Where Austrian Chef Edi Frauneder Finds Vienna Sausage Heaven in NYC
Cheese kielbasa at Gramercy Tavern
Chef Edi Frauneder knows Austrian food, evident in the refined menu at Seasonal, the Michelin-starred restaurant Frauneder runs with partner and co-chef Wolfgang Ban. Seasonal, much beloved by uptown diners, is currently in the process of relocating. At the East Village's Edi & the Wolf (102 Avenue C; 212-598-1040), Frauneder and Ban prepare slightly more casual fare, such as spätzle, wiener schnitzel made from heritage pigs, and a variety of seasonal pickles.
So, yes, we can trust him when it comes to finding killer New York versions of the childhood dishes he remembers from home, like this cheese kielbasa at Gramercy Tavern (42 East 20th Street; 212-477-0777).
"I love popping into the front room of Gramercy Tavern for lunch," Frauneder reports. "It's elegant, but casual enough that I can make a habit out of it, and I think the room is particularly beautiful when full of light. You get a wider variety of people in the front room at lunch than at dinner, so it captures a bit of the spirit of the cheese kielbasa, one of my favorite dishes. It brings me back to the memory of everyone gathering at the sausage stand for a snack.
"In Vienna, cheese kielbasa is basically a traditional hangover food you find on the street; when you're out at one or two in the morning, you go to a sausage stand and get a cheese kielbasa or Vienna sausage. It's very rudimentary, served on a plain slice of bread in a paper carton with some pickled items, which you then douse with mustard and ketchup. It's easy food: poor man's food, rich man's food, a democratic item that everyone eats and loves.
"Michael's version is massive in terms of size versus what you'd find in Austria," Frauneder goes on, referring to Gramercy chef Michael Anthony, "but the texture is very similar. They both have natural casings and he uses a similarly heat-resistant cheese as the original emmental. On the side, roasted potatoes with caraway and a high-acid demi-glace is very fancy, so I always get it with mustard on the side, too, since that's the best way to eat it. Zum Schneider in the East Village has a similar dish, and I think Café Katja, too, but they're way more rustic. This is super-refined, and the closest thing to Vienna sausage heaven you can find in New York."
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