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Austria - Food and Drink
Shops are closed on Sundays. There are rare exceptions, such as the shop outlets at petrol stations and small supermarkets at railway stations, which may help in a food shortage crisis, but you are generally advised to think ahead.
Debit cards (“Bankomatkarte”) and credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants, especially if they are part of a chain. Small shops in villages may not accept cards, but this is increasingly rare.
Breakfast is usually served between 8am and 10am, although people preparing for work at home will eat breakfast earlier.
Lunch is generally served between 11.30am and 2pm. Restaurants and cafes in large towns and cities are likely to remain open and serve food all day.
Austria has its own distinct food specialities, which still remain popular choices in inns and taverns.
Wiener Schnitzel is traditionally made from veal, but today it is often made with pork, chicken or turkey meat. Potato salad and redcurrant jelly or fries and ketchup will be offered as an accompaniment. There are creative versions of the traditional menu, such as schnitzel made with cornflakes batter.
Austria is famous for Apfelstrudel, a sweet dessert of paper thin pastry sheets, apple and optional raisins. It is often served with hot vanilla sauce.
Whilst the chocolate cake Sachertorte is very well known, Austria provides a wide range of quality cakes including Esterhazy-Schnitte (layered cake with curd filling), Rehrücken (more chocolate cake) and Topfentascherl (pastry filled with curd).
Potato dumplings called “Knödel” are served with roasted pork, vegetables and sauce for a traditional Sunday dinner. The bread dumplings, “Semmelknödel” (or “Serviettenknödel” if not ball shaped) are traditionally served with soft boiled beef or ragout.
Sweet dumplings are filled with fruit such as apricot or plums, poppy seeds or curd.
To make “Tafelspitz” a big chunk of beef is boiled in a vegetable broth until it is tender and soft. The root vegetables you boil and serve with it are complemented by added bread dumplings.
Spätzlel is a traditional dish; long and thin, it looks like pasta. Spätzle will most likely be fried with bacon, onion and cheese, and served in a small cast-iron dish.
There are different kinds of Nockerl; one is ‘Eiernockerl‘, little dough balls fried with eggs and flavoured with fresh chives. Saltzberg Nockerl is a sweet soufflé pudding.
Many traditional Austrian soups are made up of a clear meat broth, often left over from making other dishes. They are topped with a choice of “Frittaten” (long slices of thin pancakes), “Grießnockerl” (little semolina dumplings) and “Kaspressknödel” (fried dumplings made of bread and cheese).
Traditionally, late night street food of hot sausage was served from well lit street stands, especially in Vienna. They still exist, though in smaller numbers, and offer such items as the cheese filled “Käsekrainer” and meat sausage “Leberkäse”.
With a significant Turkish population now living in Vienna, shops offering döner kebab sandwiches are more likely to be found late at night. The same shops will offer a range of Dürum sandwiches which use flatbread rather than sandwich bread, including the vegetarian Falafel Dürum.
Hungary was once part of the Austrian Empire; part of its legacy is that the Hungarian dish Palatschinken remains very popular in Austria. Palatschinken are thin pancakes or crepes, filled with apricot jam or scoops of vanilla ice-cream, and folded. A similar sweet dish is Kaiserschmarrn: chopped up fluffy pancakes served with apple sauce and plenty of sifted icing sugar.
Another treat enjoyed since the Austrian Empire are Bohemian sweet yeast dough rolls called Buchteln, filled with jam or curd and baked in a large pan so that they stick together. Traditionally they are filled with plum jam called “Powidl” and served with hot vanilla sauce.
In the Austrian Alps a popular dish of called “Brettljause”. It is a selection of cold cuts, cheese, spreads and pickled vegetables served on a wooden board, accompanied by a basket of bread.
International cuisine has been welcomed by the Austrian public. In areas with a large enough population to support a restaurant, you are likely to find places serving Italian or Asian food.
Coffee has been enjoyed in Austria longer than in most other European countries. At home people drink filter coffee, but a whole range of coffees including "Verlängerter", "Einspänner", "Brauner" and"Kapuziner" (Cappuccino) will be offered at the many cafes in each area. The "Melange" coffee, sometimes called "Kaisermelange", is popular in Vienna. A cafe is a chance to sit in elegant surroundings drinking a cup of quality coffee and taking in the world, rather than a venue to grab a takeaway drink and rush away from. A glass of still water will accompany the coffee, often with a square of chocolate, to enhance the flavour. Many sweet items such as pastries and cakes are available to purchase in the cafes.
Alcohol is an important part of Austrian social life. Surveys suggest more alcohol per head is consumed in Austria than in almost all other OECD countries. There is a wide range of alcoholic drinks available, and when eating in a tavern or restaurant the waiter should be able to recommend a good beverage to accompany your meal.
Wine has been grown in the Southern and Eastern areas of Austria since Celtic times. In the 20th century the reputation of the country’s wine suffered as producers strove for quantity over quality, culminating in the scandal of anti-freeze liquid being routinely added to the wine of several Austrian vineyards. Since then the small vineyards have worked hard to produce wines praised for quality and innovation. Red wine production in the country has grown, whilst white wines range from the acidic and refreshing Grüner Veltliner to the sweet dessert wines of Burgenland, such as Spätlese.
In the Western area of Austria around Saltzberg, the climate was too cold for grapes but ideal for hop production, and thus led to the beer industry thriving in the region. The Weizenbier and Hefeweizen beers vary in depth of colour, but are served in elegant glasses specific to that drink; they are known as white beers and there are many regional variations. There are light lagers following the Bavarian tradition, called Märzen. The unfiltered beers called Zwickelbeer are cloudy. Bockbier has 10% alcohol content, developing out of ancient times when monks made up for the lack of food during lent by drinking strong beer.
Beer will normally be served in the Pfiff measure of 0.2 litres, the Seiter measure of 0.3 litres, or the Halbe (in Vienna, the Krügerl) measure of 0.5 litres. It is possible to find the Mass measure of 1 litre, or the Stiefel, or Doppelliter, measure of 2 litres, but these are not mainstream quantities available to dining customers.
The national liquor of Austria is Schnapps. It is legal to distill schnapps at home for domestic consumption, but most is produced by farmers and by schnappsbrenners (specialist schnapps distillers) whose bottles are sold to the public ready for an after dinner tipple. There are a large variety of fruits and berries used, commonly plums ("Zwetschken") but also apricots ("Marille") or rowan tree berry ("Vogelbeere"). The liquid is distilled either once (producing 40% proof alcohol) or twice (producing 80% proof alcohol).
Red Bull is a surprising success story of Austria’s drinks industry. Dietrich Mateschitz was on a business trip to Hong Kong in the 1980s when he noticed the Japanese interest in energy drinks was spreading. He founded a company with a Thai business partner who had experience in producing energy drinks, and they launched a drink which has become popular all over Europe but whose biggest sales remain in Austria. Dietrich Mateschitz has become one of Austria’s wealthiest individuals, but continues to live in Salzburg, has kept the Red Bull international quarters in the country, and his extensive philanthropic work benefits Austrian schools, universities and sports teams.
In the 1970s, the dairy and fruit drink Lattella was available in passion fruit and mango flavours, but today the brand offers a whole variety of flavours to choose from. They can be purchased in cartons.
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