When you are thinking about heading out for a romantic night on the town take a moment and consider a restaurant a little out of the norm. The Vienna Restaurant and Inn in the sleepy, bedroom community of Southbridge, Mass is the place to visit for people who "Have a habit of treating themselves well." Southbridge is approximately midway 45 minutes between Boston, Providence , RI and Hartford, CT so it may be a little bit out of your way, but it is definitely worth the trip. A primo spot to go to when you want great ambiance, amazing culinary perfection and a wonderful evening out.
The Vienna is located in the front two rooms of the Vienna Historic Inn run by Lisa and Jonathan Krach. These two lovebirds have become well known in town for their warmth, spunk and amazing attention to detail. When you walk in the Vienna you will be greeted by an old fashioned Austrian wait girl in a real dirndl. She looks something like the St. Pauli's Girl, only with a higher neck line and lower hem line. All guests are treated to a drink and an appetizer and if you are planning to stay for dinner then you are in for a feast.
When my wife and I visited Jonathan and Lisa we came down to dinner with little more than the hope of getting some nice wine and a good meal. Boy, were we about to be impressed. Lisa led us to our table in the left room where there were about five other tables, another couple dinning, a roaring fire and a picture of Emperor Franz Joseph watching over everyone. When we said that we were new to becoming wine connoisseurs we were given a lesson in tannins, taste, region and varietals. Lisa and Jonathan have over three hundred wines in their amazing wine cellar located just below us and we were treated to a sampling of about ten before we decided on a nice red.
If Lisa was not impressive enough as hostess full of information on wine and Austrian history Jonathan delivered up mouth watering taste delights by the plateful from his spot in the kitchen as master chef. For starters, or rather Vorspeisen, we enjoyed fresh succulent Nantucket scallops with crab meat on the side. From there we had duck liver pate with mustard seed. Neither my wife nor I had ever had duck liver pate and yet we were both pleasantly surprised at the texture and taste. My wife being a Shakespeare buff was most impressed with the mustard seed due to the character in Midsummer Nights Dream. The finish to our appetizers was cream of mushroom soup for me and beet soup for my wife. My wife hates beets. She thinks that they are strange and turn everything purple. She loved the beet soup. If we learned anything from the Vorspeisen it was to trust these two Austrian Inn owners as they certainly knew what they were doing!
A quick salad was to follow and though it looked ordinary it was nothing of the kind. The salad with lettuce and carrot was dressed with curry vinaigrette and topped with fresh pepper that made my taste buds dance with joy. Oh how amazing it is that simple spices can make your dish so different!
When the salad was cleared away we were excited to move on to a clean white wine from our robust red of earlier and receive the entrï¿½e. Jonathan had expertly prepared Sol and Tafelspitz. Being a huge fan off my Mom's stew I felt right at home with this Austrian roast beef. Tafelspitz is slow simmered beef roast with horseradish cream and spatzle; which is sort of like macaroni and cheese but white and airy. After all this food you would think that I was stuffed but no, pleasantly full and looking forward to dessert. Though the food was hearty it was prepared in such a way that I could enjoy all of the flavors and never feel like I had too much.
For desert we had the Apfle Strussel or Strudel which impressed my wife quite a bit. Her Father makes an apple square each fall which is an apple pie made square and when cut sort of looks like apple pie brownies. I am told this came from my wife's Grandmother who was Hungarian. The Austrian Apfle Stussel was a huge hit and decadent way to end the evening.
Lisa and Jonathan Krach certainly know all the right ingredients to use to put together a fantastic dinner. It is my recommendation to all that you slip out of your comfort zone and head on over to the Vienna for dinner. You will find that items on the menu are much more familiar to you than you think despite their Austrian names. You will be treated to a very romantic dinner where you will be able to learn about wine, food and history or just sit back and enjoy the company of the one you love at an establishment that puts its guests first and lets the rest speak for itself.
Reviewed by Jessie Schmitt, Associated Content USA