself into my adventure abroad I tasted them anyway. To no surprise they still tasted disgusting. At least I tried right? The spaghetti also tasted a lot different than spaghetti back home in the States.
I still cannot quite put my finger on it. I ate a nice chunk of it but at this point I was pretty full. Between breakfast at the hotel and the big lunch at Schönbrunn Palace my stomach had just about had it. We had about two rotations to enjoy our main course. Lastly we had our dessert to dig into.
In the Viennese way we had a melange with our dessert. I had some sort of apricot tartlet. With a over full belly I could only bare having just a taste of it. A bite mixed of the tartlet and whipped cream mixture was a pleasing combination. I had wished I could fit more in me! The dinner on a ferris wheel was nothing I could have ever dreamt. They offer cars that aren’t as fancy as the candelit dinner (there are cocktail cars as well). Veering into the neighboring car our group waved at a couple who opted out of the dinner and hopped on just for the views! Seeing every major landmark while enjoying tasty food was all so worth the tiny bit of anxiety of being suspended so high up in the air for a bit over two hours. It is worth every minute and every bite!
Austrian food for a vegetarian turned out to be a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars
For a vegetarian visiting Vienna the food quality in taste was pretty good though in availability – not so much. While the restaurants booked into our itinerary had a large part to play there were restaurants visited during my down time where I encountered the same feeling of limited vegetarian menu options. I will say that there were always at least one vegetarian option however. The taste of the food often times made up for the lack of options. The best food item mentioned was for sure the vegetarian strudel from the Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace. The taste was just out of this world and it was a well balanced meal health wise. While I wish that there were more vegetarian options encountered in Vienna I realize that there aren’t always a good assortment of vegetarian options back home in the States. All in all it was thoroughly good experience having varying foods even with the limited selection. To me life is all about the experiences even when they don’t match up with the ordinary or what seems to be the most ideal. So I appreciated simply being a part of the moment and the great new tastes. Enjoying these moments brought me to life.