Finding good vegetarian food in Central and Eastern Europe is HARD. We had eaten way too much pasta and pizza by the time we got to Vienna and were in no mood for any more. Fortunately, we ended up finding some of the best vegetarian food here, along with the best-tasting coffee (it’s Vienna, after all!) Here are the spots that made it to our top 5:
1. Halle Café, Museum Quarter
This modern café is attached to an art center in the Museum Quarter, located on the first floor on an open balcony. It’s a great place to eat at during the summers, especially since it overlooks the entire Museum Quarter.
Best part? They had lots of vegetarian food options, all called out on the menu. The tomato-basil risotto was creamy, yet not too rich. It’s also a good change from the usual mushroom ones that most places serve. Plus, the tomato-basil combination makes it a great choice for a summer lunch. Try their vegetarian wrap (it’s a pretty large portion so I suggest you share) that comes stuffed with red lentils, feta, avocados, and lots of greens.
But what really stole the show was their chickpea salad. The salad comes mixed with avocados, diced cucumbers, sprouts, lots of fresh parsley and feta, and some chili. I know this sounds like a fairly basic and common salad, but it was heavenly – so fresh and so light!
Don’t miss this if you’re in Vienna!
2. Café Hawelka
Vienna is the birthplace of the coffeehouse culture, and if I had to imagine what type of café started that culture, I’d probably have thought of something very much like Hawelka. It’s cosy, dimly lit, has an antique décor with old school armchairs, and is tucked away in a little alley. It was started in 1939 by the Hawelka family that, to this day, runs the place. After World War II, Café Hawelka grew into a cultural hub, where artists and writers would meet up in the 50s and 60s. These pictures don’t do it justice, but we could feel like we had walked into a piece of history.
What was most interesting was that Hawelka has no menu! The waiter came up to us to ask us what we wanted, and looked positively puzzled when we asked for a menu. Clearly, this is one of those local secrets untouched by tourist infiltration. We asked for the different types of coffees, and were confused by all the options and customizations (White coffee? Black? Brown? Sugar? Milk?). We chose the “brown” coffee, commonly known as Mélange in Vienna.
DON’T LEAVE VIENNA WITHOUT HAVING SOME MÉLANGE COFFEE. I don’t know if it was the proportion of coffee to milk (more than a latte, but less than a cappuccino) or the taste of the coffee beans themselves, but this coffee was heavenly. I’m not much of a coffee connoisseur but even I could tell there was something different about this cuppa joe. We ended up having two cups each, and could have gone for a third if we weren’t a bit concerned about caffeine overdose! Give it a shot!
3. Café Stein
In our quest for more authentic coffeehouses, we came across a student favorite, Café Stein. So thankful our hotel didn’t have breakfast included, or else we’d never have located this vegetarian food heaven. The food here was delicious: healthy, filling, tasty and vegetarian – what more could you want? I ordered the Oriental Breakfast that comes with some ciabatta bread and lots of spreads and toppings to create your own breakfast sandwich: hummus, feta, olives, mixed greens, cucumber and tomato.
Oh and of course, make sure you get some Mélange!
4. Tewa at Naschmarkt
Naschmarkt, located in the city center, is a great open-air market with over 100 food outlets, restaurants and local produce stalls. It’s a lovely place to stroll around, sample different foods, buy local items and get some lunch in the outdoors. The variety is endless – sushi, Middle Eastern, Viennese, sandwiches etc.
We ate at Tewa (stall #682), a primarily vegetarian food spot (there were meat options too, for those of you who prefer that). It’s a bit hidden amongst all the stalls, so try to locate it by the number or its bright green color. They serve Middle Eastern food, sandwiches, bagels, mango lassis and everything in between – real comfort food. What made this meal memorable was definitely the market atmosphere!
5. Alt Wien Kaffee
If you’re looking to buy some local coffee beans (it’s Vienna, after all!), Alt Wien are pretty good roasters, located right beside Naschmarkt. They also have a small café, where you can sip on some freshly brewed coffee. The baristas were really helpful in guiding us to choose the right type of beans, and took time and effort to explain the difference between the available flavors.
The food and coffee in Vienna really were the highlights of our stay here – I’d highly recommend covering all of these spots (which we managed in 36 hours)! But, if you only have time to pick one – go for Hawelka! It’s truly unique!