Did you ever have a meal you didn’t want to end? I find myself cutting my schnitzel in smaller and smaller pieces, chewing slower, savoring every bite. It isn’t just the food I am trying to slow down – it is the atmosphere. After all, it is as if time stood still in Cafe Pruckel. The furnishings look like they haven’t been touched since 1950 – beautiful, simple upholstered chairs and booths trimmed in wood are worn in all the right places. It’s open, light, and airy with high ceilings and glass chandeliers clinking with the breeze blowing in from the open patio door. Once again I can’t help but feel the elegance and respect that Vienna coffee shops emit.
There’s a hushed rumble of conversations that rise up and get lost in the ceiling along with the sinuous cigarette smoke. My waitress, the first female I’ve been waited on in a coffee shop, is wearing a black pencil skirt, white collared blouse, and a little mini white apron with a crocheted pattern. When I look up at her and she speaks German to me – I blush and apologize. I start speaking English and she quickly switches to English herself asking me if I want an English menu.
I search the menu for the one reason that brought me here – Wiener schnitzel. My waitress convinces me to order a side since the schnitzel is simply a piece of meat. It’s made with boneless meat (should always be veal) thinned with a hammer, coated in bread crumbs, and fried. It’s served with a lemon wedge – and that’s all it really needs.
I decide upon a side of potato salad as I had a vision of my mother’s German potato salad I hated as a kid but grew to appreciate as an adult. Soon another waitress comes and ‘dresses’ my table with a table cloth; I guess my schnitzel only deserves the best. My beer is delivered on a traditional silver tray and soon after comes to he rest of my lunch.
I squeeze the lemon slice and the juice drips down onto the breading; now the schnitzel is officially ready to eat. I had read somewhere that the best schnitzel’s breading doesn’t even stick to the meat – it sort of puckers. I cut into the cutlet and am please to find the breading separating from the veal. I take my fist bite and savor the light, crispy texture; it’s perfect.
I turn an eye to the potato salad and take a fork full. To my surprise the tangy flavor delights me and makes me forget I’m here for the schnitzel. This is when I want my meal time to stand still; just like the rest of Café Pruckel’s interior.
As I am slowly finishing up the last bite I’m already plotting when I can come back in my remaining few days and replay this entire meal and experience. I looked at the English menu and noticed they had a piano player entertain on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s a date.