by Kylina Matteoli
Wilkommen aus Ӧsterreich! (Welcome to Austria!) This week we discover the classical beauty of Wien (Vienna). From the creative compositions of Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart to the original masterpieces of Gustav Klimt, Vienna offers many artistic treasures for you to experience and see during your visit here. And speaking of artistic masterpieces, let’s not forget about the delicious food. This is the land of café und küchen (coffee and cake) after all. And better yet, let’s discover the vegan options of Austria’s delectable delights.
No visit to Vienna is complete without dining at a café, and for my first pick I recommend Harvest Café Bistro. This vegan bistro offers daily-changing dishes of western cuisine. So, to be completely honest, the main courses and appetizers weren’t anything too special. Was it good? Yes, but the dishes offered here could’ve been made at restaurants in my hometown. There wasn’t anything in particular about it that screamed authentic Viennese cuisine. For example, I had the garden burger with chips, salsa, and guacamole. You may ask, why am I recommending this place then? Well, firstly, it’s very affordable and conveniently located in the city center. And sometimes when travelling abroad, you crave simple classics you’re already familiar with. But most importantly, I recommend this place for its amazing desserts! All the cakes, gelatin confections, and pastries here are 100% vegan and 100% delicious. Just look at these amazing cakes!
I ordered the raspberry beret which is a raspberry gelatin confection on top of a thin granola-graham-cracker-inspired crust. Think of it like raspberry Jell-O on top of a cheesecake crust. Gelatin is one of those pesky ingredients where a lot of times it’s hard to discern whether it’s from an animal or plant source, since most labels don’t relay that information. So, to have a gelatin dessert was such a nice treat that reminded me of eating a more sophisticated version of the Jell-O I ate as a child on a hot summer evening. There are two things to consider before coming here: this place is cash only (as many cafes in the city are) and the hours vary from day to day. I’ve included directions using the underground as well as the café’s hours for you.
After eating lunch/brunch here, I recommend going to one of the many free gardens in the city, especially if you are travelling when the flowers are in bloom. They usually surround the palaces in the city, such as the Belvedere Palace, which is an 18th century baroque palace housing middle ages to contemporary art, including a sizeable Klimt collection. Though entrance to the museum does cost a small fee, access to the gardens in completely free. Or, across town, you can visit the Schӧnbrunn Palace and gardens which are equally as beautiful.
My next recommended restaurant is, yes, another café. Luckily for coffee drinkers, there are no shortages of cafes in Vienna and luckily for us vegans there are plenty of cafes serving vegan options. Makro 1 is the epitome of a cute European café. It is tucked away into a courtyard off the street with a little garden and patio set up for people to dine. When you get off the trolley and walk down this quaint cobblestone alley, you see the vines and trees clinging to the walls of the neighboring buildings that enclose the courtyard. The surrounding lush greenery invites you to take a seat at one of the patio tables. After a minute of taking in the beautiful, quintessentially European courtyard you begin looking through their organic, vegan menu.
This little restaurant serves daily plates of vegan meals that change with organic seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as, you guessed it, vegan cakes. While I was here, I ordered the daily plate which was a lentil, rice, and seasonal vegetable platter consisting of bell peppers, onions, summer squash, zucchini, and kale. I find that while I travel, I often find myself ordering a lot of fried food (*ahem* fries) since it typically tends to be some of the only vegan food at certain restaurants. So, after a while of eating fried food, I love to enjoy a beautiful plate of fresh vegetables that are wonderfully seasoned with herbs and spices. And this place delivered just that – a refreshing and delicious, healthy meal. And for dessert, I ordered their cake of the day which was a vegan almond pie. I had never had an almond pie before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But man was I glad I ordered it. It had subtle hints of coffee and amaretto in the fluffy-cheesecake-like-filling with a buttery and flaky crust. It was simply divine and makes me wish this dessert would make its debut here in the US. For a vegan dessert, it seriously competes with the local, hundred-year-old Konditerais (bakeries) in the city, that’s how delicious it is.
The one and only downside to this place is that it is closed on weekends, so make sure to consider that in your travels. And after eating at this café, I recommend checking out the city in a place that might not seem like an obvious tourist destination. If you are a book lover, I highly, highly recommend visiting the National Library where there are collections dating back hundreds of years ago. My Favorite part was the State Hall, which is a beautiful 18th century library with oak book shelves with gold trimming and baroque architecture shaping the room. And if you love the smell of old books, then this is the place for you.
Places to Eat:
- Harvest Café Bistro
- Open Mon-Wed 11:00am-5:00pm, Thu-Fri 11:00am-12:00am, Sat-Sun 10:00am-12:00am. Closed Wed. Accepts reservations. Cash Only. Underground Station Nestroyplatz, Line U1
- Makro 1
- Open Mon-Fri 9:00am-4:00pm. Food is served 11:30am-2:30pm. Closed on weekends. Non-smoking. Cash Only. Underground Station Schwedenplatz, Line U1, U4
Places to See:
- The National Library
- The Belvedere Palace
- Schӧnbrunn Palace and Gardens
Here is another vegan restaurant in the city that I didn’t get the chance to visit. But with good reviews online, I’m sure you’ll be in good hands at this amazing restaurant.
- Vegan Taiwan/Chinese restaurant. Offers mock meats, tofu, and vegetable dishes. Has a lunch buffet. Ask for the English menu. Non-smoking. Directions: U3 to Landstrasse station, go Landstasse to Invalidenstarsse to Ungargasse then take street car or walk down Ungargasse. Open Wed-Sun 11:30am-3:30pm, Wed-Sun 5:00pm-8:00pm.
Photos courtesy of Kylina Matteoli and HappyCow