Sunday, May 28, 2023

Welcome to the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world

Haus Hiltl in Zurich, Switzerland

Do you enjoy quality vegetarian food, excellent service, and a multicultural selection? Then this restaurant is for you.

Getting lunch at Hiltl

Me getting lunch at Hiltl on a sunny November day.
SOURCE: Tamara Marie Johnson

If you’re ever in Zurich, Switzerland, you should definitely check out Haus Hiltl near the main train station. Founded in 1898, Haus Hiltl is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world – and to this day it is jam-packed full of people. Always. If you don’t want to eat dinner at 11pm, you should definitely reserve a table, at least a week in advance.

Haus Hiltl does have a menu but it is best known for its extensive buffet: over 100 homemade, vegetarian and vegan dishes from around the world await you here. There are hot and cold main courses, sides and salads, cakes, puddings, and ice cream.

How it works

You pay by weight until you reach around 50 dollars. And for every plate, guests get one complimentary piece of fresh bread and as much tap water as they want. That might not sound like much but Swiss tap water tastes amazing – and most restaurants charge you for it.

There is a fancy, sit-down restaurant as well as an informal café-style bistro area (where you cannot reserve a seat). Additionally, you can get all buffet items in a biodegradable take-out box. Fun fact: Haus Hiltl is actually just the main restaurant, there are more than 10 smaller locations in the city that belong to it, including a vegetarian butcher’s shop and a night club down the street.

Vegi Metzg

Haus Hiltl encompasses more than 10 different locations in Zurich including this vegetarian butcher’s shop.
SOURCE: Tamara Marie Johnson

What to expect

  • Great service

Even if you opt for the buffet, a waiter will bring you your drinks and ring you up (a receipt comes out of the scale each time you weigh a plate at the buffet). I go to Haus Hiltl at least once every two months and I have never had a bad experience. All of the staff are friendly and fast and most speak English very well. If you enter through the sit-down restaurant entrance, you will be greeted by a concierge and shown to your table almost immediately.

  • Quality food

Again, Haus Hiltl hasn’t ever disappointed me. There are so many things to choose from and they are all good. Of course, it helps that they label every dish so that you can check whether it is vegetarian or vegan, spicy or mild, and generally has anything in it you know you don’t like. In my case, I like to steer clear of anything made with raisins.

  • Broad selection

You can choose from a broad selection of traditional Swiss delicacies, Indian curries, Italian pasta dishes, a salad bar, desserts, and so much more. Over 100 different items in total – and that’s not even counting the à la carte menu. In addition, Haus Hiltl offers a fantastic selection of vegan wines. My personal favorite: white Riesling-Silvaner from Küsnacht on the shores of Lake Zurich.

  • Yuppie atmosphere

Haus Hiltl may be old – but it’s one of those ‘in’ places. As such, it is always very busy and loud and there isn’t ever much room for shopping bags or anything else you may have with you. That is the only downside to this restaurant: it’s too popular. Other than that, I give it five stars. Just don’t go here for a romantic evening of shouting sweet nothings in each other’s ears and you’ll be fine.

By the by, you don’t have to take my word for it: more than half of the people on TripAdvisor say Haus Hiltl is ‘excellent,’ the overall rating is 4.5 stars.

My order

My buffet selection last week (clockwise): roasted carrots and brussels sprouts, red braised cabbage with caramelized chestnuts, Quorn tikka masala, and buttered Knöpfli (Swiss fresh noodles). SOURCE: Tamara Marie Johnson
My order

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Tamara Marie Johnson
Tamara Marie Johnson
● born 1988 in Marl, Germany to two American orchestra musicians ● raised in Germany & Switzerland ● loves chinchillas, the gym, and horror movies Tamara is a PhD student and a full-time content marketing manager at a startup who earns a little extra money with her side hustle as a Google ads specialist. A self-proclaimed foodie, she enjoys writing culinary content from time to time.


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