Buzz Abroad: Eating in Vienna

By Matthew Novelli

I have now spent two weeks in Vienna and I am starting to understand the style and type of food served in this city. Austria’s food has many influences. The country is geographically located in Europe, but its close proximity to the Middle East causes these cultures to inspire what is now traditional Austrian cuisine. By this time, I have had the chance to explore several grocery stores and markets, along with food at restaurants and cafés.

When I first arrived, I noticed several food stands and many cafés. Many of the food stands were selling sausages, which varied from bratwurst to kasekrainer, which is sausage with cheese, to serving sausages with curry powder on top. There are also several stands selling a mix of Asian food, from sushi to Chinese food. Finally, I saw many gyros stands selling Greek cuisine. After passing the stands by most train stations and in touristy areas, one walks down the street and sees café after café, and most of these stores have outdoor seating to enjoy the nice weather while it lasts. Bakeries have the same abundance as cafés in the city of Vienna. It seems as though people eat more bread here and eat a greater variety of bread than I have seen back home. I had a sandwich that had a few slices of meat and cheese. The memorable part of the sandwich was that the entire roll was covered with poppy seeds and tasted quite chewy, but fresh and not very salty.

I’ve eaten some traditional Austrian food such as schnitzel made from chicken with fries. Schnitzel is essentially any kind of thinned out, or flattened meat, battered and fried. I was surprised to see the amount of potatoes consumed with dishes. At my university’s dining hall, they serve potato salad as a salad option some days. I also tried apple strudel, which is much softer and full of more apples than the apple pie Americans are used to. The dough crust is mostly on top and underneath are thin wafers of apple that are cooked to just the right amount of softness. This dish, however, does not have cinnamon in it, which really differentiated it from apple dishes that are consumed in the United States. Austria is right next to Italy, so the ice cream sold is typically gelato. I had an affogato along the Danube River, and it reminded me of the affogato I had at Snow Meets Coffee in downtown Champaign.

In an effort to be financially responsible, I have also been cooking. The grocery stores here, not surprisingly, sell items in much smaller portions. It is much easier, however, to shop on a budget here rather than back at school because grocery stores are within walking distance. The small portions also cause me to buy less each time I shop and to go to the store more frequently. In the deli section, I have noticed a lot of ham and pork based lunch meats. Sandwiches are a popular thing to eat any time of the day.

The fresh and open markets also reminded me of the farmers market in Urbana’s Lincoln Square. Vienna has many of these markets all around the city. They sell local produce, but vendors also sell products such as fresh made pasta, stuffed peppers and local jam. When looking at the jam, it reminded me of the Autumn Berry jam I bought at the Urbana market last fall.

As I continue my time here in Vienna, I look forward to trying more traditional cuisine and taking advantage of the open markets before the cold sets in.