"Austrian cuisine" is not a "well known cuisine" at all - this term is hardly ever used. Usually people start questioning Austria's cuisine only when a visit is planned. Well, Austrian cuisine is seldom used in the world of international cooking. Usually experts relate much better to the term "Wiener Küche" or "Viennese cuisine". Why is that? Does the rest of Austria not know how to cook?
Well - they do! The Austrian kitchen actually became internationally known during the Viennese Congress in 1814. Nobility, statesmen, politicians...the whole of Europe gathered in Vienna to decide on new borders and countries on the aftermath of the Napoleon Wars. This was when the "Viennese cuisine" was founded: it originated from a mix of culinary styles of the many countries which were joined in the Austrian Hungarian Empire. Especially Bohemia's and Italy's culinary styles influenced our kitchen, as well as the Hungarian expertise. It is from this time that Vienna's delicious cooking style was introduced in other regions of Austria - and well accepted. Till today the Austrian Cuisine is the called "Viennese Cuisine".
A typical meal in Austria includes 2 to 7 courses - depending on how "important" your guest, or the occasion is. You will usually get an appetizer (Vorspeise), followed by a soup (Suppe) and the main course (Hauptspeise), including side dishes like potatoes and salad (Beilagen). The meal is rounded off by a dessert (either a cake or any baked specialty made with flour ("Mehlspeise"). So make sure you are hungry when you go out to a restaurant for a typical Austrian meal!
Sweet Dishes as Dessert & Main Course
The Vienna cuisine is internationally really well known for its sweet dishes. Like in the Czech or Bohemian kitchen sweet meals ("Mehlspeisen") are often served as main course.This is very typical for this region, in fact - there is to our knowledge no other region in the world where this is done. Sweet omelets and soufflés, strudel with cottage cheese or fruit filling, potato dumplings with poppy seeds, jam and nut fillings or sauces, Kaiserschmarrn (kind of a torn omelet, see picture), etc. The portions are so substantial and delicious that they will easily satisfy your hunger and be a good proper meal - it only depends whether you have a sweet tooth! Many Austrians help the sugar overdose by having a soup as an entree and then continue with the sugary main course...keep this in mind, it helps!
Let's not forget the world of Austrian pastries, tarts and pralines that is out there: one of the most famous examples is the Sachertorte (see picture), but there's also similar creations like the Malakofftart, Linzercake or Esterhazyslice. Some delicious cakes to choose from are: the Guglhupf, or a jam filled "Roulade" (swiss rolls) - they are equally common. These delights are mostly eaten with the afternoon coffee. The good thing is that you can get all of these cakes in the traditional Viennese coffee houses, when you take a break and need a real treat.
Starters & Soups
In Austria you will find whatever you wish - given that you are carnivorous. Until very recently, vegetarians had a very hard time finding any food at all in Austria. This changed in recent years, but traditional meals almost always include at least small amounts of meat.
Usually you start with a classic, clear soup (bouillon) with some delicious supplement, as well as nicely chopped chives for decoration: these "soup additions" could be Fritattensuppe (thinly cut crêpe), Kaiserschöberlsuppe (little pieces of biscuit dough with herbs), various dumplings such as Leberknödel (liver dumpling, see picture) or strudels with various fillings. The real original Viennese soup is the "Wiener Suppentopf" including noodles, small pieces of stewed beef, root vegetables, peas and pieces of sausage.
Regarding main courses you probably have heard of our famous Wiener Schnitzel (see picture), a breaded piece of veal or pork that is fried and served with buttered potatoes and parsley, a slice of lemon to be squeezed on the meat and cranberry jam.
But there is more...Stewed meats are delicious and very well liked - the best one is probably the Tafelspitz (see picture): a certain piece of beef, traditionally served with horseradish in apple, parsley sauce, potatoes and young beans with dill. If you are really daring, go for the "Beuschl" (see picture)! This is an interesting one: it mainly consists of trachea and lung being boiled in bouillon, cut into stripes and marinated - it is then served in a stew, nearly always accompanied by "Serviettenknödel", a kind of bread dumpling - sounds a bit daring, but it is absolutely delicious! And if you are into trying it all...a definite must when you are in town.
For good local cooking try the "Wiener Beisl", traditional Viennese restaurants where regional Austrian food is served and the atmosphere is typically Viennese. We have put up our recommendations in the restaurant section (check it out!). Both simple and more refined "Beisls" can be found all over the city.
Austrian adults favor drinking either beer, wine or "Sekt" (sparkling wine) with their meal; fruit juices, soft drinks like fruit flavored waters and wine spritzers are also favorites among the younger generation (The Heurigen (wine taverns) is a good place to get them!).