When visiting a foreign country, you might worry that you won’t like the food, and you will have to resort to the old reliable, e.g., McDonalds, KFC, TGIF, especially when you are only looking for a quick bite to squeeze into your busy day of touring. However, if you are planning a visit to Vienna, there is no need to worry. There are plenty of tasty options for a quick bite, from sweet to savory. Here are my picks of must-try fast food in Vienna.
Viennese Sausages at the Wurstelstand
The most obvious place to grab a quick bite in Vienna is at a wurstelstand, as you’ll see them scattered about the city. A wurstelstand is a hot dog stand, but don’t expect any NYC style “dirty dogs” here. These popular kiosks serve high quality Viennese sausages, also known as wurstels. You’ll always find the wurstelstands busy with tourists and locals alike, enjoying a delicious sausage with a glass of beer, anytime of the day including late-night.
At some kiosks, you’ll find some high-tops. If available, just belly up to the table and join the crowd. Otherwise, you simply grab a spot on the side counter of the kiosk to eat your sausage and drink your beer. Don’t worry if it’s freezing outside, as these kiosks will still be open and some will even have heat lamps (Bitzinger). Regardless of the weather, you will always find people enjoying their wurstel and beer alfresco at a wurstelstand.
Most menus are in German, and most wurstelstand operators are not patient enough to explain the menu in English, so it’s important to know some basics about the wieners. The käsekrainer, a sausage with cheese in the mixture, on a bun, is my favorite. Others to choose from include the traditional frankfurter, a sausage made of pork and beef; the burenwurst (or klobasse), a thicker, spicier sausage with ham added to the mixture; the bosna, a spicy sausage on a bun with onions and mustard; and the debreziner, another spicy smoked sausage.
Your sausage will most likely be served sliced up, or you can order it on a bun. My friend tried to order in German asking for her kasekrainer “mit brot.” Unfortunately, she did not get the bun, rather, it was sliced up and served with a little bit of attitude on the side. When she tried to get the order corrected and get her wurstel in a bun, she was told “maybe the next one” in clear English. Of course, when it was my turn to order, I simply asked for it in English and got exactly what I wanted, so you might want to do the same if your German is not very good and having a bun is important to you!
The Bitzinger stand is considered one of the best in Vienna. It is located at Albertinaplatz, which is right across the street from the Albertina Museum, conveniently located within a block of the Opera House, the Hotel Bristol, the Hotel Sacher and the pedestrian street, Kärntner Strasse. This is my favorite wurstelstand in Vienna, and it was too tempting not to stop here on my way back to the Hotel Bristol each night for my kasekrainer.
As a side note, Bitzinger also has a restaurant if you prefer a sit-down dinner or to grab a drink in the evening. The restaurant is located in the same building as the Albertina Restaurant, street level, right across from the Bitzinger Wurstelstand. (The entrance is located under the escalator that takes you up a level to the museum entrance). Here you can enjoy a drink in the small but attractive bar, or dine in the cave-like restaurant.
The Wiener Schnitzel
No trip to Vienna can be complete without having wiener schnitzel, a dish commonly associated with this city. You will have no problem finding this meal on menus throughout the city, from fine restaurants to cafes, the wiener schnitzel is a staple item on a Viennese menu.
A wiener schnitzel is a thin escalope of veal breaded and fried to a golden color, garnished with lemon wedges. It commonly served with a lingonberry or cranberry sauce and a side of warm potato salad. If you are not a fan of veal, you will find chicken or pork wiener schnitzel options on the menu as well, but you really go with tradition and try the veal when you are in Vienna. It’s absolutely delicious, and that’s coming from someone who never eats veal.
