Stammtisch at Café Anzengruber
When the tourists fill the top tables, the locals shrug and head back to the neighborhood
This summer, Europe was plagued with an unstable Euro, disastrous floods, and sweeps of volcanic ash that have left stranded travelers in its wake.
But this didn’t seem to stop the tourists. Armed with cameras, guidebooks, and an array of languages (rarely German), they emerged around every corner filling the tables of the city’s top restaurants, leaving the locals to shrug and go back to their Stammtisch in the neighborhood. A place like Café Anzengruber, tucked away on a side street next to the Naschmarkt, on the corner of Schleifmühlgasse and Mühlgasse, is the perfect place for a simple meal and a glass of wine on a summer evening.
A friendly, homespun Gasthaus, Café Anzengruber makes no effort to attract visitors meandering out of the nearby Naschmarkt – and it doesn’t need to. On this particular Monday, around 5 p.m., it was people from the neighborhood who filled the six or seven outside tables, exchanging greetings with friends walking by. Some were enjoying an unhurried Viertel of wine, while others, like my friend and I, sat down to share a meal.
We had come for the Wiener Schnitzel for my friend Kiersten, that vast and succulent staple of Viennese cooking that had come recommended by a friend. Sitting in the shade alongside the restaurant’s cool brick, we ordered glasses of a local Grüner Veltiner, which, true to its reputation, was a refreshing, food-friendly wine that added that little je ne sais quoi to our meal.
So Kiersten didn’t need a menu, but being a vegetarian, I consulted my options. As in many traditional Viennese restaurants, unfortunately, there were few. Unlike touristy venues that have learned to offer a variety of entrées for picky guests, small local Beisls did just fine offering a few main dishes whose reputation preceded them.
So as our waiter brought the wine and a basket filled with an assortment of fresh rolls, I decided on a simple but always satisfying gemischten Salat, and we sat back with our glasses taking in the atmosphere of the small square near us. Mopeds purred passed on the street as a couple strolled by sharing ice cream. We broke a few of the salty, appetizing rolls in half, and I dipped mine in the olive oil. But I found it bland – so I ate the rest plain.
Warming up for her meal, Kiersten began talking Schnitzel. "It’s hard to find a really good one," she told me. "Wherever I go, there’s always at least one thing that annoys me," she said. Thick breading, dry meat… "Sometimes, the whole thing just falls apart after a couple of bites." Having lived most of her life in Germany with frequent trips to Austria, I took her at her word.
So I was getting a little nervous; Kiersten had come at my invitation and I wanted her to enjoy the meal. I’d be to blame, I felt, if her standards weren’t met.
My salad arrived, and I must say, nothing beats a good gemischten Salat – cucumber, carrot, radish, cabbage, Feldsalat, topped with a light vinegary dressing. A fair-sized portion for €3.40, I dug right in. When Kiersten’s schnitzel was placed in front of her, we had to do some rearranging of dishes and glasses in order to accommodate her large portion (€9.20). I’ve found most Wiener Schnitzel look alike, their golden-brown breading often accompanied by a few potatoes with parsley and butter and a slice of lemon. For Kiersten at least, "a good coat of lemon juice is always important."
I let her take a few bites before I started in with my questions. The breading? "Buttery and crispy…excellent," she said, chewing thoughtfully. The meat? "Cooked just right. Ah, I love this," she replied in between bites. I heaved a sigh of relief.
Our waiter, Tommy, came to check on us. "Schmeckt sehr gut," we told him. He was exceptionally nice, and I passed along the regards of the friend who recommended Anzengruber. Tommy looked pleased. He smiled and asked me to return the greeting.
As we finished up our meals, it was Kiersten who was smiling. Sitting back in her chair with her almost emptied glass in hand, she beamed: "That was one well-rounded Schnitzel!" Not quite English, but I knew what she meant.
The €26 for two was a decent check, we thought, reasonable although perhaps not completely representative as one of us was a vegetarian who ate lightly. But the ambiance was free; we would have loved to linger for a second glass of wine and dessert, but she had a flight to catch.
Did I mention we were tourists ourselves? Turns out not all the favorite local spots in Vienna can be kept secret in the summer.
4., Schleifmühlgasse 19
(01) 587 82 97