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It’s hard to believe that a simple piece of meat, covered in breadcrumbs and fried to golden-brown perfection, can cause grown men to cry with joy. Let’s take a dive into the schnitzel capital of the world... and not forget the potato salad!
Each Wiener has their favourite schnitzel cook. Most of them would likely nominate their own grandmother, but for the rest of us unlucky souls who can’t claim an Austrian granny as their personal chef, we’ve got insider tips on where to find good schnitzel. It’s a pretty basic dish: a piece of meat (originally veal, but pork, turkey and chicken are all popular, too) is flattened and tenderized with a kitchen hammer and then coated with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs before fried until crispy in oil or (preferably) clarified butter. Despite its simplicity, a schnitzel is by no means a mere staple, but rather a bestselling item featured everywhere from indifferent greasy fast food joints to fine-dining establishments. Like most dishes that Austrians have claimed as their own over the centuries, the schnitzel probably wasn’t invented here – but there is just no better place in the world to get one than Vienna.
Visitors coming to Vienna by plane are welcomed by an enormous sign that advertises what must be the most famous schnitzel in town. Without any false modesty, Figlmüller claims that 1905 was “the year the schnitzel was born”, as that was when they opened their first restaurant on the picturesque Wollzeile. As it is almost impossible to get in without waiting in line or having a reservation, a second outlet was opened in 2001 on Bäckerstraße. Despite their fame, Figlmüller is far from being a mere tourist trap and their schnitzel really is one of the best out there – but it has one flaw: they use pork, which disqualifies it from being an authentic “Wiener Schnitzel”, which is exclusively made from veal…but then again, nobody is perfect, right?
Vienna’s most celebrated restaurant, the Steirereck, has a more casual second outlet right inside the beautiful Stadtpark. While mostly known for its outstanding breakfast, goulash and their 120 cheeses imported from 13 different countries, they also serve one of the best schnitzels in town: tender, airy and fried to perfection, it’s served with either potatoes fried in butter and parsley or a potato-endive salad. During the warm season, visitors can enjoy their meal on a terrace facing the Wienfluss, a sidearm from the Danube that runs through the park.
While many restaurants in Vienna claim to serve the best schnitzel in town, 99% of them rely on the exact same ingredients and cooking procedures. Concordia Schlössl – next to Zentralfriedhof, one of Europe’s largest cemeteries – gained fame for adding a little creativity to the mix by serving eleven different variations of Austria’s national dish. They became a popular destination for locals as well as tourists, despite not exactly being centrally located. Their most original variation is the New York Schnitzel – it replaces the breadcrumbs with popcorn and adds sausage, bacon, cheese and ketchup – sounds horrifying, but it’s actually rather tasty.
If you don’t mind a more down-to-earth setting, the Schnitzelwirt provides some of the best local food in town – and by that we mean schnitzel. Up to 15 different versions are available and regardless of what you go for, don’t order a starter as the portions are enormous. They stay true to their name although there are other things on the menu… but we have never seen anybody order them. As the interior is a little worn, the best time to satisfy your meat craving is during the summer when you can sit outside – also, you won’t smell like a frying pan afterwards.