No Strudel Nor Schnitzel: Kosher-Style and Gluten-Free in Austria
As travelers plan their winter holiday escapes, Austria and its twinkling Christmas markets and snow-capped mountains may seem like an ideal vacation. I went with my partner for the holidays last year. We toured Vienna, the rolling hills of Burgenland, and spent a week skiing in Kitzbühel. If you plan to visit Austria in December, you will have a lovely time.
In a season of feasting and drinking, what are you going to eat? Furthermore, what are you going to eat if you have dietary restrictions in a country whose typical meals include some combination of bread, cheese, and pork?
As you can imagine, a country whose staple dish is wienerschnitzel, a breaded cutlet made either with veal or schweinfleish, or pork, caused a bit of consternation for me.
I can’t eat gluten for health reasons, and I don’t eat pork for religious reasons. I don’t keep strictly kosher, but I was raised without mixing milk and meat or pork in my diet, and have maintained that into adulthood. As you can imagine, a country whose staple dish is wienerschnitzel, a breaded cutlet made either with veal or schweinfleish, or pork, caused a bit of consternation for me.
For those who do not eat pork, your best bet is to find halal restaurants, which are prevalent in Vienna and can be found in most major cities. We went to Kent. Chicken, steak, and veal are available, though less widely, especially at restaurants offering traditional fare. Nobody goes to Austria to eat French food. Or fish.
It’s relatively easy to be vegetarian in Austria. A typical breakfast consists of bread, jam, and cheese, and you can always order spaetzele (egg noodle dumplings) and kraut. If you are content to eat dairy, there are plenty of options. Fresh vegetables are not often found on menus, as relishes and slaws are more common.
Eating gluten-free proved much more challenging. The European Union requires restaurants to label menu items that are gluten-free, which proved helpful—but not when the best alternative was a pork sausage, as it usually was. One of the best meals I had in the ski village of Kitzbühel was a cheese fondue where the Goldene Gams Restaurant at Hotel Tiefenbrunner also allowed me to substitute potatoes for bread.
We also ate at a Relais & Chateaux restaurant at the Hotel Tennerhof in Kitzbühel, which also serves superb gluten-free bread, entrees, and desserts upon request. However, the Tennerhof is extremely pricey, and we would not have dined there had we not been gifted the meal by a family member.
If you have a single dietary restriction, it is relatively easy to eat in Austria. However, if you have two, I would strongly recommend going to a local supermarket to pick up some staples
Regarding desserts, I got very lucky that the Tennerhof was able to make me a gluten-free Sachertorte, the chocolate cake originally made at the Hotel Sacher and a Viennese signature dessert. Otherwise, between apple strudel and other local delicacies, the gluten intolerant will sadly miss out.
If you have a single dietary restriction, it is relatively easy to eat in Austria. However, if you have two, I would strongly recommend going to a local supermarket to pick up some staples. Gluten-free bread is available in city supermarkets, and will last you a few days.
Fortunately, during the holidays, glühwein (mulled wine) and roasted chestnuts can be found throughout the holiday markets and slopes, making for excellent cold-weather snacks–especially for those eating kosher and gluten-free in Austria!
Photo credit: Taku