Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Cafe Vienna Takes Me All the Way Back...to Summer

Cafe Vienna 
2523 N. Clark, Chicago

What I ate: Frittaten Soup, Wiener Schnitzel, Cherry Cheese Streudel, Apple Streudel Tea

My Chicago Dining World Tour, which has taken me to area restaurants representing over 40 different ethnic cuisines in 2013, has been gratifying in myriad ways.

I've discovered many excellent restaurants, eaten much great food, savored many new tastes, enjoyed the company of several friends & relatives and have had a lot of fun sharing my experiences through blog posts such as this one.

And as someone who has had the pleasure of traveling to many wonderful places, several of my "Sethnic Excursions" have stoked memories of various destinations I've visited, from Stockholm to Paris to St. Petersburg (Russia) to Ireland and Israel. (Other dining jaunts have stirred a desire to get to places I've yet to, like Greece, Jamaica and Costa Rica.)

This summer I went on a wonderful trip to Europe, including London, Krakow (Poland), Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary) and Paris. While I had been to London and Paris multiple times in the past, Krakow, Vienna and Budapest were all new, and amazing in different ways. (I had posted on-the-go recaps here; the first post of the trip was on June 12, 2013. And you can see photos here.)

In Vienna, I ate Wiener Schnitzel at a restaurant called Plachutta, which was across the street from my hotel. Next to the restaurant was another called Vapiano, an Italian eatery with locations in many worldwide cities.

Recently, in Chicago I ate Wiener Schnitzel at a restaurant called Cafe Vienna, which is just a few doors from a Vapiano.

As the great Yogi Berra famously said, it was "like déjà vu all over again."

Although there are seemingly other Austrian restaurants in and around Chicago, most appear to be just as much German in their menu offerings. This cultural cuisine crossover is entirely understandable, but as I would soon be venturing to a specifically German place (Laschet's Inn, next up to be spotlighted here), I wanted to find somewhere that might seem more authentically Austrian.

Though from its name Cafe Vienna seemed like a good pick, in mentioning it to two friends who live nearby, they were unfamiliar with it, at least by that moniker.

My friend Paolo said he goes there frequently, but referred to it as the Austrian Bakery (its true former name) and said he'd never seen anyone eating a meal there, despite me noting Wiener Schnitzel and other entrees on an online menu.

On a Saturday evening, my friend Dave met me at Cafe Vienna, a short walk from his home and, for me, a bit longer walk—on a bitter cold night—to a play I was seeing at TimeLine Theatre.

Dave was only looking for dessert (he wound up having a fruit bowl) but I was there for dinner...and, of course, something to write about.

Especially given the chill in my bones, I started with Frittaten Soup = Traditional Austrian soup made with savory beef vegetable broth; topped with sliced crepes. This wasn't something I recall noting while in Vienna, but it was really tasty and the sliced crepes added a nice touch.

For a beverage, I opted for hot tea. And while tea connoisseurs may deem it heresy to have a sweet tea with an entree, given the venue Apple Streudel Tea sounded not only good, but rather appropriate.

I believe this was just the second time in my life I had eaten Wiener Schnitzel, albeit just about 5 months since the last time.

With “Wiener” being German for “Viennese,” the menu selection at Cafe Vienna is described as Pan-fried, breaded veal served with lingonberry sauce and your choice of side.

I chose Roasted Parsley Potatoes as my side, and should note that the soup was included in the entree price.

Wiener Schnitzel isn't something I would eat every week, which is undoubtedly a good thing for my cholesterol.

The version at Cafe Vienna didn't seem any lesser than what I had at Plachutta, with the lingonberry sauce being a welcome accompaniment. (I've only had it previously with Swedish meatballs, at Ikea and in Stockholm.) Though I really didn't see any sign of parsley, the roasted potatoes were very good as well.

Although the meat in Wiener Schnitzel is veal, the consistency with the breading isn't so unlike that of a Breaded Steak Sandwich at Ricobene's, a Chicago institution on 26th St.

I was sufficiently filled to not really need dessert, and don't think I could have handled a Sacher Torte (chocolate cake, which I had in Vienna
at both Hotel Sacher and Cafe Demel, who each claim to have invented it). Although it is on the menu at Cafe Vienna, they were out of it by the time of my dinner around 6:30pm.

So I went with a Cherry Cheese Streudel, which was a good bit lighter yet still rather enjoyable. It wasn't as good as the Apple Streudel I had at the Kunsthistorisches (Art) Museum in Vienna—although Paolo raves about Cafe Vienna's apple streudel—but, along with the rest of the meal, it helped stir sweet memories of traipsing around Vienna.

All those many, uh, weeks ago.

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