Food and drink
Austrian food is hearty and traditional; often of good quality, it makes use of local and seasonal ingredients. For ready-made snacks, try a bakery (Bäckerei), confectioner’s (Konditorei), or local market. Fast-food centres on the Würstelstand, which sells hot dogs, Bratwurst (grilled sausage), Käsekrainer (spicy sausage with cheese), Bosna (spicy, thin Balkan sausage) and Currywurst. In Kaffeehäuser or cafés and bars you can get light meals and snacks starting at about €5; look out for the Tagesmenu, the lunchtime set menu, which is often excellent value (€7–10 for two courses). Main dishes (Hauptspeisen) are dominated by Schnitzel (tenderized veal): Wienerschnitzel is fried in breadcrumbs, Pariser in batter, Natur served on its own or with a creamy sauce. Expect to pay €8–12 for a standard main course. There is usually something on offer for vegetarians – more often than not Käsespätzle, similar to macaroni cheese. Two seasonal ingredients vegetarians should seek out in spring and early summer are Bärlauch, wild garlic, delicious in soups and pasta sauces, and Spargel, asparagus, typically the white variety and served with hollandaise.
For Austrians, daytime drinking traditionally centres on the Kaffeehaus, relaxed places serving alcoholic and soft drinks, snacks and cakes, alongside a wide range of different coffees: a Schwarzer is small and black, a Brauner comes with a little milk, while a Melange is half coffee and half milk; a Kurzer is a small espresso; an Einspänner a glass of black coffee topped with Schlag: whipped cream. A cup of coffee in one of these places is pricey (€2.50–3), but for this you can linger for hours. Most cafés also offer a tempting array of freshly baked cakes and pastries, as do Café-Konditorei (café-patisseries), where the cakes take centre stage.
Night-time drinking centres on bars and cafés, although traditional Bierstuben and Weinstuben are still thick on the ground. Austrian beers are of good quality. Most places serve the local brew on tap, either by the Krügerl (half-litre, €3), Seidel (third-litre, €1.80) or Pfiff (fifth-litre, €0.80–1.30). The local wine, drunk by the Viertel (25cl mug) or the Achterl (12.5cl glass), is often excellent. The Weinkeller is the place to go for this or, in the wine-producing areas, a Heuriger or Buschenshenk – a traditional tavern, customarily serving cold food as well.
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