03 February 2017

Perusing Princeton / Cafe Vienna

Linzer torte and iced green tea, with a view of the sunny street

It's been a year since the Tall Man and I moved to Princeton, so it's about time I reviewed one of my go-to places in town: Cafe Vienna. I seek it out when I want a quality hot drink and a sunny space to work. They also have brunch on the weekends and breakfast throughout the week, so it's destination for many types of bites.

This is the kind of place that brings a bit of austere European charm and calm to a town satiated with tourists and "too quaint"-ness. It's on a less busy stretch of Nassau Street, between the main downtown and Hoagie Haven. The cafe has a variety of seating inside and out (high tops, regular tables, and an outdoor patio space), with a large glass front that lets in plenty of natural lighting.

You'll find more traditional European coffee drinks here. So no chai lattes or flavored syrups, but plenty of straight up espresso drinks. They have a delicious hot chocolate (dairy free if you get it with almond milk -- my "regular") and possibly the best mocha I've had (so rich and creamy!). They also have a decent selection of Mighty Leaf teabags to choose from, served in mini Le Creuset teapots for a touch of class. (Yes, these pots are positively tiny -- but you can ask for more hot water.) Their drinks cost somewhere in the $4-6 range, which is more than most every other coffee place around, but I suppose we're paying for the nicer atmosphere and dishware. If you pick up a stamp card, you'll get a free drink after 10 purchases.

Cafe mocha with a slice of gluten/dairy free fennel seed cake

The owner, Anita, makes all the pastries: beautiful layered cakes ($6-8/slice), with some cookies and individual cake options. She uses family recipes from Austria, and that in itself is a rare, personal touch. I really appreciate that they have several pastries that are gluten-free and even dairy-free -- even rarer and exciting! My favorite is the linzer torte (GF/DF), a dense cake sliced through with a layer of homemade raspberry preserves.

Want something savory? They have a decent selection of sandwiches and salads, plus you can order omelettes until 1pm and see them made there in front of you. The open cooking thing is overrated as the oil fumes can get a bit irritating, but the egg dishes are pretty tasty and the side salad comes with a yummy vinaigrette.

Service is a funny thing here. The cafe is both an order-at-the-counter and a table service place. It's a bit confusing and not always clear what you should do. Typically I just order at the counter. If you're looking for a coffee and quiet seat on the weekends, though, be sure to avoid crowded brunch times. And because they're also on OpenTable, you may find tables reserved and few to no free seats for walk-ins.

All in all, I find myself coming back to Cafe Vienna. They're pricey, but they care about their customers. I appreciate that they take food allergies seriously and make sure to prevent cross contamination. Starbucks surely couldn't pay this much attention.

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Cafe Vienna
Breakfast, lunch, coffee/tea, weekend brunch
200 Nassau St., Princeton