Vienna’s weird & wonderful vegetarian world

Note: Normally, doesn't feature reviews of restaurants, bars or hotels; in this case, we make an exception due to the difficulties herbivores often encounter in Vienna in finding appropriate food. This articles has been adopted from the "DA News Review", the student paper of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.

By Olly Gascoigne

In two years at the DA I must have been asked literally hundreds of times why I am a vegetarian. This usually happens at diplomatic functions where, admittedly, the selection of veggie food is rather Spartan. Statements such as “I’d rather die than not eat meat,” or “if you don’t eat meat, you’re not a man,” or “meat is murder … tasty, tasty murder” are just some of the overly familiar, clichéd, and less than helpful reactions that I sometimes get in response to my non-meat eating tendencies.

Yet the same time, others try to empathise with my situation and tell me that, as a vegetarian living in Vienna I must have a really hard time finding anything at all to eat. While this may be true of your average embassy party or Balkans trip, Vienna itself has an extensive list of purveyors of fine vegetarian cuisine. The city is positively bursting with veggie restaurants of all shapes, sizes and hues. I have long harboured a desire to sing the praises of vegetarian cuisine in the DA journal, so let me introduce you to just four Viennese establishments which I have been known to frequent, eateries which I can recommend to vegetarians and card-carrying omnivores alike.

Bio Bar von Antun, Drahtgasse 3, first district

Located at the heart of the first district and open on Sundays (which is an achievement for Vienna), Bio Bar is a well known feature on the Viennese vegetarian landscape. Owned and run by a friendly Croatian family, the restaurant has probably the most extensive menu of all Vienna’s exclusively vegetarian outlets. While the presence of cevapcici on the menu certainly reflects the owners’ country of origin, other mock meat dishes to be sampled include vegetarian Wiener schnitzel, cordon bleu and pepper steak. But if fake meat is not what you are after, the exotic vegetable curry and risotto with wild rice and mushrooms are good alternatives. The only trouble is that all of this comes with a hefty price tag with most dishes priced at about 10 to 15 Euros.

Formosa, Barnabitengasse 6, sixth district

Over in the seventh district, Formosa serves mostly Asian-style food. While Bio Bar is more of a sit-down restaurant, Formosa has a distinctly fast-food feel about it. This––along with the fact that the ingredients are not organic––goes some way in explaining the more reasonable prices. Apart from lots of different types of burgers bursting with fake meat, the menu includes such bizarre highlights as vegan roast chicken and mock duck in mango sauce, two dishes which I have yet to sample myself, so let me know what they are like if you try them. Part of the restaurant is given over to a shop which continues the meat substitute theme. So if you ever find yourself in need of vegetarian lobsters or chicken drumsticks complete with artificial bones, then you know where to get them!

Rupp’s, Arbeitergasse 46, fifth district

Despite being located in a shabbier and grubbier part of the fifth district which any self-respecting DA student would normally choose to avoid, Rupp’s is an excellent spot to spend a relaxing evening enjoying the pleasures of simple yet hearty vegetarian pub food in homely surrounds. Highlights on the menu include the by now standard veggie Wiener schnitzel, as well as goulash, burgers and soups. For desert, I can recommend the vegan palatschinken and apfelstrudel. Being an Irish pub, the selection of alcoholic drinks is impressive, and there is even a whisky menu featuring over 500 types of whisky, as well as regular whisky-tasting sessions. To my mind, the fact that most of the pub is a smoke-free zone makes it even more Irish.

Landia, Ahornergasse 4, seventh district

Of all Vienna’s vegetarian restaurants, Landia is perhaps my favourite. Tucked away on Ahornergasse off Neubaugasse, the restaurant is one of those places that are very easy to miss. While Wiener schnitzel and cordon bleu are naturally on the menu, the emphasis here is rather on fresh juices and freshly prepared food, a breath of fresh air in a city seemingly devoted to the cause of fake meat. In addition to the dish of the day, the restaurant’s numerous offerings include various salads, pitas, soups and samosas, as well as lassis, cocktails, organic beer and teas. If you have a sweet tooth and/or still have room, then try the great cakes and ice cream.

As you can see from the few examples I listed above, far from being bereft of options, Vienna is every vegetarian’s paradise. If anyone wants to know more about Vienna’s weird and wonderful vegetarian world, then they are more than welcome to ask, or––better still––join me on one of my jaunts. Perhaps then more people will come to appreciate at least one of the reasons why I am a vegetarian.

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Further Reading

Official Tourism Website of Vienna