Yeah, I know. When you think about food in Switzerland, the first thing that comes to mind is chocolate and cheese. But Zurich is sophisticated and hip, and offers a wide variety of casual and upbeat places to enjoy a tipple and grab a bite, from casual street food and the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world to cocktails with a view and cafes where the DaDa movement flourished.
Fuel up beyond the chocolate and the cheese
Bratwurst and Rösti (sausage and hash browns) are the Swiss version of comfort food, and Züri geschnetzeltes (veal and mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce) is a must-eat—try both at Zeughauskeller (Bahnhofstr. 28A,+41 44 220 15 15, www.zeughauskeller.ch), a former arsenal where bankers and students rub shoulders beneath wooden beams. For a quick bite, Zurich’s favorite sausage stand Sternen Grill (Theaterstr. 22, +41 (0)43 268 20 80, www.sternengrill.ch) is a local institution (don’t miss their horseradish-infused mustard). The airport branch grills it up in a vintage airstream.
Perch above the city with a cocktail
Located in a round observatory tower, the jumbo cocktails are almost as impressive as the 360-degree views at the Jules Verne Panorama Bar (Uraniastr. 9; +41 (0) 44 888 66 66) Best for an early drink around sunset—later elbow-room is nonexistent, and you’ll want time and space to watch the sky and alps turn magenta and orange as the city lights trace arches of the many Limmat River bridges.
Sip coffee in art nouveau surrounds at the seat of Dadaism
Café Odeon, (Limmatquai 2, +41 (0)44-251 15 50) the café-bar where Lenin and James Joyce used to hang out, where Dadaists birthed their counterculture art and anarchy movement, still attracts an intellectual and alternative crowd, including local artists and writers. The outside tables are prime for people-watching and the opulent interior is a classic example of Art Nouveau design.
Hang and eat with the hipsters in an eclectic warehouse
All-organic Mediterranean fare and legendary moules-et-frites sprinkled with Swiss and Indian specialties feed a convivial, unpretentious (but fashionable) crowd in Les Halles (Pfingstwerdstr. 6, +41 (0)44 273 11 25, www.les-halles.ch), an enormous old warehouse filled quality bicycles (all for sale), foosball and billiard tables and mismatched retro furniture. Most plates available small bites or large portion, and late the place morphs into a bar.
Eat at the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world
Consistently serving since 1898, Hiltl (Sihlstr. 28, +41 (0)44 227 70 00, www.hiltl.ch) holds the Guinness Record for being the oldest vegetarian restaurant on the planet. Dishes like vegetarian beef tartare, Indian staples like homemade samosas and lentil dal, crispy tofu and heirloom tomato salad are consistently high quality. The monumental self-serve buffet offers over 50 dishes to try, or head upstairs for the a la carte menu.