In Zurich, a vegetarian restaurant like no other

A small portion of the enormous food bar at Haus Hiltl Zurich
A small portion of the enormous food bar at Haus Hiltl Zurich

By Eileen Ogintz

The restaurant is packed. And on Saturday nights, as many as 1000 people party at the club.

Just don’t wear your fur coat to the club. Did I mention this is a strictly vegetarian restaurant—the oldest in the world, in fact, according to the Guinness World Records, dating back to 1898.

Mural of the Hiltl family cooking
Mural of the Hiltl family cooking

The popular Haus Hiltl Zurich restaurant is run by the fourth generation of the Hiltl family and is open from morning until late evening—there are other outposts including at the main train station.

The buffet has more than 100 dishes—everything from Indian dishes like Palek Paneer (cream cheese, ginger and spinach) and various curries, to Sweet and Sour Wok veggies and Cantonese Rice, to Lasagna and Tortellini, to desserts ranging from cheese cake and bread pudding, chocolate mousse made from soy milk rice pudding and vegan ice cream.

Oldest vegetarian restaurant - certified
Oldest vegetarian restaurant – certified

We order from the menu–amazing salad with crispy tofu and mango-apple chutney, a vegetarian pasta, Green Thai Curry with eggplant, corn, coconut milk and lemongrass and an Indian Thali Platter with curries, chutney, poppadum, rice and nan.

There are cooking classes and a store where you can buy some of the restaurants’ spice mixes and cookbooks. It is easy to see why this sleek restaurant (it can seat as many as 500 in the summer) is a 24-hour operation. As we get ready to leave at 10 p.m., the evening crew is getting ready to start to prepare for the next morning’s breakfast. Maybe we will be back!

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