In May, Chef Eduard “Edi” Frauneder opened Schilling in the Financial District, fittingly named after his native Austria’s former currency. When asked why he chose that location for his newest venture, he explained, “A lot of people who live down there come uptown to eat, so why not have a neighborhood restaurant? I think the best model for any restaurant is to be inclusive of the neighborhood first.”
Tucked inside a tenement building on Washington Street, Schilling pays homage to Austrian cuisine with classic dishes such as wiener schnitzel, bone marrow and spätzle. The layout of the space lent itself to a 24-seat communal table, which Frauneder embraces. “I’ve shared tables with people who are still friends with me in New York City. I’m not saying it happens all the time, but I think the communal setting helps rebuild that community downtown.”
The 39-year-old doesn’t just own Shilling, but has three other places as well — the East Village’s rustic Austrian restaurant Edi & the Wolf and cocktail bar The Third Man, and Freud, a brasserie in Greenwich Village.
You live a block away from Edi & the Wolf. Why did you choose to live and then open two spots in the East Village?I live a block away from Edi & the Wolf and The Third Man. When I was working at my other place, Seasonal, which was fine dining, and earned a Michelin star, I lived in Midtown. And I needed to get away from that area and have a different environment around me. I used to live on 58th and just walk to Seasonal. And after a while, I needed a clean break from the neighborhood. A relationship got sour, and I needed a change. So that’s when I moved to the East Village and after half a year, realized there were a lot of places to eat, but not many good ones. I walked by this pizzeria and realized it would be a great place to open. I opened Edi & the Wolf and then two years later, opened the Third Man because it got so busy, and have been happy ever since.
What type of food is Austria known for? Austrian food is a melting pot of many different nations — Slovakian, Czech, Slovenian, Hungarian, Southern German, Swiss, Italian. In Europe, there are so many small countries coming together, so kitchens blend together. They develop their identity over hundreds of years. The Austrian-Hungarian Empire’s monarchy, in my opinion, created this very traditional Viennese cuisine. There’s French and Italian. Vienna is one of the few cities that actually has its own culinary identity spelled out. And the reason is because it was the center of power for over 300 years in Europe and they entertained a lot. Austrian cuisine is very seasonal; it’s very homey. It grew out of a necessity to cook on an open wood fire and have long braising processes because they had to use every single part of the animal and get really creative on their use of protein. You also find good pastas, freshwater fish dishes. Most animals are used; there’s a lot of organ meats — kidneys, liver, brain — which are not very popular here in the city.
What are some dishes on Schilling’s menu that are Austrian inspired? The workhouse of the cuisine is the wiener schnitzel, above all. Then there’s the spatzle, which is egg drop pasta. It’s a very interesting technique. Basically you use the same ingredients as pasta dough dropped from a perforated hotel pan into boiling water. Once they’re cooked, they actually float to the surface. You add a hint of sour cream, shallots, garlic confit, a bit of cheese and any seasonal vegetable you have, and garnish with crispy onions and marinated greens. It’s actually poor man’s food because water, flour and eggs, you always have in your kitchen. Bone marrow is also on the menu. It’s a classic delicacy with oxtail goulash and crème fraiche. Apart from that, my chicken dish with old sourdough bread. The bread is repurposed from the day before, which is a very classic technique of leftover usage in the kitchen.
Why did you decide to put in a communal table there? What are the pros and cons to that?Pros are multiple. I think that dining out is a communal thing to begin with. You go to a public place; you don’t sit alone in a private dining room. This is one good thought behind it. It’s also New York City real estate; you have to use your space wisely. In terms of the layout of the restaurant, its screams for a communal table. And people enjoy it because when you go out to dinner, you try to create good memories and foster friendships with old friends and it’s a nice opportunity to also foster friendships with new friends. A con is that when people have a reservation and have the expectation of having a table, especially a two-top, it’s always problematic because I only have three two-tops. And then you run into this shortage of resources. And I think the communal table, when you don’t expect it, can be not making you super happy. But once you settle in and are actually in the center of attention in the room, it actually feels very good.
What has been an interesting food request you’ve received and/or a memorable customer story? One of the funny requests is people ordering the schnitzel well done. Because it always is anyway. I had this really eccentric customer who is a germophobe and would walk in with his plastic gloves from his cab or mode of transportation, and always drop off those plastic gloves in the hand of the waiter.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?The best part is you have to love what you’re doing otherwise you would not be doing it. I spend my entire day with very dedicated, loyal and passionate people. I’m flexible and have the freedom to cook and serve whatever I want. And the cons are New York City being a very tough environment for small businesses and, unfortunately, Austria being not as big as Italy or France, it doesn’t have an equally popular reputation when it comes to European cuisine. There’s also a French or an Italian restaurant on every single corner in New York City, so people have no problems navigating that. But I believe that once you walk into an Austrian restaurant ... a lot of European friends bring their American friends and the American friends come back afterwards because they were very impressed by what we have to serve and how we go about it.
Frauneder will be one of the 45 local chefs at New York magazine’s New York Taste on Nov. 1. For more information on the event, visit: taste.nymag.com