The institution of the Kaffeehaus, or coffeehouse, is one of the most democratic public places ever invented. Similar to the Melange, the most popular kind of coffee in Vienna, the Kaffeehaus offers a mélange of people of all social classes who come together to sit, read, write, and talk – all for the price of a cup of coffee. Indeed, a guest who orders one coffee can sit for hours at a time reading the newspapers, typically plentiful in a Kaffeehaus and found in special wooden holders that facilitate one-handed reading.
One can feel entirely at home amongst the artists, scientists, businessmen, students, and politicians (not to mention a few tourists mixed in); Theodor Herzl, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Arthur Schnitzler, not to mention Lenin and Trotzky, were all coffeehouse regulars.
Café Prückel, which opened in 1904, has been my regular Kaffeehaus in Vienna since my teenage years. It is on the Stubenring, a section of the magnificent Ringstraße near the Stadtpark, or City Park, which encircles the city center, having replaced the walls of the old city in the mid-nineteenth century. The gemütlich 1950s décor is very comfortable and gives Prückel a unique feel.
Prückel offers a traditional selection of coffee including a Wiener Melange (espresso with hot frothy milk), an Einspänner (which itself is a Verlängerter, or extended, espresso in a special glass topped with Schlagobers, or whipped cream), and a Fiaker (espresso with rum).
Waiters in dinner jackets and bowties provide friendly service, refilling the small glass of Viennese water served beside every cup of coffee, while one reads the paper and watches the world and the hours go by.
It’s perfect for a light supper, offering typical Viennese soups such as Grießnockerlsuppe (broth with a semolina dumpling) or Frittatensuppe (broth with sliced up Palatschinken, a Viennese crèpe), and various Wurst, or sausage, including Frankfurter, Debreziner, or Berner Würstel.
Desserts are my favorite part of the menu. They have excellent Kuchen (cakes); my favorite is the Mohnkuchen (poppy), but the Apfelstrudel is also super.
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.