The Fight Between Carnival and Lent: Eating Frugally in Vienna’s Naschmarkt

Pieter_Bruegel_d._Ä._066.jpg

Stretching nearly a mile long, the chaotic assemblage of food stalls and cramped cafés that comprise the centuries-old Naschmarkt in central Vienna can be an olfactory overload for newcomers. The first time I went, the mingling smells of dried fruit and döner kebab made me forget for a second that I wasn’t in Istanbul—until the sight of an enormous Wiener Schnitzel snapped me back to reality.

Vendors in the Naschmarkt can sense this sort of daze, and will use it to sell you on whatever they’re offering. A free, hummus-coated falafel ball, prodded at me via a long fork from behind the counter? Sure. Do I want more? Mouth full, I nod helplessly.

You’ll never go broke eating falafel, but with all apologies to Jesus, man cannot live on chickpeas alone. Of course, the Naschmarkt has a number of sit-down restaurants, all of which feature tiny terraces populated by fold-out chairs. Some of them are quite good, like the nationally renowned fish eatery Umarfisch and the Naschmarkt Deli, but I found it a little frustrating to pay restaurant prices in order to sit and watch passers-by tackle some of the largest dürüm wraps I’ve ever seen (Turkey included), bought a few stalls down for pocket change.

naschmarkt.jpg

The ultimate budget option at the Naschmarkt is Dr. Falafel, which spans several stalls and—although its name might suggest otherwise—serves up dishes from a variety of world cuisines, including enormous bowls of spicy noodles (3.90€) and sushi.

Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter what you eat at the Naschmarkt—it’ll probably be delicious. The only mistake is to leave without eating at all.