>> Saturday, August 25, 2012
The Old Vienna Cafe is CLOSED. This should come as a shock to no one.OLD VIENNA CAFE
108-22 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
The Old Vienna Cafe, a Viennese restaurant which took over from a series of failed Italian restaurants, rolled up its welcome mats and closed its doors for good a few months ago. An overpriced menu, mediocre food, and service that stunk on a good day spelled its certain doom. But then, up from the ashes like a glorious phoenix rose... The Old Vienna Cafe. Don't ask me why the new Old Vienna Cafe chose to keep the name of the old Old Vienna Cafe, because the menu is basically upscale bar food. It could have easily been Golden Dragon Mandarin Palace in a prior life and I doubt it would have made any impact on the menu. But I digress. You get the picture.
On any given day, OVC will be empty. A customer here, a customer there. If every other restaurant is filled to bursting, rest assured that you'll find ample seating for your party of ten here. Most likely, the old Old Vienna Cafe had such an awful reputation that no one who had eaten there or doesn't believe that the management is any different will return. Meanwhile everyone else will look up reviews on Yelp only to read a seemingly endless array of negative comments and then shy away. And that's a shame because it's actually NOT terrible at all. Mind you, I will follow my food review up with (constructive) criticism. But until then, on to the meal!
Pike and I showed up on a mid evening Wednesday night and Old Vienna was more crowded than usual. Four tables were taken. Five when we showed up. There are precious few places in the area where one can sit outside on a nice night to enjoy the warm air and OVC happens to be one of them. So that's where we parked ourselves and looked over the menu. As I said, OVC now serves upscale bar food. With hamburgers, mac and cheese, salads, and cheesy fries, I described OVC as a fancy diner, but, because there's no breakfast-at-any-time option, Pike disagrees.
In any event, I ordered the Salt & Chilli Calamari as my appetizer and was pleasantly surprised. I don't entirely know why they have the word chili (or chilli) in the name, but the calamari was pretty good and I'd certainly get it again. Not too overly battered and the batter was nice and crisp. Pike ordered the Crab Cakes. The crab cakes came with a large side salad and a mango salsa. Pike found the mango salsa to be only meh, but he liked the crab cakes themselves. So far, despite that fact that the menu is wholly generic, we were doing pretty well here at the new Old Vienna.
My entree was the Chicken Francese, two pieces of pounded flat chicken breast with a huge portion of mashed potatoes and a few steamed vegetables under a lemon and white wine sauce. I would have preferred half the volume of mashed potatoes and twice the volume of veggies, but the dish itself was pleasant. The lemon sauce was very tart though. If they could dim the volume on the sauce, it would have been much better. It's also quite heavy and I couldn't finish it. Pike ordered the Schnitzel Sandwich, a thin piece of breaded veal on a roll with a side of french fries. The french fries were astounding. I was shocked how good they were. Very light. Very crisp. Give me some mayo and a Belgian ale and I'd be in heaven. The schnitzel sandwich, though, was mediocre. You couldn't taste anything. "It could be anything in there. They say it's schnitzel, but it could be any random protein," Pike said.
So overall, the food was fine. It's biggest competition is clearly Bonfire. Except not really. Bonfire has a good beer list, a good cocktail list, and people actually go there. The service this evening was fine for what it was, but because our waitress was doing everything in the whole restaurant save actually cooking, even with the few patrons she was always busy. Bonfire has a whole staff. The interior is nice and with outdoor seating on a nice day, the place should be packed. I can only imagine that this it's not because the reputation of the old OVC lingers on.
My advice is as follows. First, change the name. Old Vienna Cafe was a bad name when it was new and it's a terrible name now. Second, OVC needs to decide what it wants to be. Given the decor and such, it appears that OVC wants you to think it's a classy joint. But you can't be classy and serve onion rings. Plus, they have no wine list. Over the rear wall is a big sign that says "wine and coffee bar" but when I asked what wine there was, the waitress pointed to a glass fridge filled with a selection of red, white, and blush from Beringer or some such mega-vineyard. Sorry, but boxed wine in a bottle does not a wine list make. So maybe OVC wants to be more like a diner. But then it needs to redecorate and loosen up.
I do happen to believe that people need no longer avoid Old Vienna like the plague. In return, Old Vienna should focus on being less generic. And at the bare minimum, fix that damn name.