“If that’s what vegan food is like, I’ll start eating vegan every day now,” one of the guys on the table next to us mumbles with a satisfied smile on his face while gulping down his burger.
Well, to be fair, the food at Vienna’s Swing Kitchen is delicious. The soft bun, the tender soy burger patty that mingles with the creamy sauce and crunchy roasted onions – all of this delights the tastebuds. But it has little to do with choosing a vegan lifestyle. They’re baby steps towards it, if you will. Because let’s face it, all of this is processed food, tied to another big industry. Sure, Swing Kitchen provides lots of it in organic quality, but it’s clear that their wraps and burgers are meant more as a treat than an everyday lunch suggestion for a bonafide vegan.
But whatever your take on this is, eating at Swing Kitchen is fun. The black-and-white tiles and big lamps in that industrial chic look straight out of New York, the big band swing music playing in the background – it’s all very laissez-faire, yet also aims to draw on (in a modern way) the “innocence” and soul of the big band swingin’ era.
The huge chalkboards assure the guests that all the plastic you see at Swing Kitchen is bio-degradable, while the heavy cast iron trays add to the down-to-earth feel of the “simpler times” theme happening here.
It’s obvious that boutique healthy fast food works. The routine is as follows: you first choose and pay for your order, return to your seat with a ticket, and pick up your freshly made meal a few minutes later after a charming staff member has yelled your number across the room several times because you’ve completely forgotten about your food while scrolling through your Facebook feed.
By the way, Swing Kitchen didn’t get its name because it’s located where an infamous brothel once stood in Medieval times (we would’ve gone with this backstory, to be honest). It’s also not because of the Swing music that’s constantly being played here. Yet rather, its name reflects the movement it ambitiously aims to inspire in the non-vegan community. As Irene and Karl “Charly” Schillinger, the heads of the whole shebang, put it:
“If vegan fast food can make at least some of the meat-eating folk swing to meatless days occasionally, that’s a big win already.”
The Schillingers are pros when it comes to transforming traditional meat dishes into vegan creations. They’ve been doing so in their popular restaurant in Großmugl, around 50 minutes outside Vienna, where they re-interpret the classics of Austrian cuisine. And since they opened their Swing Kitchen in January 2015, a vegan burger mania has spread in Vienna, resulting in a second Swing Kitchen location opening up in Vienna’s 4th district. And there are big plans to add to the chain soon.
Of course, sceptics of the vegan lifestyle would argue: “What is it with vegans who can’t stick to their decision of living a meat-less life – you know, the guys who weasel out of this commitment by eating vegan burgers, sausages, steaks and what-not. It’s all shaped and seasoned like the real deal, but isn’t in the end. That really grinds my gears!”
Well, I can only speak on my behalf with full disclosure: I didn’t stop eating meat and animal products because I didn’t like them. In fact, I liked them a lot. But I chose to stop consuming meat, dairy products and so on, because I didn’t want to be responsible for the cruelty to animals which runs rife in the meat industry. Cows aren’t actually being stroked to death. Simple as that. Therefore, as a vegan, I’m crazy grateful for the places that serve something, more or less, similar to the things I once loved back in my meat eating days – at least once in a while. And Swing Kitchen is one of those places.
Anyway, there’s one thing you can do at Swing Kitchen to escape all this all-too-serious discussion about veganism which seems to always creep up and take a seat at the dinner table: order one of their surprisingly delicious desserts! We’d recommend the Mandel-Nougat-Traum (almond nougat dream) or the Himbeer-Jogurt-Mohn-Törtchen (raspberry, yoghurt and poppyseed tart)! If these two treats can’t unify meat-eaters and vegans, we don’t know what will.
Our big thanks go out to photographer, Johannes Staudenbauer, for the magnificent photos he shot exclusively for Vienna Würstelstand’s review of Swing Kitchen!