Roughly translated, a Beisl is a Viennese version of a gastropub, complete with warm and cozy interiors, hearty home-cooked food and plenty of alcohol! Visiting Vienna in the autumn gave us plenty of opportunities to do our own beisl-crawling. Booking is highly recommended for most of these places to avoid disappointment, though we only booked once (UBL) and got lucky every other time!
Below are my top six recommendations:
Situated next to the famous Café Hawelka is this charming little beisl to snuggle up in and enjoy some Austrian gastro fare. Complete with wood panelled walls, comfy seats, traditional decor, and wooden tables, this is where I tasted my first goulash in Vienna. This is also where Husband tried his first Tafelspitz. Tafelspitz is boiled prime beef served with root vegetable soup, with a side of potatoes and horseradish sauce. From reading it on the menu, it did not sound that appetising. But once I tasted it, I was a convert. The meat was soft, succulent and just fell off with a light touch of the fork. The soup, with all its flavours from the root vegetables, was warm and comforting, while the horseradish sauce gave it a nice, sharp kick. The staff at the beisl were very friendly, spoke a moderate amount of English and went out of their way to make our dining experience comfortable and enjoyable.
Located close to Stephensplatz, this is a popular chain of beisls that one must visit when in Vienna. Contrary to some opinions of being unfriendly and expensive, we actually had a pleasant time and everything was cooked very well. They don’t serve beer here, only wine, and they make some of the biggest schnitzels in the city. We arrived during a busy lunch time service and, by a stroke of luck, we were seated straightaway. However, it is best to book a table to avoid disappointment. Whilst they serve all the typical Viennese specialities, I strongly recommend ordering the schnitzel (fried meat, generally veal or pork) here.
#4 Gasthaus UBL
The first time we tried to dine in UBL, it was fully booked. So we decided to be prudent and book it for our last evening in Vienna. A stone’s throw away from Karlskirche and run by a husband-wife team, this place has a warm, friendly and a family feel to it. On the evening we visited, it was packed and everyone seemed to know everybody, which meant that this place attracts a lot of regulars. Husband tried the veal schnitzel while I had a soup starter followed by roast pork with dumplings. Both dishes were absolutely divine and perfect choices for an autumnal evening.
#3 Glacis Beisl
Tucked away behind the Museum District and Neubau is this little gem of a beisl. Take the stairs in front of MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wein). Once upstairs, cross over and walk down in front of the lift lobby and you will find yourself in the courtyard of Glacis Beisl. The décor is contemporary, modest and minimal but the food is outstanding. They had a lovely outdoor garden, which I imagine would be amazing for alfresco summer dining. But on a rainy, cold, autumnal October, we were grateful to be seated indoors, scoffing down piping hot goulash, parsley potatoes and side salad. Everything was washed down with copious amounts of red wine to warm our cockles. Service was fast which is useful as this place is very popular with the lunchtime office crowd. We both went for goulash which seemed a befitting choice considering the weather. It was deep, rich, meaty and full of flavour. Portions were substantial so we did not need any starters. Overall, it was one of the most satisfying beisl experiences we had in Vienna.
Franz is a place that we are very proud of finding, as we literally stumbled upon it. Disheartened from not getting a spot in UBL (the first time) and the hope of finding a decent place to eat, slowly ebbing away, discovering Franz was a complete stroke of luck. A relatively new entrant to the Viennese beisl scene, we were pleasantly surprised by this rather modern and trendy looking venue tucked away in a suburban location. It had a casual atmosphere, with friendly staff and a young crowd. This was the place where I tried my first schnitzel in Vienna so I will always have fond memories. But it was Husband’s Spatzle (Viennese version of mac’n’cheese) which was the winner that evening. It was creamy and cheesy – real comfort food served with a side of green salad; it’s the stuff foodie dreams are made of.
#1 Brezl Gwolb
The top spot on my list goes to this charming, underground beisl, full of candlelit medieval charm. It is one of the most romantic beisls I have been to, with cozy alcoves, fireplaces, arches, and hidden cellars. Originally it used to be a bakery famous for their pretzels (hence the name). Now it serves delicious Austrian staples like Styrian pork alongside innovative dishes like the roast chicken stuffed with feta and spinach. All served with a healthy dollop of a fun and friendly service.
Dining in Vienna is fairly expensive, so beisls are an affordable means to try authentic Austrian and Hungarian classics without burning a hole in the pocket. Portions are huge so you don’t need more than a main, a side and a drink. The vibe is charming and informal, and this is also a very good spot to mingle with the local Viennese crowd.