Schnitzel is a slice of meat that is thinned by pounding and breaded before frying. Breaded schnitzel is popular in many countries and it is usually made using veal, pork, chicken, beef or turkey. Schnitzel is very similar to the dish escalope in France, tonkatsu in Japan and cotoletta in Italy. In particular, Wiener Schnitzel is a popular Viennese dish made of veal and traditionally garnished with a slice of lemon and potato salad. In Austria and Germany, Wiener Schnitzel is a protected geographical indication and must be made of veal. When other meats are used, it can be called Schnitzel nach Wiener Art (Schnitzel Viennese style).
There are many restaurants in Vienna to try authentic schnitzel, but Figlmüller Wien (known as The House of Schnitzel) is an establishment of the city and has become world famous for its version of schnitzel. Its history starts in 1905, when Johann Figlmüller opened a small wine tavern in Wollzeile, right behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Right from the start, it stood for the unparalleled Viennese way of life. It was a restaurant that was a place of social gathering with a great menu and selected local wines, and, of course, the original version of the schnitzel. At Figlmüller today, although they make a perfect Wiener Schnitzel with veal, their specialty, which they call Figlmüller Schnitzel, is made with pork. They used the best meat cut of pork called the rose or tenderloin because it is much less sinewy than normal schnitzel meat and does not puff up during frying. The tenderloin weighs 250 grams and is pounded until the meat is wafer thin and ready for the egg and flour coating.
The coating is topped with special breadcrumbs from Austrian Kaizer Rolls (Kaisersemmel) which are baked especially for Figlmüller and make the schnitzel so crispy. The origin of the coating’s recipe goes back to the Imperial Court of Vienna. Court society has always been known for its decadence. Therefore, it came as no surprise when stories emerged of pieces of meat covered in gold. Inspired by the golden hues, the peasantry found a more realistic alternative made of eggs, flour and breadcrumbs. When gently fried, the breading gives the meat its famous golden-brown colour, and resembles a meal fit for a Kaiser.
The restaurant today has two venues in nearby addresses in the centre of Vienna and although always full of people, the service and the food are always impeccable. The house special, the Figlmüller Schnitzel made of pork, is served either with a potato-field salad with pumpkin seed oil or a small mixed salad. During our stay in Vienna, we visited the Bäckerstraße venue, and we tried the house special, the Wiener Schnitzel with veal and marinated Viennese chicken fried in small pieces. All three were perfect in texture and taste, with excellent frying (not greasy at all) and the meat in all versions melted in our mouth. The coating had also a balanced taste that did not overshadow the flavour of the meat. Although the dishes looked huge, they were so elegant that we seriously considered ordering a second one (but we did not). The quality of the side dishes was also very good and the local wine was of high quality.
In the menu, apart from the schnitzels, we found a big variety of other Viennese and Austrian dishes like the Viennese boiled beef in the pot served with chive sauce, apple horseradish and browned potatoes. Finally, the place itself is very well cared for and gives the impression of an old tavern with a very homey and lively atmosphere despite the flocks of tourists. The service was quick, friendly and unpretentious making our dining experience unforgettable. It is highly recommended to make a reservation via their official site, otherwise you would have to wait a long queue waiting to be served.
But is this place worth its reputation? In our opinion, it is worth it and the title of the best schnitzel in the world could easily be assigned to Figlmüller.
Figlmüller Bäckerstraße : Bäckerstraße 6, 1010 Wien, Austria
Figlmüller Wollzeile : Wollzeile 5, 1010 Wien, Austria
Even if you don’ t speak German, you can watch this video to see how the schnitzel is cooked at Figlmüller: