I have a soft spot for Kurt Gutenbrunner’s restaurants. Gutenbrunner is the Austrian chef/owner of Blaue Gans, Wallsé, and Café Sabarsky in New York (as well as Upholstery Winebar and Café Kristall, which I have yet to visit). An essential part of the draw is the excellent food, which is largely Austrian with a number of nods across the German border, but the spirit is clearly more that of a Viennese Café than a Bavarian beer garden. The other thing I like so much about these restaurants is the ambience. Each has a unique atmosphere but with similar qualities: at once elegant and ever so slightly old-fashioned – a touch European in the best sense; but also laid-back and congenial.
Blaue Gans, the most casual of the lot, is great for an easy dinner with friends, a simple lunch, and particularly for brunch. It’s spacious and relaxed – exactly the kind of place you hope to stumble into on a lazy weekend morning – and the menu options span a large spectrum, so everyone is likely to find something that suits their mood, from simple pastries to a Wiener Schnitzel – why not?
There is excellent weisswurst with pretzel, and bratwurst with sauerkraut. But it’s not just the sausages. I am infatuated with the Bibb salad with radishes, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin-seed oil (in the evening the soups are tough competition). There are perfectly soft-boiled eggs in a glass and delicious Matjes herring “Hausfrauenart” – with apples. And then there is the creamed spinach, which can now be ordered as a side, so I get it every time, regardless of what else I’ve decided to order.
Incidentally, Blaue Gans is a good place to go with young children. Ours are always excited to go and invariably very welcome. They love the weisswurst (including Louise, who is already 11 months) and won’t leave without some Kaiserschmarren, the irresistible thick Austrian pancake cut into slivers and served with seasonal fruit compotes.
139 Duane Street (between West Broadway and Church)
New York, NY 10013
Open daily, 11am-midnight (bar until 2am)