5 Rules for Dining Out in Vienna

Vienna is a city of rules. If you don’t do something right, you will be told. They may start off politely and ask what language they should upbraid you in, but then be prepared. My husband assures me that no, they’re not really yelling. It’s just the language. But if you don’t want the typical tourist experience, and you’d like to enjoy a dinner without tears or disappointment, then follow these five tips.

1. Take Your Time

The food here is supposed to be experienced. So, rather than the typical eat and leave before the kids go sideways, be prepared to spend a few hours at a restaurant. You’re supposed to eat slow, and talk a lot (think about how long those German words are!) and taste your food. Bring some crafts or coloring for the kids, and know that you may be there a while. Oh, and order wine. 

2. Reserve or Negotiate

“Mommy,” Squirrel said to me, as we passed an empty table with a small sign on it, “I know we’re in Austria because that table is reserved,” which sums up dining in Vienna. Don’t be surprised if you walk into a nearly empty restaurant and you get turned away because all the tables are reserved. It’s because they expect everyone to take hours to eat there. Or they don’t like you. Probably the latter. That said, if you explain that you’ll leave by 8 pm, before the reservations start arriving, and point to the kids, you can usually get squeezed in somewhere.

3. Be Definite

Waiters will not dote on you here. They don’t have to because they don’t work for tips. So be definite about what you want and, unless you are in a very pricey joint, if you need something you will need to flag them down. Like with semaphore. Which brings us to number 4.

4. Ask for Water

The only time you’ll get water “gratis” or free is when you order a coffee. And then it’s a thimble full. So you’ll not only need to ask for water, which you will be charged for, do not expect ice. If you’re with your family, ask for a bottle of tapwater, which is “eine flashe leichtungswasser” (pronounced E-nah Flash-a Like-toongs-Va-ser Bit-tah) otherwise you’re just going to get annoyed with the small water glasses that cost you a Euro each.

5. Tip Before You Pay

Tipping is usually done by rounding up the bill for smaller purchases in cafes, or up to 10% in restaurants. After you get the bill, you simply tell your waiter how much you want to pay, including tip. For example, if the bill comes to €4.15, it’s ok to pay €5.