When dining out, you'll get the best value at simpler restaurants. Most post menus with prices outside. If you begin with the Würstelstand (sausage vendor) on the street, the next category would be the Imbiss-Stube, for simple, quick snacks. Many meat stores serve soups and a daily special at noon; a blackboard menu will be posted outside. Many cafés also offer lunch. Gasthäuser are simple restaurants or country inns. Austrian hotels have some of the best restaurants in the country, often with outstanding chefs. In the past few years the restaurants along the autobahns, especially the chain Rosenberger, have developed into very good places to eat (besides being, in many cases, architecturally interesting). Some Austrian chain restaurants offer excellent value for the money, such as the schnitzel chains Wienerwald and Schnitzelhaus and the excellent seafood chain Nordsee. You can also grab a quick sandwich made from a wide variety of scrumptious whole-wheat breads at bakery chains such as Anker, Felber, and Mann. With migration from Turkey and Northern Africa on the rise, thousands of small kebab restaurants have set up shop all over Austria, offering both Middle Eastern fare and sometimes pizza at a reasonable rate. The latest fad is the Asian noodle lunchbox, available at many sausage vendors.
In all restaurants be aware that the basket of bread put on your table isn't free. Most of the older-style Viennese restaurants charge €0.70–€1.25 for each roll that is eaten, but more and more establishments are beginning to charge a per-person cover charge—anywhere from €1.50 to €5—which includes all the bread you want, plus usually an herb spread and butter. Tap water (Leitungswasser) in Austria comes straight from the Alps and is some of the purest in the world. Be aware, however, that a few restaurants in touristy areas are beginning to charge for tap water.
Austrians are manic about food quality and using agricultural techniques that are in harmony with the environment. The country has the largest number of organic farms in Europe, as well as some of the most stringent food-quality standards. An increasing number of restaurants use food and produce from local farmers, ensuring the freshest ingredients for their guests.
Meals and Mealtimes
Besides the normal three meals—Frühstück (breakfast), Mittagessen (lunch), and Abendessen (dinner)—Austrians sometimes throw in a few snacks in between, or forego one meal for a snack. The day begins with an early continental breakfast of rolls and coffee. Gabelfrühstück, normally served a little later in the morning, is a slightly more substantial breakfast with eggs or cold meat. Lunch is usually served between noon and 2, although in some country districts where work, particularly agricultural, might start very early in the morning, you will see people eating lunch from 11 am. An afternoon Jause (coffee with cake) is taken at teatime. A light supper would traditionally be eaten between 6 and 9, but tending toward the later hour, and dinner in the evening, as the main meal of the day, is increasingly the norm. Many restaurant kitchens close in the afternoon, but some post a notice saying durchgehend warme Küche, meaning that hot food is available even between regular mealtimes. In Vienna some restaurants go on serving until 1 and 2 am, a tiny number also through the night. The rest of Austria is more conservative.
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Reservations and Dress
Regardless of where you are, it's a good idea to make a reservation if you can. In some places it's expected. We mention reservations specifically only when they are essential (there's no other way you'll ever get a table) or when they are not accepted. For popular restaurants, book as far ahead as you can (often 30 days), and reconfirm as soon as you arrive. (Large parties should always call ahead to check the reservations policy.) We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
Austrian wines range from unpretentious Heurigen whites to world-class varietals. Look for the light, fruity white Grüner Veltliner, intensely fragrant golden Traminer, full-bodied red Blaufränkischer, and the lighter red Zweigelt. Sparkling wine is called Sekt, some of the best coming from the Kamptal region northwest of Vienna. Some of the best sweet dessert wines in the world (Spätlesen) come from Burgenland. Austrian beer rivals that of Germany for quality. Each area has its own brewery and local beer, to which people are loyal. A specialty unique to Austria is the dark, sweet Dunkles beer. Look for Kaiser Doppelmalz in Vienna. Schnapps is an after-dinner tradition in Austria; many restaurants offer several varieties, and it is not uncommon for the management to offer a complimentary Schnapps at the end of a meal. One of the most popular is that made from the William pear, and given the nickname, a "little Willy."