Sitting on Espresso’s scarlet red leather bench seats, taking in the details of the place: the baby blue walls, the locally famous holy antique Rainer Stadthalle chairs, the faded painting on the wall, the retro light fittings, the squeeling of the old coffee machine – it’s obvious that this place has a story behind it. And we only wish we could have met the character who gave birth to the place in the early 1900s (when the building was built) as only a character could have created such a place.
“When we took it over in 2004, there was the same woman who had opened it still behind the bar. She was 79 and pretty much living here – she was a real character,” Julia tells us, the now owner and manager of Espresso.
All of the smokey dive bars which late night taxi drivers and other shady characters would frequent were called Espresso back in the day in Vienna (you still see plenty of them around the place). You know, the kind of places that felt like you’re sitting in a dirty ashtray. Julia tells us that there was even an illegal casino happening downstairs in the 60ies.
There’s no signs of all that these days at Café Espresso, however, there is still an aura here that emits the feeling that stories were lived here. The place looks old, and we say this to avoid the word retro or vintage, as Espresso was all these things before the trends had new bars opening up trying to replicate the look. From the sign out front, to the odd-matching lighting and lamps – that play a major role in the look here – the place looks classy kind of old, like your grandfather smelt classy kind of old with that spicy aftershave he always wore.
It’s hard to define the crowd that spends their time here telling and living out their own stories today in Espresso over a coffee, or beer, or one of their famous toasted sandwiches. There’s plenty of faces hidden behind newspapers and books. Meanwhile, the staff are cool looking characters and serve with a nice mix between polite and don’t-treat-me-like-your-servant, kinda attitude.
While the Espresso toast (prosciutto crud, peperonata and parmesan) remains an all-time favourite (especially as a alcohol sponge at 1am) Espresso’s menu has expanded and explored new horizons in recent times. Take the original creation, ‘Die Grupfte Sau,’ for example – a pulled pork, kimchi and spicy pumpkin burger in a homemade potato roll. Or Die Tollen Rollen selection of wraps stuffed with Moroccan chicken and falafel. There’s more of the like listed on the menu, along with their popular breakfasts that come in big servings, and are packed with tasty, fresh ingredients (the Oriental breakfast, with sheep’s cheese, olives, cucumber, Ezme, humus, honey, egg and tabouleh, is our personal favourite). The drinks menu is full of the hipster favourites, along with some homemade lemonades.
With more changes to come, Espresso has increased its street cred’ in the food department.
But if we were to summarise what time of day or meal is best spent here, we’d say – take your pick. From morning to late into the next morning, Espresso is an option.
“It still amazes me how many times a day this place transforms,” Julia says. “It just wanders throughout the day from being one thing to another.”
Perhaps this is why it is possible that so many people claim this to be their local, their homey bar that comes to mind at anytime of day when some social drinking or eating is required.