One of the best places to have your wiener schnitzel is the Gasthaus Pöschl, a 2013 Certificate of Excellence Winner from TripAdvisor. It is conveniently located within the Ringstrasse, a few blocks off the Kartner Strasse. This is a small restaurant, but very authentic, and you’ll find many locals eating here. I have heard that this restaurant does not take reservations from hotels, however, if you stop by before or after the lunch rush, you may get lucky and grab two stools at the counter. Otherwise, stop by and ask to make reservations in person with the hostess, but consider doing this a day or two in advance if you don’t want to risk it! If you don’t have the luxury of time, then just stop in as I did, as they certainly do try to accommodate you, as they are very nice and friendly at this establishment.
Open Face Sandwiches
If you are walking around Stephansplatz, feeling a bit peckish, and love egg salad, then you must stop at the Trzesniewski Café, located at Dorotheergasse 1, for a quick bite. There are actually 8 of these cafes in Vienna, but this location is conveniently located in the heart of the main shopping streets where Grabon and Karntner intersect.
The Café, originally opened in 1902 by a Polish cook, serves up open faced sandwiches made of dark bread cut in a rectangular shape topped with various spreads made with egg salad. You can choose from over 20 varieties such as crab with egg, mushroom with egg, and herring with egg. The sandwiches are small, but inexpensive, and a few samples will easily fill you up without emptying your wallet.
Keep in mind that this café is small. It gets very crowded during lunchtime, so expect to wait in line and stand at a high-top or counter to eat unless you get lucky and get one of the few tables. Also note, after the busy lunch, your options become limited, so if you want to try a few, go early to get the best selection.
Pretzels are common in most parts of the world, but I really think Vienna raises the bar and takes this delicious treat to another level. They are very popular in Vienna, and you can find them at street stalls, bakeries, breweries, and in restaurants.
Viennese pretzels can be either savory or sweet, and come in many different flavors. There appears to be a pretzel for all tastes. In addition to the salted pretzel that is sold in small and large sizes, some other flavors you will find include: Milk Chocolate and Nuts, Apple Cinnamon, White Chocolate Poppyseed, Sugar Doughnut, Dark Chocolate Coconut, Ham and Leek, Cheese and Chili, and Pizza.
Another great treat that you cannot pass up while visiting Vienna is the “Apfelstrudel”. I think this is one of those desserts in Vienna that you will have a hard time trying to find a favorite café serving this up, as I could not find one that I didn’t like. Just like veal, this is not something I tend to eat on a regular basis, but when in Vienna, I can’t seem to get enough of it, and you should definitely sample it, too.
The Viennese apple strudel apparently goes back to 1696. It is made with puff pastry, apples, raisins, cinnamon, sugar and breadcrumbs. Simple ingredients, but oh, so good! I sometimes think cafés in Vienna compete with eachother to see how many apples they can stack in a strudel. I don’t mind some healthy competition, especially when you are talking about desserts.
The Tortes are truly a thing of beauty, and it is very difficult to make up your mind as to which one you want to eat, let alone understand what it is you are actually ordering. I’ve learned to just ask because each café seems to have its’ own variation of the various tortes. Just google Esterhazy, and you’ll see some describing it as yellow buttercream between layers of vanilla spongecake, while others describe it as chocolate buttercream layered between almond meringue dough. Just order what looks appealing, and enjoy it! You really can’t go wrong with any of the tortes. My top three choices, other than the Sachertorte, which is in a category all by itself, are the Esterhazy, Chestnut and Hazelnut tortes.
I found myself stopping in Aida about twice a day to sample a new torte, and it made for a perfect quick bite as Aida has high-tops, so you don’t have to do time-consuming full service. You can also just get your slice to-go and keep it for a midnight snack back at the hotel (yes, I confess).
Eat Today, Diet Tomorrow
Thankfully, you do a lot of walking in Vienna so you shouldn’t gain too much weight eating all these delicious quick bites. Trust me, you’ll easily work the calories off while walking around this beautiful city, so enjoy it while you are there, and worry about the diet when your trip is over. Here is a map to help you find some of these wonderful fast foods while you are visiting Vienna.