So Long, Farewell to Old-Fashioned Austria at Kafe Leopold in Washington, DC
January 11, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC, US – It’s been a while since Austria had its moment in the spotlight, and when it comes to Austrian culture, some of the popular notions are downright dated. The Von Trapps took off for Switzerland decades ago. Cuckoo clocks are less for time-keeping than for safekeeping among nostalgic tourists who drop hundreds to take one home. And while the ostentation of Baroque architecture may be a hallmark of Vienna and Salzburg, that’s just not Austrian style these days. The country has kept up with the times, and like most of modern Europe, her latter-day style is more simplicity than frippery and finery.
As an international city, it’s important that Washington, DC not dwell too much on outmoded stereotypes, and Kafe Leopold keeps the city up to date on Austria. Nestled into the Georgetown alcove of Cady’s Alley, Leopold is a thoroughly modern Austrian café in most respects. Though possessed of a touch of whimsy, its design is contemporary and low-key in the Scandinavian-modern kind of way, with orange and metal finishes and minimalist décor. And its sunny courtyard would feel traditional if the Höfbrau Munchen umbrellas didn’t look more “sports bar” than “beer garden.”
There is, however, one arena in which Leopold holds fast to the spirit of the Austrian 1870s. When it comes to food, Leopold may as well be Schönnbrunnrg Palace’s royal kitchen. While some offerings, like salads of field greens and vinaigrette or mustard, are unfussy, the menu is heavily skewed towards flashy and flowery chefs-d’oeuvre. The restaurant is perhaps best known for its breakfast dishes, which are served until 4:00pm and include Zuckerwaffeln, which are Belgian sugar waffles with whipped cream, honey, or chocolate. Schnitzel is made from veal, and there’s no shortage of savory tarts or Sachertortes. And the list of rich, elaborate pastries goes on and on. We’d cry foul at the anachronistic cuisine for a modern European café, but when it comes down to it, we’re hard-pressed to turn down a crisp apple strudel.
It is, after all, one of our favorite things.
Read more about Kafe Leopold in our Washington, DC Guide.