In addition to native regional traditions like Viennese cuisine, Austrian food has been influenced by Hungarian, Czech, Jewish, Italian and Bavarian cuisines. Austria has one of the most transcultural cuisines in Europe.
There is no question that some of the "basics" of Viennese cuisine are famous throughout the world. For example Wiener Schnitzel (Viennese veal) and Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) or Sachertorte. But there is much more to discover in a cuisine that incorporates the culinary expertise of so many regions once part of the great Austrian empire. Take for example the many different ways of preparing beef concealed behind such enigmatic names as "tafelspitz," "zwiebelrostbraten" and "beinfleisch." Or goulash, which originated in Hungary but has dozens of variations in Vienna. And desserts that often replace the main course: just ask for "marillenknodel," "kaiserschmarren" or "topfenpalatschinken" and let yourself in for a pleasant surprise.
There are Viennese specialities not just in the dishes, but also the places where you can enjoy them. For good local cooking, try the "beisel", restaurants where the cuisine and atmosphere are typically Viennese. Both simple and more refined beisels can be found throughout the city. The Viennese regard the coffee house as an extension of their living room, and you are invited to do likewise. Here you can relax after sightseeing, write postcards, meet old friends and make new ones, read the newspaper (many foreign papers are available), and enjoy Viennese cuisine—from coffee and cakes to a full meal. Though the fabled coffeehouses of the previous century cater more to tourists than locals in the present day, there are still a few traditional ones among the over 500 cafes in Vienna alone.
To round off a busy day, there are "heurigers." These are quaint wine taverns where the food is simple, but good, and the atmosphere relaxed—often enhanced by musicians playing Viennese melodies.
The Heurigen tradition was given impetus by Emperor Franz Josef II who allowed wineries to sell new wines, without paying a tariff, in 1784. Originally, the Heurigen "season" was only four months long, but its popularity spawned newer commercial establishments that serve wine and food year 'round. Grinzing and Sievering, Nussdorf and Neustift am Walde. Strebersdorf and Stammersdorf, these are the wine villages on the outskirts of the city. You sit together, drink together, laugh, sing as the musicians play traditional Heurigen music.
In other parts of Austria, like Salzburg and Innsbruck, both closer to Germany, beer is often preferred over wine but the food is no less exotic. Fresh game like moufflon, wild boar and pheasant are hunted in the forests and mountains which cover over two-thirds of the country. Salzburg is known for its dessert specialty, Salzburger Nockerln, a meringue that resembles the nearby Alps. And in Linz they compete with Vienna's Sachertorte with their own Linzertorte, which uses almonds and red currant jam for a refreshingly different taste.
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This page modified January 2007
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