Five years ago I wrote a blog post on Vienna/Austria when we were there on vacation. Now I’ve actually lived in Vienna for three years already and living somewhere sure gives you a different perspective on things.
Back then I wrote that Austria was a pretty good country to visit when eating gluten free and that people knew what gluten free meant. Well …. This is true for Vienna, but as soon as you go outside of Vienna it is terrible. Went to Graz for a conference two years ago and there was barely anything there. What they did have was Don Camillo where they had amazing gluten free pizza. They use the same oven but have separate aluminum tins where the gluten free pizza’s are baked and they really know their stuff. There is also a restaurant in Vienna.
I’m in a gluten free Austria facebook group and supposedly they have a bit more now. But don’t even think about going to any of the smaller places without taking your own food. My in laws like to stay just outside of Vienna and even a salad is difficult since it all has breaded meats, croutons or dressings containing gluten. There was one place which said they knew how to handle gluten free but both times we ate there (8 months apart) I had gluten complaints, most likely from cross-contamination. Because this is something they refuse to understand in Austria. If you are very sensitive it’s not the best choice to stay. Especially with all the Wiener schnitzels which get fried in the same fat as the fries. However, it is possible and there are so many gorgeous spots that Austria has to offer just make sure you take enough back-up food. Unless you go to the Zotter (chocolate brand) museum. This ‘museum’ is actually a tour through the factory where you can taste any chocolate you want and however much you like!! And with almost every flavour they mention the allergens and for those which don’t there are plenty of employees walking around who can help out. If you’re remotely in the neighbourhood definitely visit this amazing place.
Supermarkets in that sense are pretty good. Almost all Billa’s have a gluten free rack containing mostly Schär products but they’ll have some bread, cookies, pasta and beer. Spar actually has its own free-from line which is pretty good! The pasta is just as good as the barilla gluten free but cheaper. At our tiny spar they have everything from cereals, to wraps, bread, cookies and pizza bases.
Another option which has a lot bigger range but slightly more expensive is the Merkur. They have my favorite bread brand; Weizenfrei. Supposedly both Billa and Spar should have some products of Weizenfree but this is store dependent and sometimes even within the same store one week they’ll have something of Weizenfrei and the next two weeks they won’t. Merkur even has sandwiches to-go with ham, cheese or egg (if you’re early enough, they’ll only have a couple per day but still, finding a store which has this is so rare). Weizenfree has recently started their own online shop were you can order things directly or another option with a bit less choice but way lower delivery costs is hausbrot.at. Weizenfree has everything from Lauchenbrötchen to Kaisersemmel, loafs of bread to sacher torte and muffins. I will definitely miss this bread if we ever leave Austria.
Don’t forget to check out the freezer section, the larger spars (Interspar or Eurospar) have gluten free products like fish fingers and Merkur usually has 1-2 full freezers dedicated to gluten free products like pizza’s, bread, cakes etc.
Hofer and Lidl have gluten free products a couple of times a year in a special gluten free week. Hofer does seem to have gluten free pasta and gluten free cookies year round, however they are not in a special section so you have got to hunt down the store to find them.
Another option are the DM shops, but check before online because not all of them have gluten free products. The Denn’s bio stores also have gluten free just like Pro Kopp.
In Austria almost every menu will have the 14 most common allergies listed which helps making a choice in a restaurant, however, as stated before cross-contamination is something that is not taken into account. And always double check because it has happened that I was enthusiastic about a gluten free brownie as dessert and the waiter telling me this was a typo and it was actually not gluten free.
There are positives as well as some draw-backs with the gluten free diet in Austria but having to eat gluten free is definitely not a reason to not go. Even in the more remote area’s there will be a Spar or Billa where you can buy your own gluten free food, just don’t expect to find a restaurant that will serve you a three course gluten free meal.