I wasn’t expecting to find one of the best bread loaves of my life in Vienna, a city better known by most tourists for its coffeehouses and its Sacher tortes. But the one I bit into on my first visit to Joseph Brot, baked with einkorn, spelt, and amaranth, delivered impressive chew and a full-bodied bouquet of honey sweetness and grassy notes. I turned down an offering of local butter—with bread like this, there was no need for it. The person behind the bakery’s remarkable offerings is owner Josef Weghaupt, a self-described flavor-obsessed “sourdough maniac.” His hearty, elegant breads are made with mostly heirloom whole wheat, malted and sprouted grains, and a cocktail of levains. I have baked and tasted hundreds of loaves in my life, and I have rarely found anything so inspiring.
A few days later, I took a tour of Weghaupt’s factory, a light-flooded warehouse 40 minutes outside of Vienna. I was struck by how such a large-scale operation (the bakery has eight locations, six of them in Vienna) could still be artisanal at its core. Weghaupt’s sourcing is meticulous: All the flour is Austrian (except the gluten-free flour), and everything is certified organic. “Including salt and sugar?” I asked, joking. Weghaupt had his hand inside a big bag of Waldstaude rye, a perennial variety of ancient rye; he wanted me to take some home and bake with it. “The whole factory is,” he replied, not joking at all.
What I soon discovered was that high-quality, organic products are the norm in Austria and that Vienna is the phenomenon’s epicenter. Most restaurants here rely on organic, hyperlocal ingredients, showing a level of commitment I have rarely seen in Europe. Key elements have shaped the city’s foodscape: the proximity to lush farmland; a proud attitude toward all things Austrian-made; and the convergence of farmers, artisans, chefs, and retailers around a low-intervention ethos, all of it buoyed by a new wave of tourism and hospitality. (Some of Europe’s coolest art and wine fairs, Art Vienna and Vienna Contemporary, and Vievinum and Karakterre, respectively, are based in the region.) All this feeds a vibrant gastronomic scene, full of specialty coffee shops, wine bars, and restaurants, that’s quickly becoming as unmissable as Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze,” which is on display in the city’s Secession Building.
Among the first people to pave this road to today’s Vienna were Konstantin and Manuela Filippou, the husband-and-wife team who owns the two-Michelin-starred Konstantin Filippou as well as O boufés, a more casual bistro next door. Konstantin, a Greek-Austrian chef, traces his awakening back to an early appreciation for legendary Styrian natural-wine makers Andreas Tscheppe and Sepp Muster.
“When I first tried their work 18 years ago, I thought, ‘We have to bring these kinds of wines to our restaurant,’” Konstantin told me. “It was hard, pioneering work, particularly in fine dining.” When O boufés opened in 2015, it was one of Austria’s first all-natural-wine bistros. Many people have trained under Konstantin and have since emulated his approach. “It’s a compliment to have something copied by so many people,” he said with a laugh. But for him, sourcing ethically doesn’t end with wine: It’s a prerequisite for his visceral, bordering-on-obsessive relationship with the ingredients in his dishes.
A perfect example is his brandade with Amur carp and char caviar, which has been on the menu for 20 years now. “Since the beginning, the simplicity and connection between land and sea has been fascinating for Konstantin,” Manuela explained. At O boufés a few days later, I saw the same thread weaving its way through dishes showcasing seasonal ingredients such as beets, Treviso, hazelnut, petimezi (grape syrup), and black pumpkin seed oil.
Over the next few days, I tasted more examples of this sensibility all over the city. At Mast, sommeliers Matthias Pitra and Steve Breitzke, together with chef Lukas Lacina, deliver clever offerings of cosmopolitan farm fare (think sturgeon, cauliflower, chorizo, and beurre blanc with a side of king trumpet mushrooms) at their small, 10-table bistro–wine bar. At Meinklang Hofladen, the Vienna outpost of an iconic Burgenland family farm and winery, I found the perfect trifecta of bistro, bakery, and grocery stand. And excellent coffee and wine was everywhere.
But it’s not just the city’s restaurants, cafés, wine bars, and purveyors that stand out: Vienna itself is one of the largest organic businesses in Austria. Ever since the first Agricultural Structural Development Plan was signed in 2004, farming inside the city limits has skyrocketed. Vienna manages around 4,900 acres of fields, vineyards, and crops, including vegetables, potatoes, and grains; local businesses grow roughly one-third of the vegetables consumed by the Viennese. The city’s agricultural ventures have their own organic brand: Wiener Gusto, launched in 2022. There are even Carnica bee colonies at the opera house, with their honey for sale in the foyer.
For the hungry tourist, this means plenty of delicious local produce to sample in restaurants and bars or to shop for in groceries and gourmet shops. One thing is for sure: You won’t just be going back home with Sacher torte.
Coffee & wine
Not just a café, this smart, contemporary coffeehouse has a highly curated interior and the best courtyard for miles, and it serves wine, cocktails, and smart bar food.
The owners run a wine distribution business and store; this is their laid-back wine bar, which has a refreshingly mellow vibe. The wines are all natural or biodynamic, and the menu features simple toasties, antipasti, and creative veg dishes.
This friendly neighborhood specialty coffee bar and roaster has beautifully crafted espresso-based drinks, a tempting pastry case, and great natural light.
A smart third-wave coffee roaster and café, it’s inside a romantic location in the Palais Ferstel passage. The renaissance- designed historic building houses small boutique stores and cafés.
From Moritz Herzog of Weinskandal, this hip natural-wine bar has it all: strong bottles and dishes, a cool courtyard out back, and a film company upstairs.
Where to shop
If you like your cheese-monger to color outside the lines, head to the fun-loving Jumi and try the raw-milk cheeses. At Pilzbrüder, mushrooms are grown organically in the vaulted cellar of an old building. Gegenbauer is a mecca for exquisite vinegars. Into farmers markets? Head to Karmelitermarkt, Naschmarkt, and Freyung or to the farm shop Bauernladen Helene.
Where to stay
Austria’s first-ever “social business” hotel near the city center and the Stadtpark employs refugees and offers reasonably priced upcycled-design rooms. Rooms from $143
This sustainably minded hotel features a green wall installed by Dutch greening specialists Sempergreen; choose from a variety of rooms from “fancy flats” to “epic lofts.” Rooms from $149
This boutique design hotel focuses on sustainability, with hydropower supplied by Wien Energie, Austrian-made vegan toiletries, and certified organic local ingredients. Rooms from $293
Come for the location on the Ringstrasse and the view from the rooftop terrace; stay for the classic Wiener schnitzel. Rooms from $159
Take a day trip
Austria’s long tradition of welcoming guests to heurigers (wine taverns) is also riding the natural-wine wave. Take Burgenland’s Gut Oggau, where Stephanie Tscheppe-Eselböck and Eduard Tscheppe make highly coveted wines. The couple has an impressive lineage: Stephanie’s family has run restaurant Taubenkobel, a must in the area, for generations, while Eduard makes wine in Styria. Their biodynamic winery has brought an ancient property back to life; go for a wine tasting and brunch. At Meinklang, the Michlits family’s bio-diverse property on eastern Lake Neusiedl, you’ll find organic wine and also grains, livestock, and fruit. If you like your natural wine with a side of yoga, head to Tauss winery in southern Styria, which is home to many of Austria’s most respected natural-wine producers. The family also runs a boutique hotel.