I’d hate to be a vegetarian in Austria, where meat features heavily on every menu – it can be rather daunting to be constantly faced with slabs of roast pork, huge bratwurst sausages or goulash made with beer. Most of the food we ate in Salzburg was tasty, rib-sticking stuff majoring on roast meat with potatoes or dumplings, and to be honest my husband could think of nothing finer, washed down with a large beer. At it’s best this style of Austrian cuisine can seem like a slap-up Sunday lunch every day, but after a week of it you’ll probably be longing for a light green salad to counteract all that heavy richness.
Traditional Austrian dishes
If you want a restaurant in Salzburg that serves traditional Austrian fare, you can find it in the pub style restaurants and Gasthaus such as the Sternbräu restaurant in the centre of the old town with 14 different restaurant rooms, each with a different decor but all serving traditional Austrian dishes. The restaurant was originally a brewery and even Mozart apparently enjoyed a meal or two there. We were recommended some typical Salzburg dishes such as Tafelspitz – boiled beef with horseradish sauce, Bierfleisch, a goulash made with beef cooked in a beer sauce or the roast pork knuckle served with dumplings. My other restaurant recommendation is Gasthas Kuglhof, near the airport, which is the sort of place the locals go when they want a hearty meal in a convivial setting, and we were staying conveniently close at Hotel Zur Post, who gave us the recommendation. The surroundings are a little more rural and there’s a nice garden at the back to sit outside in summer.
Street food in Salzburg
If you’re lucky enough to hit the streets on a festival or holiday, you may come across a tent with a brass band playing and tables set outside with food on sale to soak up all the beer, which of course is the main focus! You normally order your beer (my favourite is the weissbier) from the dirndl wearing waitresses with the leather wallets passing to and fro taking orders, who you pay directly. Sometimes you can also order your food from them too, or go and get it direct from the stall. We tried the bratwurst sausage with sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) and a roll with mustard or ketchup on the side. Personally I found it a bit dry and preferred the other Austrian favourite, the Wiener Schnitzel that we had at the Mayday festival in St Wolfgang, served with a warm potato salad on the side and some berry relish. It was a bit more classy than the bratwurst, but then St Wolfgang is a pretty classy kind of place, set beside the lake with the picturesque painted houses.
For something lighter try the fish
If you can’t face another plate of roast meat, then look out for the fish on the menu. It’s usually a river fish served with lighter vegetables such as seasonal asparagus, that I ate for dinner at the lovely hotel Im Weissen Rössl at St Wolfgang where we stayed overlooking Lake Wolfgang.
If you’re looking for food in Salzburg that will offer more of a gastronomc experience than something to soak up the gallons of beer, then I highly recommend Hangar 7 on the edge of Salzburg Airfield. The flagship restaurant Ikarus, where they invite a different international chef each month to create a guest menu, is a place to go for the culinary experience, but we ate at the Mayday Bar which is more informal and has a interesting concept of Smart Food. You can choose from three different set menus, either brain food, mood food or beauty food where you try a succession of light dishes prettily served in glasses. This was much more my scene, with an artfully arranged pile of salad here, a froth of sauce there and a fruit smoothie to wash it down, safe in the knowledge that it was all super-healthy and making you smarter, happier or better looking.
But what about the Sacher Torte?
If you’re ready for something a little sweeter, you can pass many a happy hour sitting in a cafe with a coffee and a slice of cake, such as the boozy, chocolate Sacher Torte, made famous by the Sacher Hotel. You can still try it there sitting on the terrace overlooking the river, but I’d also recommend the Steinterrasse on the 7th floor of the Hotel Stein where they also serve it with a great view over the river and the old town. Another traditional favourite is the Apfelstrudel or the plum cake we tried that is topped with fruit and a crumble topping. The most famous Salzburg desert is the Salzburg Nockerl, a sweet souffle of eggs and sugar and Topfenknödel with puffed pastry balls filled with cream cheese.
Don’t forget to bring home some chocolate Mozartkugeln
In Salzburg it’s hard to avoid the chocolate Mozart balls or Mozartkugeln that are sold in every gift shop and on every street corner. The most ubiquitous are the Mirabell brand, that are sold wherever you see the cut out Mozart boards. My husband and son even developed a competition to see which of them could spot the most of these Mozart cut outs. Most chocolate shops sell the Mozartkugeln singly so that you can taste before you invest in huge quantities to bring home as gifts. If you’re a chocolate connoisseur, I’d go for the Fürst brand that are made with high quality chocolate and marzipan and buy the cheaper Mirabell brand for your colleagues in the office who won’t know the difference!
Where you’ll find the Austrian food we recommend
- Sternbräu – a restaurant in Salzburg with 14 different rooms and 3 garden courtyards all serving traditional Austrian dishes in the heart of the old town
- Gasthaus Kuglhof is a traditional inn in a rural setting close to Salzburg airport and 5 minutes walk from Hangar 7
- Try your Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher where it was invented, or at the Steinterrasse on the 7th floor of the Stein Hotel, where they also serve great ice cream sundaes and cocktails as the sun goes down.
- Hangar 7 is an aeronautical and motor museum on the edge of Salzburg airport and a well known food destination, with the top class Ikarus restaurant and the Mayday bar where we tried the informal Smart food menu.
- Look for the Fürst Mozartkugeln exclusively in their four Konditorei around Salzburg – this article on Mozart and the Chocolate factory gives you a run down of the different brands of Mozartkugeln
- While in Salzburg we stayed at Hotel Zur Post, a comfortable, family run Gasthaus just outside the old town area of Salzburg.
- While in St Wolfgang we stayed at the gorgeous small luxury hotel, Im Weissen Rössl set right beside Lake Wolfgang.
More good things from Salzburg
Visitor Information for Salzburg
For more information about things to do in Salzburg, visit the Official Salzburg Tourism website
For more information about Holidays in Austria visit the Austrian Tourism Website and follow them on Twitter @Austria_UK
My thanks to the Austria National Tourism Office UK for sponsoring our trip to Salzburg and Wolfgangsee
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