#1 - The restaurants located in the city center (District 5), especially the pricier establishments, are mainly frequented by tourists and expats. You will find more locals and lower prices in Districts 7, 8, 9, and 13.
#2 - In Hungary, it's customary to eat breakfast at home. This tradition, however, is changing with a rising number of tourists and foreign students, and these days you can find several options for eggs Benedict to start the day, both in casual cafés and trendier venues. For brunch, try these places.
#3 - Except for fine dining restaurants, most places in Budapest don't employ hosts to greet and seat people, meaning that guests are free to choose a table. At the same time, it’s nearly impossible to find open tables for walk-ins at peak hours in the city’s hottest restaurants, so try to book in advance.
#4 - Prix fixe lunches are available in many restaurants on weekdays at a reasonable price, usually ranging between €5-7. Before choosing à la carte, it's worth inquiring about a set meal (see the best options).
#5 - Free water and free refills are largely unknown concepts in Budapest and in greater Hungary. In restaurants you should specifically ask your server for tap water (to which they may react with mild annoyance), otherwise they will serve you and charge for bottled water.
#6 - In Hungary, people usually eat dinner between 7 and 9 p.m., and it's the biggest meal of the day. For the best experience, try booking a table for 8 p.m. Most fine dining restaurants turn only one table an evening, which means that you can usually score an 8 p.m. reservation.
#7 - Many restaurants in Budapest are closed on Sunday, sometimes even for the whole weekend. Be sure to double-check the opening hours before you trek across town. The city's fine dining restaurants are usually closed on Sunday and Monday.
#8 - In Budapest's increasingly international food landscape étkezdes are some of the last bastions of local dining options. These no-frills, lunch-only eateries, like osterias in Italy, serve wallet-friendly everyday dishes to local residents. Many of them have been around for decades (these are the best ones). Note that étkezdes are closed on weekends.
#9 - If you're eager to try traditional Hungarian food, you're best off avoiding the dime a dozen downtown restaurants that prominently advertise their tourist menus, goulash, and paprika-laced dishes. Go for these ones instead.
#10 - Unlike in Western Europe or the US, very few long-standing, century-old restaurants or cafés exist in Budapest. Due to the Holocaust and the communist regime that followed it, most restaurants either ceased to exist or were nationalized by the state. Today, some of the few continuously-existing institutions include Café Gerbeaud, Bambi, and Ibolya.
#11 - For historical reasons, Budapest has one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe. This means that the quality and breadth of Chinese food is exceptional. Most of the best Chinese restaurants are in Monori Center, on the outskirts of the city.
#12 - The majority of Budapest fine dining restaurants specialize in contemporary French cuisine, with nods to Hungarian classics and zeitgeisty trends like Scandinavian and Asian techniques. Foie gras, sturgeon, mangalica pork, and vegetable purées appear in some form on most menus.
#13 - The celebrity chef culture hasn’t taken off yet in Budapest. Few locals would know who the chefs are at the city’s best restaurants and most chefs don't yet have massive social media presences.
#14 - Main dishes in good Budapest restaurants usually range from €7-15. You can find alternatives that are both meaningfully cheaper and pricier. Tasting menu price points at fine dining restaurants start from €55 and go up to €140 per person, not including tip and wine pairing.
#15 - Despite being part of the EU, Hungary hasn't yet switched to the euro currency, and instead still uses the Hungarian forint. Given the weakness of the forint, most prices run into the thousands, ten thousands, so be sure to double-check the zeros on your bills before paying.
#16 - As for tipping, 10% is the standard and expected in Hungarian restaurants and bars, with up to 20% for exceptional service. Lately some places have begun to add an automatic service charge (10-15%) to the bill, and the waitstaff may or may not draw your attention to that.
#17 - A word to the wise: some cafés, restaurants, and bars are still cash-only establishments, so it’s generally a good idea to carry money with you.
#18 - Thanks to the late Hungarian businessman with Hollywood connections, Andy Vajna, Budapest boasts the only NOBU in Central Europe (for those not familiar with it, NOBU is the world's fanicest chain restaurant and co-owned by Robert De Niro).
#19 - Mentally prepare yourself for brusque service in Budapest. Waitstaff with an attitude is a general Eastern European phenomenon. While things have improved, Hungary is an extreme case (due to a severe shortage of waiters in Budapest, this is unlikely to change).
#20 - Uncomfortable chairs and undersized tables are too common in Budapest restaurants and cafés. For example, otherwise excellent places often relegate their furnishing choices to flimsy, folding or backless chairs that can detract from the dining experience. Notable offenders include Al Dente, Csendes Társ, Szimply, and Fekete.
#21 - We all know how rewarding a late-night meal can be, be it after a long shift in the office or a night of debauchery. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find places in Budapest that serve quality hot food past 10 p.m. Almost no sit-down restaurants cater to night-owls, and even the street food options are few and far between.
#22 - Smokers should note that since 2012 smoking has been banned in all public and commercial indoor spaces in Hungary, including restaurants and bars.
#23 - And finally, let me kindly ask that you don't do what many other tourists do, which is to double-book to sought-after restaurants and then simply not show up to one of them without canceling in advance. (Unfortunately, this is a common practice and people don't always realize how much it hurts the bottom line of the restaurants.)