Austrian in the City: Q & A With Third Man’s Edi Frauneder

Last month Eduard Frauneder opened The Third Man, his third venue with partner Wolfgang Ban. Since 2009, the team has been dishing out high-class Austrian food in New York City, and elevating the cuisine to something beyond schnitzel. We caught up with Frauneder to find out how he and Ban are doing this, and, how their new bar fits in.

Do you think the popularity of Austrian food is growing?
Definitely. People are realizing there’s a lot more to Austrian cuisine than meat and potatoes. At our restaurants, we’re constantly making an effort to redefine the stereotypes by serving lighter, modern takes on Austrian classics, more elegant at Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar, and rustic at Edi & the Wolf and The Third Man

What is the most iconic Austrian foodstuff?
Schnitzel. You’ll see it everywhere, even sports games, often regarded as "the poor man’s food." Wolfgang and I have elevated the dish, which we lightly bread and quick-fry, serve alongside a beautiful potato salad and some cream, cucumber and dill with a bit of lingonberry jam. Pretty iconic Austrian meal. Also, anything with pumpkinseed, which you’ll see throughout our menu- pumpkinseed oil, toasted pumpkinseeds. One of our signatures at all three restaurants is the Pumpkinseed Spread we serve to start your meal, which is great with toasted rye bread.

Why do you think Americans are so eager to eat up the dishes you serve at Edi and the Wolf and Seasonal?
I think people find our cooking both exciting and comforting. At Seasonal, there is a playful elegance, for instance the way we riff on classic combinations like dill and arctic char; and pumpernickel and egg in our signature Pochiertes EI. At Edi & the Wolf, it’s a bit more rustic, but never heavy, whether it’s flatbread with house-cured speck, Austrians love their speck, or a delicate take on spaetzle with Brussels sprouts and mushrooms. We’re always keeping things seasonal and approachable. 

What made you decide to open The Third Man?
Wolfgang and I felt it was time for another member of the "family," and a cocktail bar seemed like a natural fit. At Edi & the Wolf, we had lots of people waiting for a table, or wanting to linger after their meal, and opening a place like this down the block provides a great setting for that. 

Where did you come up with the name?
The name The Third Man comes from a few different places. The Orson Welles film takes place in my hometown of Vienna, which is where one of our favorite spots. [It’s called] The Loos Bar, and it also served as inspiration for our new spot. Then there’s Edi, Wolfgang, and "the third man," and, it’s also our third establishment here in NYC. The last is the legend of "the third man." In Austria, there’s tons of hiking and mountain climbing, and, if you’re scaling the mountain with one other person, you always believe that there;s "a third man" in tow, a good spirit following behind you. Good spirits, good cocktails.

Is there an Austrian bent to the cocktails?
Often yes. We’ll incorporate Gruner Vetliner, Austria’s signature white, into a sparkling cocktail, or pickling juices from the restaurant. Pickled ingredients are very common in Austrian cuisine.

What do Austrians drink? 
You’ll generally see lots of wine drinking at restaurants and in the heurigers, and tons of beer, Stiegl is a favorite. In the summertime, they love their wine spritzers. That said,there is a growing cocktail culture in Vienna, which like Austrian cuisine it focuses on seasonality and fresh ingredients. 

What’s the next step for you and Wolfgang?
For now, Wolfgang and I will continue focusing on all three of our restaurants, and all the great people they bring together.

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