Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winegut Mayer am Pfarrplatz, Vienna

In the summer, 'everyone' in Vienna goes to Heurigen, which are 'wine taverns' that serve new wine from their own vineyards. Of course I have no idea who actually goes to them - probably old men who want to get wasted on cheap wine, eat a lot of fatty food, and sing along to the oldies as played by polka bands. But since that describes me to a 'tee', I dragged the always-good-humored someone off to the end of the U-bahn #4 line, and then on a 20 minute uphill walk into increasing darkness. When we arrived at Schuebl-Auer, we were pleasantly awed by the wall and gate, and overjoyed to walk through the dark, atmospheric collection of buildings to the dining hall.

Where we learned that the information on their web site was NOT in fact accurate, and they were closed except by special invitation. The specially-invited people pushing past us and being welcomed by the staff looked pretty goddamn festive, I tell you that. Wieners are curiously lax about this 'closing hours' thing, although I suppose it IS the festive season and one should be calling ahead, which we're not. They advised that Kierlinger would be a good backup, and I would have been happy to receive that advice, had I not learned in the afternoon that Kierlinger closed for the season on December 9th. Sneaky Wieners. Fair enough, this is a seasonal businesses. Off into the dark again, to Plan C.

Pfarrplatz is really cool - just a little village square at the bottom of the mountains with a church and a bunch of wine-focused restaurants (including this place that I'd seen recommended, which turns out to be the sister establishment of where we ate.). I'd seen on the map that there were a couple more places there, and being closer to a main-er road, in my desperation I figured something would be open. (Again, it was a Saturday night, but we've learned that that's no guarantee of a Wienerparty.) Mayer was the best-looking option on the square and the street leading north from there, and they had a cute display of behatted Santa-wines.

Is that Beethoven in the picture? Either way, he once lived up the street for 6 months.

I loved the atmosphere here. It's hard to describe the setup - a courtyard with a bunch of different-purposed rooms set up around it, which you need to traverse between in order to complete the traditional functions of a dining experience - ordering food, ordering drinks, drinking, peeing. How can I get this point about with a panorama!
Here's whatcha do: get a table in the drinking hall (on the right), and potentially order wine (for later reference, the bathroom is all the way in the back, on the left, through an unused dining hall and past the Croatian witch who demands tribute for the use of the pissoir). They have a good list of bottles that I assume are mainly from their winery, and then about 8 glass wines that I'm sure are. Take your drink (actually don't, I didn't see anyone else doing that) and go across the courtyard to the door marked 'Buffet' (far left; mind the sub-freezing temperatures), where they have:

A bunch of cold cheese-based snacks, except for the ones that have some vegetables and the ones that are mostly pork fat, and a whole lot of sausages and smoked meats,
and some salady vegetabley things, like potato salad and beets and sauerkraut.
So they'll just make up a platter for you, and you can charge it to your table or pay on the spot. I think this tray, with two slices of what someone was very pleased to hear described as 'regular bread' to differentiate it from the 'fancy' or 'foreign' white bread, was EUR 11. There's potato salad in the back, a couple spiced cream-cheesy things in the bowl, the meat on the right is speck, smoked pork belly (you know the kind where the fat is still solid and crunches and grinds against your teeth? I didn't either.) and smoked lard (I hate myself, but it's pretty good, innit.). Take your tray and go have a drink back at the table.

Then get another tray - on the left, two different sausages (one cheesy, one spicy), red sauerkraut (we reasoned it's more healthy), and blood pudding crumbled with potatoes (not healthy). On the right, a very nice beef ragout and Kaiser roll. You know who that's named after, I bet. EUR 12 this time.

Someone told me on the way that her image of Heurigen was that the staff would just microwave all the food, and she was right. I'm not actually complaining, because it was tastier than it needed to be.

Despite the small busload of Chinese tourists, I'm not complaining about the atmosphere either. There was an old and seemingly local couple carrying a cello, and there were several other tables that looked for all the world like year-end parties in Japan, with much conviviality and hoisting of glasses. This guy came in midway and did some merry introductions, including to the dog that was snoozing contentedly near its master's table or else wandering around looking for pats. Then he sat down and got busy with his accordion  but not at all in an annoying way.

My main concer with Heurigen was finding an 'authentic' one - it seems that the ones in the Grinzing area in particular are plastic-tablecloth, oom-pah band kinds of experiences. We could have been lucky, being only halfway to Grinzing, or finding a decent place that happened to be open (and we DID ignore several others that advertised the quality of their music), but this was completely pleasant (and in business since 1683, which isn't usually a terrible indicator). I see where others say it's very popular and touristy - we escaped that by cleverly timing our visit for when most places are closed - and I also see that Austrian reviewers think it sucks. I'd happily tell you to go here, although in the next breath I'd easily admit that there could be much better places...I hear Stammersdorf is the real destination of choice. Hey, we've still got a free night tomorrow!

By the way, the wine was cheap and good. Austria is positively heaven if that's your ticket.
+43 1 37033610

One last point, a taxi to or from the city to here is going to be a lot cheaper than you'd expect.

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