If the name Allergiker Café for you inspires the image of pale, sickly-looking people, sitting around with runny noses, coughing and complaining about their allergies, one visit to this safe haven for Vienna’s allergy sufferers will prove how very wrong this picture is.
Having a younger sister who is lactose and fructose intolerant, I know the challenges of eating out with allergies. Every Sunday, we’d go out for lunch with our grandparents and I’d watch her having to refuse my Oma’s gentle urgings to take ‘a piece of cake, dear’.
But such worries are left outside at the Allergiker Café – a home for the allergy-inflicted sweet tooths.
The café’s small space has the feeling of somebody’s living room. My eyes are immediately drawn to the two guitars and harp standing next to the only free table. The whole café is white, and so are the four small tables, although I spot an unruly blue chair that seems to be rebelling against the color scheme. All of this has me distracted for a while from the holy grail of the place – the display cabinet filled with mouthwatering baked goods.
The café – that serves breakfast, a daily lunch option, small snacks and histamine-low wine and cider – is led by mother and daughter, Margret and Franka. Franka, who seems as sweet as her mum’s cakes, originally came up with the idea of the café for her diploma thesis. When Margret, who had always loved baking, was diagnosed with celiac disease (gluten intolerance), she started experimenting with new recipes and discovered that her cakes tasted just as good without gluten, lactose, nuts and little fructose or histamine. Fortunately for us, they decided to share their findings, and opened this sweet café.
“We use high quality ingredients that are mostly organic. There are only about 4 or 5 ingredients in each dish, so you can taste every single one of them, without them being over layered by condiments.”
With this in mind, I bite into my Lieschen (a corn and cream cheese omelette) and am delightfully surprised by its simple flavoursome quality. The breakfast menu includes options with names like Noa, Marvin, Lieschen and Marry. As Franka explains to me, every cake and dish has a name, because “they are their own little characters”.
The longer I sit there, the more I’m filled with a feeling similar to that of being woken up by sunbeams on a lazy Sunday. Gentle sounds of Christmas songs combined with the delicious smell of fresh coffee soothe me. I watch Margret sizzling up her customer’s orders in the open kitchen while Franka attends to the guests. As the coffee roaster, Petrus (check it out, this is some fine coffee) and his young sons come by to pay a visit, I am starting to feel like part of a big, happy family.
One can see that a lot of thought has gone into every little detail of the Allergiker Café: Starting from the handmade menu over to the artwork on the wall (Franka and her sister are behind that), it is apparent that there is creativity and talent running in this family.
Around midday, more people start coming in and I end up sharing my table with several of them. I personally like that, but if you prefer your own space, I’d recommend an early visit.
It’s when the smallest member of the new addition to my table decides to spill his drink all over the table … to then lick it up; I decide it is time for me to leave.
Ordering here is easy; you tell the lovely ladies all your allergies and defects (or maybe stick to the first) and they’ll point out what’s suitable for you. I go for the chocolate tart that Margret recommends for my sister, meanwhile admiring how thoughtful and generous I am (But feeling the tiniest bit guilty later on, when I’m devouring its chocolaty, moist glory by myself).
It is just like Franka told me: “We don’t want to give you the healthy salad of your day; we offer you indulgence and pleasure. Our pastries may be lactose-free, but they are still rich and sweet.”