The Goose of 2020

Most people will remember 2020 as the year when they had to learn to work from home, open doors with their elbows and wear masks when shopping or using public transportation. For me, 2020 will always remain the year of picking up and warming up geese. Suddenly, the microwave that I had bought nine years ago and hardly ever used became one of the most important appliances. And I even used my kitchen stove’s oven a few times, which made me feel almost like a professional cook.

For many restaurants, this was also a year of adjustment. From one day to the next, they had to switch to delivery or takeaway modes of operation. Quite a few restaurants decided not to bother and simply closed their doors; those who adjusted, however, did the job admirably. Although it was sad to see empty rooms with upside-down furniture, barricade tapes and transparent protective screens at the restaurants that were full of people just a few months ago, I could not help but appreciate the painstaking ways in which the geese and the other ingredients were packed to ensure I could safely bring them home, and several restaurants even provided helpful instructions on how to heat up their dishes the right way. For this reason, the “atmosphere/service” rating that you see in my reviews this year mostly reflects the packaging and the convenience of ordering, rather than whether I liked the restaurant’s ambience or not.

2020 was also a year of discovery for me, for the take-home options made me consider the restaurants that I would not have visited otherwise. No matter how I am currently craving to go to a restaurant – any restaurant – and have a beer brought to my table, I must say that there is a certain convenience in takeaway food, and the 25 goose portions (out of which 20 were takeaway) that I devoured in 2020 is a testament to this. Moreover, the higher average score – 6.6 compared to last year’s 6.1 – indicates that the geese were generally better. It is not surprising, in a way: if restaurants know on what day and by what time the Gansl should be ready, theoretically they have all the information needed to make it fresh. And many restaurants did.

Therefore, I’ve decided that this year’s GooGoo (“good goose”) will go to a takeaway restaurant, even though two other eating places – the old favorite Schiefer Giebel and a wonderful startup Napoleon Pop-Up – earned higher scores. I think this will only be fair.

Thus, the best goose title of 2020 goes to Plachutta, a famous restaurant mostly known for its traditional boiled beef dish, the Tafelspitz. Not only did it provide an exceptional goose, it also supplied very detailed instructions on how not to mess it up while warming up. Now that is real love for its own products.

As I mentioned, many restaurants did much better than could be expected under the circumstances, but honorable mentions for the exceptional excellence have to go to Handwerk Restaurant, Café Amacord, Ulrich and Kolariks Luftburg. Handwerk and Amacord were perfect examples of the places where I would not have even thought of going (the former is located in a hotel on the infamous Gürtel, while the second is, well, a café); Urlich wins accolades for the best-smelling goose, while Luftburg, known for its delicious pork knuckle, turned out an expert in geese as well. And it packed my takeaway goose in a fabric bag instead of a paper bag.

The disappointment of the year would have deservingly been the Lugeck, but unfortunately, it was already the disappointment of 2019. Now it is simply a place to avoid. Instead, I want to highlight the Vorstadtbeisl Selitsch, which had all the prerequisites for delivering a fine Gansl and failed miserably. Finally, the title of the worst goose of the year and the PooGoo (“poor goose”) anti-award goes to the dreadful creation of the Waldgrill Cobenzl. It is almost unbelievable that I ate it almost a year ago, when no one in Austria knew about COVID-19. At that time, Cobenzl’s goose seemed like the worst thing that could happen to a man. A year later, this is still not totally untrue.

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