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Dining in the best Vienna restaurants can be the event of the day during a stay. A dinner can last for hours or be as simple as a stop at a sausage stand—but you won't see the Viennese eating and walking down the street; they'll stay at the stand until they are finished. There is an elegance even to fast food here, so take care that you watch the people around you and "do as the Romans." For example, that mile-high plate of greens served with your Wiener schnitzel? No, it's not a challenge; those greens should be added to the bit of Wiener schnitzel you are cutting off and part of every other bite or so. Or, at least, that's what you might see Viennese girls next to you at Figlmüller doing.
Neighborhood: Innere Stadt (The Ring) Price: Expensive
One of the most important foods to try in Vienna is Tafelspitz. Plachutta is known as the best urban Vienna restaurant in which to have this country dish—and you don't want to get it wrong when you're about to eat the bone marrow out of an actual bone. There are multiple locations of Plachutta, so find out which is nearest to you and dig in. You may want to see my How to Eat Tafelspitz
guide before you go.
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Neighborhood: Innere Stadt (The Ring) Price: Expensive
Figlmüller's claim to fame is that they serve the biggest Wiener schnitzel in all of Vienna (that's what she said). There is perhaps no dish more recognizably tied to Vienna than Wiener schnitzel, but here's a little secret for you: it originated in Milan. Still, it's delicious, and a Vienna must-eat. Also, in the tradition of Viennese heurigers (wine taverns), Figlmüller has a wide selection of house-made wines available. You will find your schnitzel pairs excellently with their house rosé.
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Neighborhood: Near the Hofburg Imperial Palace Price: Expensive
As one of the best Vienna restaurants, this extravagant French room has exceptional food, a staggering array of fine wines and helpful service, not to mention a Michelin star. A wine steward will happily pair a wine with each course of your dinner, which can be a three-, five-, or even a seven-cor even seourse tasting menu. If that doesn't entice you, perhaps the image of a blue glass ceiling with white tablecloths and warm, vibrant artwork will. Either way, for a special occasion (and/or with your richest friend), definitely give RieGi a try.
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Neighborhood: North end of The Ring Price: Moderate
This white table-clothed top Vienna restaurant is located in the basement of Vienna's stock exchange, adjacent to a fine flower shop (and there are no walls between them, so though you're in a basement, the view is charming). Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you'll find moderate-to-expensive, inventive and attractively presented dishes here to delight your senses. It's not cheap, but it shouldn't be—the food here is high quality and the atmosphere is oddly intimate for the basement of a financial institution. We especially recommend Hansen for a long brunch.
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Neighborhood: The Ring, near St. Stephen's Cathedral Price: Moderate
This Vienna restaurant focuses on vegetarian food, but serves some meat dishes and also has a bar. It’s the perfect antidote to too many days of heavy Austrian food; the cuisine is light and healthy with a focus on nutrition and, of course, vegetables. However, don't let that fool you into thinking they can't do dessert—the Wrenkh folks can bring you to your knees with a pudding. This restaurant also offers three-hour cooking classes for those looking to cook with a lighter touch.
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Neighborhood: Stammersdorfer (north of The Ring and across the Danube) Price: Moderate
To truly understand the tradition of the Viennese "restaurant," one must visit a heuriger, or "wine tavern." Long ago, back when wine was cheaper than water, heurigers served food basically as a wine vehicle. As a matter of fact, the foods they were allowed to serve were highly restricted by law, and the taverns could only serve wine they made themselves—anything else would obviously be false advertising, right? To this day, a number of Austrian restaurants still make their own wine, and the Wieninger Wine Tavern is located right at the Wieninger Winery—one of the finest winemakers in Vienna. This is one of the few heurigers to be truly recognized for its food, and you'll find the long tables inside packed åwith locals.
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Neighborhood: South of The Ring, near Naschmarkt Price: Budget
If you like the idea of sausage stands but don't want to stand up, or you want to chow down with hipsters surrounded by student art, head to Xpedit Kiosk, the indoor sausage stand with a Lower East Side vibe. Their currywurst is some of the finest in town, and they're known for the inventive things they do with sausage. I particularly recommend both the currywurst and the "Bosna," for which they are most famous. As for the ingredients? They'll never tell.
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Neighborhood: NE of The Ring, near the Danube Price: Budget
This is a typical Austrian gasthaus (inn) with small prices, big portions and an I-don't-care-if-you're-American style. You'll find great Wiener schnitzel here and minced beef with mashed potatoes (Faschierter Braten mit Kartoffelpüree), as well as large tables for sharing with local strangers and very moody waiters (sometimes they're great, sometimes they're less than excited to see you). If you're looking for an authentic Viennese dining experience and don't want to spend a lot of cash, this is the spot for you.
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Neighborhood: West of The Ring Price: Budget
This student-filled music venue has especially inexpensive deals on breakfast and lunch, and is well-beloved by the edgier, college-aged Vienna Residents. You'll be impressed with their wide selection of Austrian, Italian and Arabic (yes, Arabic) cuisine with an exceptional variety of vegetarian options. Don't be afraid that "edgy" means "grungy;" the cafe is clean and bright with comfortable hardwood furniture and high ceilings, and buzzing with local students who often meet there to eat before class. The breakfast from 10AM to 12PM or 10AM to 5PM on the weekends is especially recommended.
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Neighborhood: Luegerplatz Price: Budget
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This is a comfortable Viennese cafe with an old-world mentality. Long ago, because apartments are small, the Viennese would hang out in cafes with their friends for hours, treating them much as if they were their own living rooms. The locals at Cafe Prückel observe this tradition. Service is slow but friendly, and the food caters to the Austrian palate—it may be one thing to you, but to them, it's "just like mama made." Don't expect English menus or English-speaking waiters; do expect to connect to the free Wifi and be left alone (and isn't that just what you need sometimes?).
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