vegansaurus!

11/09/2010

A vegan in Central Europe: Vienna, Krakow, and Budapest!  »

When I go on crazy trips, the first thing that pops into my mind is “WHAT AWESOME VEGAN FOOD AM I GOING TO TRY?!” I guess I’m special that way. Picture it: Vienna, Krakow, and Budapest. Nine days, so much awesomeness.

First stop in Vienna: Formosa. It’s off of the Neubaugasse shopping strip, and it’s magical. A family-owned grocery/cafe with… get this—VEGAN BOBA! And they sold Go Max Go chocolate bars and Primal Strips. The food I got (a chicken sandwich) cost 3,90€ and was all right, but nothing to write home about, though I guess I am anyway? Definitely worth a visit, more for the boba and available grocery items than for the food.

The star of Vienna was for sure Bio Bar. It’s significantly fancier from the order-at-the-front café style of Formosa. I think the place is run by a man in the front and his wife in the back. We loved the food so much we went two nights in a row!! I got gnocchi with pesto and artichoke hearts the first night; the gnocchi was a little gummy, but I thought the flavors were spot on and I finished the entire plate. On the second night I got a gluten-free meal: a soy patty with a scoop of mashed potatoes. The spices in the patty were fucking incredible, and the whole meal was so filling. Their chocolate cake wasn’t all that great. I think it had some sort of agar-agar-based filling, and I was expecting more of a mousse texture. Overall, the atmosphere was perfect. Entrees cost from 8€ to 15€ and it was around 2€ to 5€ for dessert.

Another place you might want to stop by while your there: Maschu falafel. It’s REALLY good falafel, not so good service. And while we didn’t get a picture of the food, we certainly filled up on it.

Next stop (don’t question our trip-planning) was Krakow. I felt it was the smallest city of the three that we visited, so it was pretty easy to go to the edges of the city to try amazing vegan food. We went to four places: Vega, Momo, Green Bar, and Mlynek Café.

Vega had a really really nice atmosphere: tables with linen cloths and candles in the center. You order at the front and pick up from the bar. The menu they give you is sort of useless; it just gives you an idea of what kind of food they have. The food they actually serve changes daily, and my planned meal wasn’t available when I went. For 19zł (around $7 US), I got a plate of vegetable goulash with rice, bean salad, and lentil soup. The food was so-so, the bean salad was the real winner I also ordered a vegan smoothie which was basically a bunch of fruit juices, for 9zł. SO YUMMY. It had blueberries in it. It’s been ages since I’ve had blueberries!!! We weren’t impressed with this place overall and didn’t make a return trip.

Momobar was next on our list. It’s in the Jewish quarter of Krakow. The interior is very humble and the atmosphere is pretty casual. Their cuisine is described as Tibetan fusion. Most everything there is vegan, except for a couple of cakes. We tried the two available vegan cakes, and ate them first, obviously. I tried an apple-crumble-type thing with sunflower seeds on top; my friend got their banana cake (pictured). 

The cakes were both SO yummy; flavorful, spot-on texture, I could have eaten them for millennia. The dish I got was the place’s namesake. Momo was Tibetan dumplings filled with finely chopped vegetables and lentils, served with a spicy sauce. I licked my plate clean. My friend tried their hummus and toast and found the hummus to be a little weird, texture-wise. I remember paying about 20zł for my delicious dinner. This was definitely one of my favorite places the whole trip.

After a draining day visiting Auschwitz, we stumbled into Green Way to unwind. They had limited vegan options, but really tasty orange juice and enchiladas. The side-salad sticks out more in my memory than the actual enchilada—the dressing was THAT good. Again it cost around 20zł, but the meal fell a little short because of how fast the food was. It is given to you literally seconds after you order it, so the components of the meal are pre-made, then assembled as you order. I think it made the food a bit generic, and I wouldn’t recommend for anything beyond a really quick, assuredly vegan meal. There are certainly better businesses to patronize in Krakow!!

Our last stop on the trip was Café Mlynek. We saw these 10 percent discount cards for the place all over the city, which made me a little skeptical, but I so shouldn’t have been. It was far and away my favorite restaurant of the entire trip. Candle-lit, beautiful ambience—The only veg Krakow restaurant where we didn’t order food up-front. There are limited vegan options, but I got to try the cheesecake they recently veganized and a veganized traditional Polish Hungarian* food: lecso (LETCH-oh). We had cake first, obvs. The cheesecake was beautifully presented, but could have been a little sweeter/more flavorful. It cost 10zł and I would probably order again. The lecso was fucking INCREDIBLE. It reminded me a lot of channa masala without the indian spices: tomato and chickpea stew with garlic and onion, served with a side of bread to dip and enjoy in. I wanted to bathe in this dish, basically, it was so hot and fresh when I got it…. Oh man, just remembering it makes me hot. It cost 15,50zł and was worth every goddamn penny. IF YOU GO TO KRAKOW YOU MUST MUST MUST GO TO MLYNEK CAFÉ! That is an order!

On to Budapest. Unfortunately, my camera broke a couple months ago so I was borrowing my friend’s. Then her camera ran out of juice partway through our trip, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations. If you like falafel nearly as much as I do, you’ll love Hummus Bár. We went there like three times, not joking. They have two locations; the one closest to our hostel, the Kértész location, was completely vegan; the other one was not. The food? SO yummy. A student-discounted meal cost 720Ft (Hungarian Forint), which is around $3.70! Pictured is a shot of a laffa-wrapped falafel. Their falafel is so fucking flavorful, I miss it so much.

We also tried Napfényes Étterem. I think they were having an off night or something, because our service was fucking atrocious. But to their credit, the food they served was phenomenal. I got their special for the night, which was a Thai rice curry. While I didn’t really get any Thai flavor-notes, the food was extremely well prepared. And in a huge-ass portion; it was crazy. The star of the night was the vanilla cake I got there. IT WAS SO GOOD. They top it off with some Soyatoo whipped cream. I almost died. I loved it so much, I dragged my friend into the outskirts of Budapest to visit their bakery.

The bakery. The lovely lovely bakery. I am a fan of baked goods. A fanatic, even. And this place was fucking…ridiculous. I wish we had had a camera!! But look at their homepage: their pictures don’t exaggerate how great the food was. They had all sorts of goodies: oatmeal-cherry-raisin cookies, coconut-chocolate millet balls, lemon cake with a thick creamy frosting (I got the pleasure of trying it, and I don’t care how fat my ass got), the same vanilla cake I got from Napfényes Étterem, crème-filled phyllo squares…. I could go on, but I don’t want your food boner to break your computer screen. PLEASE GO THERE IF YOU ARE EVER IN BUDAPEST. It is amazing. And pretty cheap, as most everything in Budapest is. It’s a completely vegan bakery. Completely vegan. They even have some savory pastries using Cheezly, they’re that fucking crazy awesome. We were smart enough to walk there and back to burn off the insane amount of calories we must have inhaled.

So, that concludes my crazy Central Europe adventure. Aside from the fact that I’m still living in Prague for a while longer! Lots of veg food from this side of the world coming your way! And I’m checking out the Mecca of Maoz in a few days: Amsterdam!! Lastly I wanted to plug HappyCow for helping me with my vegan journey.

*Our Hungarian pal and sometimes contributor Vi Z. informs us that lecso is in fact a tradional Hungarian dish. Thanks for keeping us culturally and culinarly accurate, Vi!

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