My favorite coffeehouse in Vienna is owned by the co-president of the Coffeehouse Owners Association, Hans Diglas. This café-restaurant offers delicious pastries, excellent food, good coffee, and true Viennese coffeehouse atmosphere. A glass case overflows with tempting Torten (cakes) that are among the best in town, all made at the coffeehouse's private pastry shop (Kölnditorei). Nearby are trays of Schintten (row cakes), strudels, and even a pan or two of quiches or gratins. Best of all, the portions are large.
The food is also very good, and the three daily menus are a particularly sumptuous bargain. A typical lunch might include a small bowl of tangy wine cream soup followed by a main course of pork ragout with mushrooms and sweet cream over verdant spinach curd noodles, and a dash of cranberry compote. Dessert might be warm apple cobbler with almond vanilla sauce. All this for about $15.
One can spend just a bit more and order the soup ($4) and main course ($12) separately in order to have a choice of cake (around $4). The truffle torte is always good as is the yogurt and blueberry cake. Or you might choose a white butter-cream cake covered in smooth marzipan icing.
A krugel (half liter) of Ottakringer beer costs about $4 and with dessert one of the excellent coffees—kleiner brauner ($2)—is recommended.
Other Diglas' attractions are the waiters, archetypes of their profession: wry, formal, unctuous, or bemused, and the exquisite atmosphere, with tiny little red velvet booths, dark wood chairs, crystal chandeliers, ivory walls and white marble table tops touched with an acceptable hue of pink.
The Diglas is recommended for dinner, dessert, breakfast - anytime, really. The only drawback is that it is almost always full, but a table is sure to free up after a few minutes wandering around.
Contact: Café Diglas 1. Wollzeile 10, tel. +43/01/512 57 65.
Rating: Quality 17/20, Value 18/20
Zum Schwarzen Kameel
Entering this elegant restaurant and import shop is like going back 100 years. The Black Camel is many things: import store, luxury restaurant, and stand-up delicatessen. The interior has oak wainscoting, tile floors and the dim lighting of a dream. Around the top of the walls a tile relief shows ships at sea laden with exotic goods from exotic lands.
The restaurant is pricey, but gets consistently stellar reviews for its top quality Austrian dishes. Those meager of purse can enjoy a light lunch or snack in the main room, while people watching and soaking up the atmosphere.
The crowd is an elegant mix of ladies in fur coats and jewels; dapperly-dressed elderly men, some with cravats; and businessmen and women from the nearby banks and offices. There are a number of counters to choose from. On the left is a delicatessen case chock full of quality salamis, prosciutti and hams, as well as salads, pickles, olives and a vast selection of appetizers and prepared dishes. Another case holds a small selection of petit fours, strudels and sliced cakes. Continuing from the main counter is a long bar facing backlit oak shelves lined with rows of distinguished liqueurs, Schnapps and aperitifs.
Right of the entrance is a counter with rows of small breads covered with different spreads, such as salmon, herring, salami, herbs, eggs, and pumpkin, all for only about $1—though you will need at least three to make up a light lunch. At the far right is the coffee and drink counter. There are a few tables at the back, but most people stand along the wooden counter that snakes its way through the room.
Black-tied waiters dart here and there taking and delivering drink and menu orders and settling bills. The atmosphere is warm, vivacious and, for those who can tolerate a little smoke, endearing. If you require further testimony as to the uniqueness of this food emporium, the Schwarzen Kammel is the only place where the city's nobility can be found eating sandwiches standing up.
Contact: Zum Schwarzen Kameel, 1, Bognergasse 5, tel +43/01/533 8125, fax +43/01/533 812510, open Monday-Saturday 8:30-midnight.
Rating: Quality 13/20, Value 15/20
Universitätsbräuhaus & Stiegl's Alte Ambulanz
These two restaurants are located in the large, park-like courtyard of the city's 19th century former hospital complex, which now houses the University of Vienna's new campus.
Despite sharing the same address, they are a bit different. The Universitätsbräuhaus, or UB, is a rustic Austrian brewpub with hearty food and good, homemade beer. The Alte Ambulanz is a stylish brewery-owned pub that offers traditional Austrian food, beer and even a few well-chosen wines.
The UBs imaginative management has made the most of its scenic location. In summer, a tent covering a large grill in the spacious courtyard is surrounded by a sea of tables. Also nearby is a small playground for children. At Christmastime, a two story wooden "manger" is constructed. On one side of the bottom half is a petting zoo and on the other is a stand serving mulled wine and sandwiches. The top floor provides a stage for folk choirs and brass bands.
The Universitätsbräuhaus offers pork Schnitzel ($9), filet of trout ($9), prime rib from bio beef ($12), and a hearty hunters plate with venison, boar, yams, lentils, and sliced dumplings ($15).
Stiegl counters with fiaker goulash (the hearty Hungarian stew fortified with a fried egg and two frankfurters, ($10), grilled spare ribs with two sauces ($16), and tricolored gnocchi with blue cheese sauce ($8).
At both places, beer is poured at about $3 for a small and $3.50 for a large.
A friendly atmosphere is sure to accompany the meals.
Contact: Universitätsbräuhaus, Campus Altes AKH, Hof 1. 9, Alser Strasse 4, tel. +43/01/409 1815, open daily 9am-2am.
Rating: Quality 13/20, Value 16/20
Contact: Stiegl's Alte Ambulanz (same address as above), tel +43/01/409 57 84, open daily 9 am-2 am.
Rating: Quality 13/20, Value 16/20
This Croatian restaurant recently opened in the Josefstadt area (8th district) and is already popular. Its name refers to the small, informal restaurants that dot the Dalmatian coast, serving good local wine and fresh-caught fish and seafood. The restaurant strives for simplicity, quality and freshness, accompanied by service that is formal yet extremely welcoming. The decor is Croatian bistro, with wicker-bottomed chairs, rustic wood tables dressed with thick white linens, and whitewashed walls sporting a few watercolors.
The day's selection of fish occupies a glass case, while an adjoining one displays the selection of hors d'oeuvres and a leg of prosciutto. The open kitchen is a treat, as the chef is very much into his work (I watched him toss about 20 bowls of potato salad with unwavering gusto).
The menu focuses on fish and a few pasta dishes. Two crowd pleasers are mussels "buzzaka" (a bargain at about $10) and grilled calamari with parsley potatoes ($12). The mussels are steamed in a broth of white wine, garlic, olive oil and parsley that's perfect for soaking up with the soft french bread.
A blackboard displays such daily specials as risotto negro (rice with cuttlefish, a Dalmatian speciality) and a fish platter for two.
We tried first courses of spinach soup ($4) and prosciutto with honey melon ($8), made memorable by the top quality cured ham. Then came the grilled fish platter for two with calamari, a pair of giant shrimp, a small sea bass, and slices of anglerfish and pikeperch, all for the low price of $45 for two persons. Accompanying were mounds of parsley potatoes and spinach. A veneer of garlic covered everything and few of the restaurant's dishes escape its wrath.
The wine list contains a short selection of Austrian and Croatian wines. Of the latter we preferred grasevina, a Riesling, over the malvazija. A complimentary and welcome glass of Croatian Schnapps came with the bill. The restaurant's only flaw—and this is a major one—is that there is no beach for an after-dinner stroll.
Rating: Quality 15/20, Value 15/20
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