The Jelinek has authentic stamped all over it. A coffee house like a 1950s car that’s still used for trips down the shopping centre – worn but familiar…and gets the job done.
- Friendly environment, comfortable in its somewhat world-weary decor
- No veneer of polished conformity
- The cakes look homemade (big plus point)
- Home to those from literature and the arts
- Nice to relax in, but not for those looking for a pristine time capsule
- See also: Vienna cafés
A local review
The front entrance to Café Jelinek feels like you’re about to walk into a rundown jazz club. But the first thing to greet you inside is a warm, free-standing wood-fuelled stove that sets the tone for the whole Jelinek experience.
Whereby I doubt anybody there has ever considered the idea of offering an “experience”. Café Jelinek is what it is – a coffee house that screams (or whispers) authenticity at you.
This genuineness begins with the decor: the insides haven’t enjoyed a pristine makeover or historically-accurate refurbishment, though the curtains and upholstery looked new.
The hardwood floor bears the scrapes of a thousand tired feet, the wooden chairs caressed by a myriad of caffeine-fuelled hands, the walls faded under a barrage of smoke-filled debate and discussion.
Above our table, a light fitting had a bulb missing, with another bulb flickering indecisively, as if undecided whether to work or not.
The coffee house is non-smoking, now, like all such premises in Vienna, but the Jelinek wears the scars of history proudly like a battle-hardened veteran.
The authenticity continues with the staff, who don’t seem as if they’re trying to conform to some expected model or stereotype. They’re just trying to make sure you have what you need with the minimum of fuss.
And the clientele is as authentic as they come, too.
Before I knew the Jelinek counted as one of Vienna’s best coffee houses, I’d already been there twice. Once for a business breakfast meeting, once for coffee with friends from out of town.
This is not the domain of visitors, but a local “hotspot”, with a youthful flavour. Cafe Jelinek enjoys a reputation as a meeting place for those interested in the spoken and written word, its walls full of signed photos from the Austrian theatre, literature and cabaret scene.
It’s far enough away from the busy Mariahilfer Straße to enjoy a little splendid isolation. It’s not far enough away to deter the Viennese from dropping in after a hard day shopping. So on Saturdays and before Christmas, it can get very busy.
And then there’s the coffee and food. Also authentic.
The cakes are not the works of art you might find in a Café Central, but look distinctly homemade. And the rolls with my breakfast were still warm from the oven.
Incidentally, the breakfast menu is valid for the whole day. At the Jelinek website, this information bears the title, “The early bird can go take a running jump” (the polite translation).
There is no pretense here. It’s the real deal.
How to get to Café Jelinek
Unlike most of its colleagues, Café Jelinek is hidden away down a side street. But like anywhere fairly central in Vienna, there’s a subway stop nearby. Two in fact.
Subway: Take the U3 and get off at Neubaugasse or Zieglergasse, then it’s a 4-6 minute walk to the coffee house
Tram/bus: The 13A, 14A and 57A buses all stop nearby (Esterházygasse)
Address: Otto-Bauer-Gasse 5, 1060 Vienna | Website
At the time of writing, open daily from 9am to 10pm.