Simple Soul Food On Wiedner Hauptstraße

Stefanie Herkner recreates the dishes she remembers from childhood to become the new hot table in the 4th District

A nearby church bell is just chiming 6 p.m. as the last outside tables fill up at Zur Herknerin, Stefanie Herkner’s Wirtshaus in Vienna’s 4th District.

As usual, all of them are reserved, but Herkner, who fulfils every cliché of a Wirtin with her red cheeks and her outgoing and genial attitude, manages to find a table for everyone. 

“Thank you so much for coming,” she greets her guests cheerfully, a refreshing change from the well-known grumpiness of Viennese gastronomes.

Since the opening in mid-July, her restaurant has quickly become an area hot spot, popular with elderly couples, young hipsters and families.

The daughter of renowned Viennese Wirt Heinz Herkner has transformed the former plumber’s shop into a cosy restaurant.

The wooden furniture doesn’t match perfectly, but that just adds to the charm of the place.

Despite major renovations, the bold letters Installationen of the former shop still adorn the façade.

From the Schanigarten on Wiedner Hauptstraße diners are perfectly postioned to watch passers-by, many of whom stop to take a look at the menu on the green board outside. It is small and unpretentious – traits that ring true for the whole place.

It’s a limited menu: Every week, only a few starters, main dishes and desserts are offered, all both seasonal and regional. On this warm Thursday evening, a grandmother is having dinner with her grandson on the table next to us, affectionately listening to anecdotes of his summer holidays while eating Geröstete Eierschwammerl (roasted chanterelles) for €9.80, served with a salad on the side.

Zur Herknerin. Hier: Roasted chanterelles also known as Geröstete Eierschwammerl | Photos:  V. Zoidl

Zur Herknerin. Hier: Roasted chanterelles also known as Geröstete Eierschwammerl | Photos: V. Zoidl

As a starter, my companion and I order Gurkenkaltschale (€3.20), a cold cucumber soup that is the ideal choice for a hot summer day – but maybe not so ideal for a rendezvous because of its distinct garlic taste (unless of course you’re both garlic fans, as we are!). An Austrian classic, Fritattensuppe (€3.60), is truly delicious. The best part about it: The Fritatten are made from the eggs of Herkner’s grandmother’s 16 chickens – just one example for the conscious choice of ingredients. The pumpkin seed oil for the salad, for example, is homemade, as is
the Bauernbrot.

Knowing about the high-quality ingredients, the rather high prices for the small portions seem a little more justified. This week, the aforementioned Eierschwammerl, Serbian Reisfleisch and Sarma are the main dishes to choose from. We go for the Sarma, which are cabbage rolls filled with rice and minced meat and topped with sour cream, as the incredibly friendly waitress never gets tired of explaining to unknowing guests. They come with a side of potatoes and are delicious, but it wouldn’t have hurt to get a second serving. The same is true for the Eierschwammerl – and we are not the only ones who are still hungry after the main dish: A couple on a table next to ours ends up ordering some of the hearty appetizers, such as Brot mit Verhackterten, after their main dish.

“I want to make the dishes that I my mother and grandmother made for me when growing up,” Stefanie Herkner explains the idea behind her restaurant. One of the dessert choices, Himbeergrütze (€4.50), is a childhood memory, and she proudly talks about a young family that has already become a regular because their children love the raspberry treat so much.

But back to those grouchy Viennese gastronomes: The thing that is truly outstanding here and that may be the reason for the popularity of Zur Herknerin, is the cordiality of the staff, from the waitress to the Wirtin. It is not uncommon, for example, when time permits, for Herkner herself to sit down with some of her guests. And strolling among the tables, she exchanges a few words with everybody.

“If you work in gastronomy, you have to love people,” she says. For her, this bonding moment is what people are really looking for in the anonymous life of the city.

 

Zur Herknerin

Tue.-Fri., 17:00-22:00

4., Wiedner Hauptstraße 36

0699 15023622

zurherknerin.at

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